Tholakele Mnganga’s Aspirations for Women in Sport

EWN Sports Reporter Tholakele Mnganga has dreams of dominating the sport industry as she would like to host a podcast, sharing the ins and outs of women’s sport. Photo: Supplied

EWN Sports Reporter, Tholakele Mnganga, has dreams of dominating the sport industry as she would like to host a podcast, sharing the ins and outs of women’s sport.

Mnganga believes women in sport need to be given more of the spotlight from grassroots to international level, to share their stories to inspire the next generation. 

She admits the best way to raise the profile of women’s sport is to constantly prioritise women in sport stories from athletes to journalists on field. 

Mnganga’s greatest ambition is to work in an all-female sports department.

Speaking to Nonto Nothana, Mnganga reveals phenomenal women that she looks up to in the industry and shares advice to aspiring sports journalists.


Tholakele thank you for taking time out to chat with us. Where does your love for sport come from?

I always say it came in two segments. In 2002, when I was around 11 or 12-years-old, I was channel hopping and stumbled upon a Paraguay game during the FIFA World Cup. It intrigued me and I ended up watching the entire tournament (including the heartbreak of seeing Michael Ballack being sent off and missing the final for Germany). 

In 2006, something similar happened and this time it was an England game during the same event. I was so excited about all the games, and I became emotionally invested in the entire tournament. Thankfully at the time pay tv was coming into the market and I knew if I wanted to watch more games and different sports, I had to convince my parents to buy it. Thankfully they did and thus began my life as a professional couch coach.


What are you currently doing in sport?

Currently I am a reporter and anchor for Eyewitness News. I read the afternoon sports bulletins on the John Perlman Show, the Money Show with Bruce Whitfield on Talk Radio 702 and on 947 drive with Thando Thabethe.


What are your thoughts on the current state of women’s sport?

I think the world is their oyster now despite the financial challenges that comes from unequal pay and sponsorship but the growth and interest from fans is going to allow for that gap to close. One can look at Banyana Banyana for example. Being able to watch them as they compete in the Aisha Buhari and Cosafa Cup, means fans are now able to engage and know more about the team in the same way they would with their male counterparts. So, by the time AFCON and hopefully a World Cup comes about, the ladies are all household names and there doesn’t need to be a search to find out who the different representatives in the side are.

Also, the likes of Dané van Niekerk and Suné Luus playing in international tournaments like The Hundred and Women’s Big Bash League, has opened the world’s eyes to the level of skills and talent that is within our shores. 

However, I do worry that as we constantly hear from different athletes and organizations about the lack of funds for their codes, in 5 maybe or 10 years, all the good work that is being done now will be stifled because there is no development plan or proper structures in place that are paving the way for the next generation to come through.

The lack of resources and proper planning is so concerning because as a world in general we understand how finances have been impacted by the ongoing pandemic. It was already so tough for a lot of our leading ladies who compete at an amateur level or don’t have sponsorship to help them along the way, that in this ‘new’ world that is emerging now, you do wonder how much they will have to deal with just to chase their dreams and represent the country.


Who do you rank as the leading woman in sport in South Africa?

Top of mind must be Caster Semenya. There are not enough words to speak highly of everything she has accomplished and how her speed has kept us all engrossed in her success. But off the track, for me, is where her true impact is. You look at how she has handled the mismanagement of her career by the IAAF, she has remained graceful throughout and has never stopped fighting for change or silenced her voice as she fought for change that will not only impact her but so many women that come after her for years to come. 

I also believe that because of her stature and what she has gone through, it has also opened society’s eyes and had people questioning themselves about how they speak and deal with issues they do not understand related to women.

Another leading woman for me is Thembi Kgatlana. South Africa may not have a professional league but dare I say we have produced the best African player who is currently plying their trade. To see her donning the colours of Atletico Madrid gives me goosebumps because she is the embodiment of what happens when true talent is given a chance. Her success should also speak back to sponsors and make them hungry to ensure she is not the only player that reaches this level of success but for it to be so usual for South Africa that every few years we have footballers joining a top European club. 


What are your thoughts about gsport and its impact on women’s sport?

gsport gives women pride in what they do and to claim their voice to celebrate what they do. It’s also, finally, a chance to profile other women who do well in this industry and push for them to get a seat at the table. I can recall growing up how women doing well in sport was often a ‘and finally’ announcement in a radio bulletin or in the corner on the back page of a newspaper. Their achievements were always meant to feel like space fillers or something that is celebrated when there was nothing else going on.

But with gsport, that perception is constantly being challenged and changed because its women celebrating women, pushing them to front and center of the story and ensuring they know their achievement and work is valued at every level. 

What I also love about gsport is that it doesn’t only celebrate the big names, but the initiative shines the spotlight on emerging athletes and officials I might have never known about. It gives me a chance to hear and see new and unknown faces, so that I don’t always think about the same people. 


“It should not just be the month of August where women are the flavour of the moment, their successes, stories and reporting should be an everyday focus and normalized in order to raise the profile and remove the idea that only under special circumstances does women’s sport need to be given attention and a platform.” – Radio Sports Reporter, Tholakele Mnganga


What more can we do to raise the profile of women’s sport?

The best way, for me, is to have a constant spotlight on them. Whether it be a conscious effort in every bulletin to ensure that there is at least one story about a woman who is doing well or even profiling a new name on the scene.

To ensure that when sports shows are having their hour-long space to discuss topics, there is time for the women’s agenda to be heard and profiled. 

That approach should extend to not just the athletes and officials who are so deserving of the attention and platform like their male counterparts, but the courtesy should be extended to journalists/reporters on the field.

It should not just be the month of August where women are the flavour of the moment, their successes, stories, and reporting should be an everyday focus and normalised in order to raise the profile and remove the idea that only under special circumstances does women’s sport need to be given attention and a platform.


What is your advice to young women breaking into sports media?

You are the voice that hasn’t been heard so write that blog, start that YouTube channel, do that podcast you’ve always been planning. There is enough space for all women’s voices, opinions, and analysis in this industry and contrary to what people from outside may say, women inside this industry will support you and back you to ensure you are able to be the best version of yourself. 


Who are the people who have inspired you?

Carol Tshabalala is the first and original one. I grew up in an environment where it was unusual for women to like sports, especially football. So being able to switch on the TV on a weekend and hear her thoughts and presenting ahead of a local game was and continues to be so inspirational. It was a constant reminder that what I want to do isn’t unattainable. She was the representation I needed to know that I can do it. 

I also take inspiration from my colleagues such as Busisiwe Mokwena, LeThabo Kganyako, Tumi Kgaose, Mbali Sigidi and many more, especially Hloni Mtimkulu. She is such a brilliant mind and an unending volt of knowledge. Her constant questioning, and versatility in what she covers pushes me to always make sure I am keeping up and following the story until its conclusion.


What is your greatest ambition?

To work in an all-female sports department where we not only profile and give a spotlight for women to speak and profile their officials but to also bring on administrators/directors and executives to be held accountable and questioned on promises that are made to women about their game.

We always hear buzz phrases about how women’s sport isn’t profitable, sponsors don’t come on board, etc. but we are living in a time when we see how proper investment and development in athletes like Tatjana Schoemaker, Babalwa Latsha, Refiloe Jane, to name a few, are reaping benefits.

So, what more must be done to make sure that we are pushing through a group of successes rather than a one in a five-year talent? And why are we failing to do it?


What has been your biggest career highlight to date?

I have always been someone that worked in print and radio but in 2017 I was blessed with the opportunity to be a presenter for the now defunct ANN7 on their flagship sports show, The Beautiful Game. 

For a month I was the face of the show, was allowed to pick the topics discussed and guide the conversation. For some people it might not be a big deal but for me, it was really a chance to show that I could sit on both sides of the table, having also often served as an analyst for the show and the station on various sporting matters and matches.


What do you still hope to achieve in your career?

I would still like a chance to host a sports centred podcast but one that isn’t so focussed on reacting to the big stories, news and results of the day but to actually tell the stories of the women who we call our idols and speak about what it takes to get there. 

There are so many questions I have often thought about asking not just to women that play the sport but to the journalist that cover them as well. 

There are so many things about being on TV and radio that people don’t know or hear about. The sacrifices and dreams that must be put on pause in the pursuit of the dream, for both journalists and athletes. 

I hope that the podcast would shed light on those matters and give space to have conversations that carry themselves into society so people that want to step into this industry know what to expect.


Photo 1 Caption: Sports Reporter, Tholakele Mnganga, has dreams of dominating the sport industry as she would like to host a podcast, sharing the ins and outs of women’s sport. Photo: Supplied


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About the Author:

Nonto Nothana

Nonto Nothana

21. MA student. Sports blogger. I see my passion for sports as the cornerstone of my purpose. ❤

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