Basetsana Kumalo talks to us about her new book

Basetsana Kumalo
Basetsana Kumalo
Image: Supplied

It’s hard to believe that it was 25 years ago when Basetsana Kumalo was crowned Miss SA. “The other day somebody tagged me in a post where I was being crowned and I looked at this young 20 year old, who had big dreams and big hopes for her life, for her country … It was a turning point for me,” says Kumalo as we talk about her book, Bassie: My Journey of Hope.

Kumalo says she was always going to write a memoir, having journaled for years, even using a dictaphone to record her thoughts. She is glad she waited as now was the right time to tell her story. Besides 25 years since her crowning, it has also been “25 years of Top Billing, reflecting on 25 years of democracy, 25 years of my walk with Christ and turning 45 this year. It just feels all aligned in terms of where my life is at.”

Writing about her life, Kumalo says, has been the most intense experience: “There’s a lot of dark moments in the book, chapters in my life that I thought I had buried and I never wanted to go back there, but through writing my memoir I had to be honest and open in the book.

“I am standing truly in the light of my own truth in this book.” Kumalo is vulnerable and fearless in her memoir. She is candid about her abusive relationship with boxing champion Dingaan Thobela, her miscarriages, her parents’ deaths, the ongoing saga with her stalker, her married life, her life as a mother and businesswoman.

“[In writing this book] I wanted to reignite that optimism we had in ’94. We cannot afford to lose hope. Yes, there has been 25 years of democracy, but there is still much that needs to be done. People are still living below the poverty line, and look at what we see today in gender-based violence. I write about my own experiences being abused by my very first boyfriend who pointed a gun at me. Had I not left that relationship I would have been dead.” Kumalo says one of the most important reasons for writing her book was for her children.

“I wanted my children to know my story in my own voice. I wanted them to know who mommy was, what inspired mommy, what mommy believed in, what made mommy sad, why did mommy have so much faith, why was mommy not afraid to fail and when she failed, how did mommy pick herself up.

“And when mommy was attacked in the media, how did mommy deal with that.”

And Kumalo writes frankly about the latest challenge she has faced in a Twitter storm about an alleged sex tape of her and her husband Romeo.

“I wanted my children to know my story in my own voice. I wanted them to know who mommy was, what inspired mommy, what mommy believed in, what made mommy sad, why did mommy have so much faith, why was mommy not afraid to fail and when she failed, how did mommy pick herself up.

“And when mommy was attacked in the media, how did mommy deal with that.”

And Kumalo writes frankly about the latest challenge she has faced in a Twitter storm about an alleged sex tape of her and her husband Romeo.

“You choose a public life, and it’s a conscious decision I made when I entered Miss South Africa and I knew should I win it would change the trajectory of my life.

“And of course it did. But then you wake up one morning and a cyberbully decides to target your family and spew diabolical, vitriolic insults. Unwarranted. Earlier on when it was just me and Romeo it was fine, but now I am raising three children and I have a responsibility to protect them, their name, and their legacy.

“They never chose to be in that life or have parents who chose to live the public life. I’ve never been one to take on every battle but will when it has to do with my family’s name, my children, my integrity.

“When someone decides one day that they are going to carry on a systematic character assassination campaign against my family, well, let’s meet in court.

“The justice system is for all of us. It doesn’t mean if you are a public figure that you don’t have the right to dignity and that your human rights can be trampled upon.”

The trial starts on October 21. “I’m eagerly awaiting my day in court and all I want to know is why. It was such a concerted, systematic effort, it was thought through, clearly measured, but to what end? I just want an answer from Jackie Phamotse to say why. To say why she did this.”

Bassie: My Journey of Hope is published by Penguin Random House South Africa, R320

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