Au­thor In­ter­view

Face to face with Ruda Land­man

South African Country Life - - In This Issue -

Ruda Land­man’s brand of lis­ten­ing is born from a gen­uine de­sire to know. And dur­ing a 40-year ca­reer in print, ra­dio and tele­vi­sion jour­nal­ism that de­sire seems to have in­creased. Tell Me Your Story is proof.

“I was given this plat­form by Bright Rock life in­surance com­pany, whose ap­proach is that fi­nan­cial se­cu­rity needs change, as do a per­son’s cir­cum­stances – ca­reer, mar­riage, fam­ily, home – so with each in­ter­view we touched on all that, but for me it was about the per­sonal stuff, the sto­ries.”

What at­tracts Ruda to the “per­sonal stuff” is “the va­ri­ety of views in this coun­try, of en­try points into our shared his­tory. Give each of us a peep­hole into the same room and we’ll all see some­thing dif­fer­ent. Take Jessie Duarte – she and I have lived no more than ten kilo­me­tres apart for more than 40 years, and we are of sim­i­lar age, but our lives couldn’t be more dif­fer­ent.

“Like­wise John Kani. And with Jonathan Shapiro our con­ver­sa­tion was such an in­tense re­view, we were quite dazed at the end.” There’s an ad­di­tional com­pelling anec­dote be­hind each of her cho­sen can­di­dates.

In their orig­i­nal in­car­na­tion, each in­ter­view (more than 60 at the time of pub­li­ca­tion, 18 tran­scribed in this book) ap­peared on Bright Rock’s web­site, Change Ex­change. For half an hour or so in her inim­itable con­ver­sa­tional fash­ion, Ruda quizzed the sub­jects on “how they man­aged change, and how ex­ter­nal changes in the coun­try inevitably, given our his­tory, changed them.”

But what about her own jour­ney, her own story of change? “Erika (Oosthuy­sen of pub­lish­ers Tafel­berg) in­sisted on a per­sonal chap­ter. I was ter­ri­bly re­luc­tant, I felt it would be a false note. Then I de­cided to fit in with the oth­ers, I would in­ter­view my­self. It was hard de­cid­ing what to in­clude, what

Carte Blanche af­ter 19 years, (she was there from 1988 to 2007). It’s prob­a­bly the most I’ve ever said about it.”

On the ques­tion of her early years, she hes­i­tates, “Child­hood is dif­fi­cult. There were four of us, I was the youngest with three older broth­ers. My par­ents were both teach­ers… they gave us ev­ery­thing they could. We were a staunch na­tion­al­ist fam­ily, with a cap­i­tal and small N!” She smiles.

“Af­ter ma­tric I spent a year in the army, where I learned to type – and to shoot. At univer­sity in Stel­len­bosch, I stud­ied lan­guages and teach­ing, and met my hus­band JP. I was only 24 and a day when we mar­ried.”

Po­lit­i­cal-eco­nomic an­a­lyst JP “was al­ways po­lit­i­cal. I only woke up much later, around 1976, when I was work­ing at Die Burger.” A piv­otal point she cites was in­ter­view­ing a woman in the Vry­grond in­for­mal set­tle­ment. “I sat in this woman’s kitchen hav­ing tea, and sud­denly thought, ‘She’s just like my mum’.”

Ruda’s sub­se­quent and con­tin­u­ous awak­en­ing has been hard earned. She laughs as she de­scribes how, back in the day, she failed a test as an SABC an­nouncer. Her long his­tory on ra­dio and tele­vi­sion, and di­rec­tor­ship of Me­dia24, prove how wrongly they judged.

She claims not to be a goal set­ter, and it’s clear she’s more mo­ti­vated by com­pas­sion and cu­rios­ity than com­mer­cial­ism. Her nat­u­ral warmth and learned wis­dom en­sure there are few tests she would fail now, but her con­cern is for the next gen­er­a­tion. “I’m in­volved with GRAD, a prac­ti­cal sup­port guide­book for first-year stu­dents. This year, through the NGO StudyTrust, we’ve dis­trib­uted 140 000 copies to 24 cam­puses.” As the main au­thor she is chuffed and, as a mother thrilled that roy­al­ties from Story will go to StudyTrust.

Next? “With­out wish­ing to jinx it, JP and I are work­ing on a book to­gether.” I won­der if she ever con­sid­ered in­ter­view­ing him. “No, too close. But I did in­ter­view my son Jo­hannes for The Change Ex­change – he was good, I was proud of him.”

Tell Me Your Story is pub­lished by Tafel­berg (R285). www.tafel­berg.com

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