Shudu’s love letter to Mzansi

In her last stop before Miss World, Shudufhadzo Musida pens an ode to South Africa

Miss SA 2020 Shudufhadzo Musida.
Miss SA 2020 Shudufhadzo Musida.
Image: Steve Tanchel

Dear Mzansi,

I love South Africa; I love everything about this country. What can compare with our astonishing natural beauty? Can anything rival Cape Town, nestled below the iconic Table Mountain? It has been voted best city in the world many times with good reason.

One of my other favourite places is the Blyde River Canyon in Mpumalanga. I always feel small and human when I peer into its vast abyss and say a prayer of thanks to God for the beauty of this land.

But while our physical landmarks are wonderful, most of all I love the warmth and generosity of the people. You only realise how special South Africans are when you travel outside our country. We are a welcoming people — all of us, no matter what our colour, religion or political persuasion. We are curious and are constantly asking questions.

I grew up in a small village, Ha-Masia, deep in the heart of Vhembe District in Limpopo. My home village is situated in South Africa’s orchard and I spent my childhood eating the tropical fruits in the area: juicy mangoes, pawpaws, avocados, and bananas. But the province is also known for its vegetable crops, including tomatoes, onions, and potatoes.

Limpopo borders Botswana, Zimbabwe, and Mozambique. It is best known for being a haven for animals, because it is here that you will find the largest part of the Kruger National Park. I have always had a fondness for lions and cheetahs.

South Africa might be a world-renowned tourist destination, but we are known for so much more than just the beautiful places people can visit. We shine when it comes to haute couture and produce some of the best fashion lines on the continent. I am proud to say that I have worn some of the finest of South African fashion, crafted by local designers with global flair.

I have worn some of those local designers during my Miss South Africa reign, including Scalo, Sherif the Tailor, Biji, Warrick Gautier, and Gert-Johan Coetzee. This country also gave birth to amapiano, which is one of my favourite genres.

The year of my reign was one of the best of my life. This was not just because of the wonderful people I met, or the wonderful clothes I got to wear — but also because I was able to shine a torch on the things that matter the most to me. 

At the start of my Miss South Africa journey I said that I wanted to start a mindfulness movement, and that is exactly what I did. We started Mindful Mondays — an Instagram Live conversation dealing with issues of mental health. It was a huge success. It turned out to be a much-needed platform to showcase issues of mental health, and helped with education around the subject.

Most importantly, it helped remove some of the stigma associated with mental illness and advertised the resources available to South Africans in need of help. We had millions of viewers from all over the world. And the response that came through the South African Depression and Anxiety Group was overwhelming.

In the magical year of being Miss South Africa, I also became a bestselling author, with my book Shudu Finds her Magic making it to number one on the South African children’s book list.

The book told my story of being bullied as a child. The reason I wrote it was to let children know that they are not alone. And, of course, to shine a spotlight on the often-forgotten issue of children’s mental health.

I enjoy public speaking and was often called on to talk about issues close to my heart.  One of the most satisfying moments of this year was speaking at United Nations Women’s Generation Equality Forum in Paris.

I also had the privilege of speaking at the Forbes Woman Africa Leading Women Summit and worked with Global Citizen — and a host of other organisations — to stop mental health from being a taboo subject and making it one that is openly discussed in public forums. I call the mind a powerhouse, a tool that has the power to change lives and narratives in our society.

In conclusion, I want to record my gratitude to the Miss South Africa organisation and to all South Africans who have supported me. I hope that I have been a worthy ambassador and that my advocacy programme during my reign has been effective in shifting attitudes.

Kind regards,

Shudufhadzo Musida, Miss South Africa 2020.

Image: Steve Tanchel

Fun facts about Shudufhadzo Musida

Favourite holiday: Easter was always special in my home village, and there were many church services. My great-grandmother and the family matriarch, Gugu, known in the village as Vho-Nwanzeru, would take me. It was a special time.

Favourite Christmas meal: There is a specialty that we eat on Christmas Day that is key to our family tradition. Gugu used to make a Venda pumpkin-leaf dish called muroho wa thanga, and it remains a favourite on our Christmas table.

Highlight of the year: Publishing my book. I loved doing a nationwide book tour and interacting with the children.

Song guaranteed to get the party started: Before I Let Go by Beyoncé.

Wish for the new year: A continued conversation around issues of mental health. I intend to continue to lend my name and experience to the topic.

Local designers have created a capsule collection in honour of Sowetan’s 40th anniversary. The affordable luxe collection will be called S1981, derived from the first letter of the Sowetan and the year it was first established (1981).