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Getting people to open up is my purpose – Gaelesiwe

Mending broken homes has made Khumbul'ekhaya TV host a household name

Host of Khumb’yulekhaya and Uthando Noxolo Andile Gaelesiwe.
Host of Khumb’yulekhaya and Uthando Noxolo Andile Gaelesiwe.
Image: Supplied

Former kwaito singer Andile Gaelesiwe might have cracked her path into show business with a naughty song that filled up dance floors in the 90s, but it is her ability to mend South African broken homes that has made  her a household name on TV. 

The TV personality, author and GBV activist has stepped up to occupy space in TV production and editing while also hosting SABC1's docu-reality series Khumbul'ekhaya  and Moja Love's Uthando Noxolo. The two shows take a similar path –  with Khumbul'ekhaya focusing on relatives searching for  their loved ones who had disappeared over the years. The show attempts to reunite them and rebuild their broken relations through dialogue. Uthando Noxolo, on the other hand, is about forgiveness between victims and people who have wronged them in the past. 

After two years of playing repeats on SABC1, Khumbul'ekhaya is finally back on telly, with the first episode having flighted last week.  The show has been running on the channel for 17 years. 

Gaelesiwe says they have made a few changes to the 17th season of Khumbul'ekhaya

She chats to Time Out just after a busy morning preparing orders for her side hustle – selling healing products online.

“As part of the new changes, I will now get to travel with the crew, which is something exciting for me because I love travelling. All along the show has been driven by a director. I travelled with the crew in season one for two episodes and the channel loved it but we never continued with the idea.

"In the new season we went to Pretoria and the whole township came out excited to see us. They were very interested in finding out who the driver of our vehicle is.

“The reason we are introducing that segment is because the people who write to us for help get overwhelmed during the reunion with their lost relatives and they do not get to ask the tough questions to the person they are being reunited with.

"My role is to get in there and ask those questions. We also want to make sure that the two who are being reunited are on the same page and their relationship thrives. Previously, we covered a lot of black stories but now the channel has opened it to other races.”

Born in Soweto in 1973, Gaelesiwe explains that dealing with people and their issues also affect the production crew at times. However, the debriefing sessions at the end of the season also helps them.

“As part of the crew, you sit there listening to people talking about their own traumas and you don’t feel anything. And then when you get home something triggers what you heard earlier. With men not being able to process their feelings, there is evidence that they get affected.

"When we do the debriefings people cry in those sessions. It shows that people do get affected unconsciously. As a very spiritual person, after shooting the episodes I have my own method that I use to cleanse and be in a right mental space.”

While Khumbul’ekhaya was on break, Gaelesiwe got an opportunity to shoot episodes for Uthando Noxolo where she wears many hats as the host, producer and editor. 

“Sometimes you just have to trust yourself. This is part of me growing in the industry. I have refused and turned down other shows because these two just appeal to me. They are all about my purpose in life as someone who has a divine gift. For me, it is all about my purpose and calling.”

Gaelesiwe says she is able to host these two shows which are emotionally taxing because she regard the work she does as a calling. She says she is able to get people to open up easily to her about their issues because she does not regard herself as a celebrity. She says one thing she has learnt from doing both shows is that human beings avoid themselves.

“It is important that people are able to relate to you when we do these shows. Otherwise they will never open up about their issues. If I find you seating on your beer crate, I will join you there. I relate in many issues as a woman. Most of the time I talk about things that I know and sometimes things I have experienced in life.

“I have realised that as human beings we are afraid to look at ourselves in the mirror, which means we don’t want growth. If you look at yourself you are able to correct your mistakes and you grow and rather call a TV show to help you admit that you have a problem. As human beings we tend to create this comfortable world and fight against anything that threatens it.”

For Gaelesiwe, the journey started in 2003 as a musician and in 1999 she released her only recognised kwaito hit – Abuti Yo. Eventually, she joined youth radio station YFM. From then on she became a GBV activist, assisting a lot of women through her company Open Disclosure. 

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