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All about award-winning broadcaster Zanele Potelwa

SA’s youngest award winning broadcaster, 5FM presenter Zanele Potelwa, is now also adding a ray of sunshine to SABC3’s Expresso Morning Show.  

Zanele Potelwa is one of the brightest emerging stars in the local entertainment landscape. As a popular radio presenter and TV host (you may have seen her on SABC1’s Selimathunzi), her infectious presenting style is what sets her apart from the rest.  

A multifaceted host-with-the-most, she is also a DJ, voiceover artist, content creator and actor. Listed in the 2023 Mail & Guardian ‘Top 200 Young South Africans’ list, she is using her platform to make a positive impact on society – not only through her inspiring words and size-inclusive clothing line, but with the Zanele Potelwa Foundation, where she organises food and clothing drives, donates sanitary products and supports young South African women in need.  

With Zanele joining the Expresso team, our mornings have become even more engaging and enjoyable. We sat down with the bubbly babe for a quick catch-up Zanele Potelwa is one of the brightest emerging stars in the local entertainment landscape. As a popular radio presenter and TV host (you may have seen her on SABC1’s Selimathunzi), her infectious presenting style is what sets her apart from the rest.  

What is the most rewarding part of your career?  

Being able to be part of people’s lives, routines and days in the most meaningful way, whether it’s in their cars [on the lunchtime radio show] or waking up with them on their favourite breakfast TV show. It’s so incredible to know that we’re making a difference. I remember when a listener shared with us how our radio show helped them get through a family loss, and I’ve never forgotten that. Grief isn’t an easy thing to navigate and it blesses my heart to know that sometimes we can truly make people feel less alone on their worst days.  

Another thing that always makes it worth it is hearing from people who say that they believe in their dreams because of the things they see happen in my life. The final rewarding aspect of my career is how I’ve been able to see God’s hand at work in my life. People know me for saying “Thank you Jesus” in many of my posts, and it’s honestly because I see every part of my career as a miracle. 

What fuels your passion for media?  

I think that words were made to make people feel inspired, whether it’s with presenting, acting, music, a novel or any art form that requires words; they are meant to connect people. As we are always told in radio, our words are here to educate and to entertain, and this is why I love presenting and public speaking. It’s all about making words come alive. It’s about making them become magical in how they allow us to connect with the person on the receiving end.  

I love and respect our craft so much because of the way it evokes the imagination while creating such a beautiful sense of belonging, because of how television and radio are able to bring people together, or how, as an MC, you have to bring the room together in the name of fun. I take every stage and every mic as an honour and truly believe that words have the power to make a change, whether it’s a revolution or changing someone’s day from good to bad by putting a smile on their face. 

Tell us more about your foundation…  

At the core of everything I do, I’ve always wanted to help people. The glitz and glamour is fun, the nerves before speaking always give me an adrenaline rush, but at the core, I want to ask myself: How can I make a difference?

Since my varsity days, I’ve held clothing drives, and during the Covid-19 lockdown I had a food drive. At the core of our foundation, we want to make a difference and stand up for those less fortunate, and to be the foundation for people to exercise their altruistic side by being part of many of our crowd-funding initiatives, whether it may be in the form of pads, groceries or donating clothing and more.  

In terms of making a difference, there’s so many ways to lend a hand. For example, I partnered with my make-up artist, Zamo Dlamini, to put a matriculant, who was passionate about make-up, through a class and helped add to her kit to hopefully get her small make-up business going. There is so much more coming in 2024 that we’re excited about! 

What excites you about your new role on Expresso?  

I’m looking forward to waking up with South Africa and bringing that Joburg spice! I feel like this makes Expresso even more powerful and creates the full experience we all deserve in the morning.

We have the Cape Town family bringing the beautiful energy they have been creating consistently and amazingly for so long. Then we have Kuhle Adams out and about in our beautiful country and beyond, bringing her incredible energy to studio, and the Joburg team bringing something fresh and different to our feel-good breakfast show menu. I think it’s going to be a glorious experience!

People have always described my personality as effervescent, and I truly hope to bring my bubbly nature into the mix. I hope to bring a little bit of extra sweetness to Expresso with my humour, my passion for people and my quirky talents and different way of seeing the world. 

I also can’t wait to learn from the amazing icons on the show. Above all, I hope to form amazing bonds with the Expresso family and truly soar to new heights on this thrilling adventure of bringing the exciting Johannesburg studio to life! 

What are your big goals for 2024?  

I want to become one of the household names in radio and television in South Africa and beyond. I’d also like to finally get a role in a soapy or series – I would truly love to hone my acting skills this year. I also dream of hosting big awards shows like the SAMAs, SAFTAs and Miss South Africa.  

I would love to do some international work and expand the Zanele Potelwa Foundation. This year I’ll definitely be working towards becoming everyone’s favourite new clothing brand, diving deeper into the entrepreneurial space. But more than anything, my main goal is to truly live out my purpose in a meaningful way.  

Any advice for our readers?  

We are the generation we have been waiting for. We are the ones who are going to change the world – and I don’t doubt that one bit! We don’t just believe in ourselves, we also are truly powerful beyond measure, and I see that every day in how we continue to believe in what we stand for and how we pursue our dreams no matter what. We make them a reality! Let’s continue making positive changes and helping those in need.

To anyone who is feeling demotivated or like they’ve been waiting for their breakthrough for so long: I promise it will happen when the time is right. It’s so easy for us to become impatient with our own story and path, but God always has a plan. Put your head down and work, because hard work never goes without reward. And always remember, the word ‘no’ is either meant for our protection, redirection or our elevation, because better is coming. So, stay the course. We are champions and history-makers; let’s make ourselves proud. Then we’ll be able to look back at how we gave it our all with absolute pride. We’ve got this! 

Words by: Charndré Emma Kippie

Photography: Instagram, Supplied

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