Lonwabo Nkohla: “Women Are Truly a Masterpiece When Given the Space and Room to Shine”

On this Women’s Day, we found it fitting to chat to Radio 2000 Sport Anchor and gsport Writer Lonwabo Nkohla, as she made waves at the recently concluded Netball World Cup in Cape Town.

Known for her stellar work behind the mic, Nkohla played a pivotal role for SABC Sport and SABC radio stations, as she provided live crossovers straight from the court at the Cape Town International Convention Centre.

Being part of this historic event, which took place on African soil for the very first time, Nkohla says the opportunity is the highlight of her 13-year career and one that made her realise how much of a force women in sport are when it comes to juggling their sporting careers and off field lives.

Chatting with gsport Content Lead Celine Abrahams, Nkohla also shares her thoughts on how the African countries performed on the global stage and what legacy the tournament will leave in South Africa.

Lonwabo, it has been such a busy time as you have just come off from an exciting Netball World Cup tournament in Cape Town! Please tell us about your experience and some of your learnings working at this global showpiece.

Going to the Netball World Cup was a highlight of my career. The best thing I’ve ever done in my 13-year-old career! Working on this global showpiece reminded me of how much of a force women are. From #GameChangeHer of the SABC and #HereForHer by SuperSport, to the incredible moms who are also high performing athletes. Women are truly a masterpiece when given the space and room to shine, we shine and we do it so loudly and boldly. I learnt that contrary to narratives pushed by men, women can co-exist, get along and be supportive of one another. 

Personally, I learnt that I should not undermine what I’m capable of and my abilities as an experienced broadcaster. 

What did you think of the state of the African netball teams and who are some of the names that impressed you?

I was so impressed! Remember, we are not as well-resourced as for e.g. New Zealand, so to see African teams that don’t have world class facilities and no professional leagues perform so well was awesome.

Uganda, Malawi gave the top nations a run for their money. You think Helen Housby is a great player, take a minute to google and watch Mary Cholhok, Joyce Mvula. One of my standout players was certainly Takondwa Lwazi of Malawi, Nicole Muzanenamo of Zimbabwe and Nicole Taljaard of South Africa.

Please tell us about the difference between how the African countries performed compared to the global teams. Is there still a major gap?

In terms of the quality of netball, African teams fall behind a tad because they still have no professional contracts for players and no professional domestic leagues. Our African players are forced to work 9-5 jobs, while their counterparts just live, eat and breathe netball. That is why it will take a while for us to break into the top 4 consistently and challenge for a title. However, the spirit and determination of African nations says despite us lacking so much, we will give it our all and that’s why we saw exceptional Netball.

What do you think needs to be done to take netball in Africa to the next level?

One word: PROFESSIONALISATION. World Netball should ask themselves how can we assist nations to build arenas and a league such as the ANZ Premiership in our African nations. Government should also assist federations of sporting codes that are predominantly for women. Women still lack major sponsors like male counterparts therefore while we get corporate to come to the party what can World Netball alongside NSA and the government do to grow the game. School sport should also be taken more seriously. Support for the girl child should start at school level with proper netball courts, balls and coaches all paid for by government. A lot of former players are sitting at home unemployed, why are they not supported to start clubs and local leagues in their communities?

What impact or legacy are you hoping NWC will leave in South Africa?

With the President announcing a Netball Arena in the country, I hope that materialises as one of the big legacies of NWC2023. I hope more conversations will start about how we can leverage from hosting the tournament and even though we may not host a World up in many years but since 2023 we found ways and strategies to grow the game. I hope everyone that was able to watch at the ICC and at home is inspired to get into sport even if it’s not netball.

Having covered this global showpiece, what are you looking forward to achieving in future?

I’m looking forward to this experience opening more doors in my career. I never pictured myself as a commentator and I’m looking forward to exploring that world and seeing what’s possible. I have a dream of getting a major opportunity in TV and I hope the work I did here will show how ready I am to level up.

As young girls had the opportunity to witness you in action as you reported for radio throughout the tournament, what is your message to them on how they can achieve their goals and aspirations?

Consistency and patience! Sometimes it won’t happen according to your timeline but just keep going. Put in the work and do it with humility and with a great work ethic that will pay off greatly. 

Today is Women’s Day – what does this day mean to you?

This day means as women in South Africa we can reflect on our place in society and discover what we can do to take advantage of the fight fought by women before us. They laid a foundation, how can we amplify that and build for future women? 

Photo 1 Caption: Seasoned Radio 2000 Sport Anchor and gsport Writer Lonwabo Nkohla pictured at the 2023 Netball World Cup in Cape Town. Photo: Supplied

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