Those who followed the evolution of Botswana state broadcaster, Botswana television (BTV) would concur that if they had one name to pick that got exported to the international market, this name would be none other than Leloba Seitshiro – a former local tennis star currently flying the Botswana flag in the international media landscape. Leloba used to read the news impeccably so, on BTV that Uncle Sam (USA) became her ultimate destiny.
Not only is she excelling in her broadcasting career, Leloba grabbed the bull by the horns in a typical ‘She came, she saw, and she conquered’ style. To date Leloba remains the only Motswana TV star with two Emmy awards to her name. All international names, some of whom her counterparts locally can only dream and think about, she has probably interviewed, dined, and shared thoughts with them. Now residing in the USA, Seitshiro has everything she has ever envisioned.
Recently Botswana Botswana Unplugged managed to have a 5-minutes banter with her amidst her busy schedule to get a lowdown of what she is been up to since jetting out of a country that bred and nurtured her shining media career…
It’s been a while since you left the country, what have you been up to?
It has been a while hasn’t it?! I’ve been keeping busy I guess, working mostly.
The media space didn’t give the world a chance to witness the great tennis player you were, reaching the highest career level in tennis representing Botswana at the 1996 Federation Cup in Israel. Take us though that path…
Tennis is just one of those things that lives in my veins. I’ve been playing since I was 7, or so. Went onto the play for the national team which will forever be the most special time in my life. Under the tutelage of Mma Tlhapane, Mma Letsatle (you know the phenomenal Mmaphala- that’s her mom), including the support of my parents, I excelled in the sport. I learned a lot from playing tennis, it has guided a lot of my decisions in life. And I still dream about those days at Notwane Tennis club.
At your age, career paths were never guided, it was just an individual choice, perhaps inspired by someone you heard on radio or watched on TV. You started off in Journalism as a Reporter for the Daily News then anchored and reported for Botswana Television….
I’ve always been a good writer, so Journalism came naturally to me. It’s the only profession I’ve ever really envisioned having, besides playing in the pros at Wimbledon. I suppose it made sense, the trajectory my life took. So, it didn’t feel too strange being on TV knowing people were watching, though admittedly those first few months were rough. But I got comfortable and I got the hang of it.
Who inspired you take up journalism as a full-time career?
I read Chinua Achebe’s “Things fall apart,” and I was hooked.
Surely your hard work paid off because you are now a two-time Emmy award winner, how do you even feel to this day?
I’m proud of myself for sure, but to be honest I don’t think about it that much. It feels like a shallow thought to have at the forefront of one’s mind, especially when there’s so much to be done still. The world is a chaotic place right now, and in some ways we’re all coming to terms with the reality we’ve created. That’s where Journalism plays its most crucial role, holding leaders accountable, uplifting the oppressed and marginalized, and being part of solutions that move humanity forward. Right now, I’m involved with the Organization “Skillshare International Botswana.”
They’re based in Gaborone and they do a lot of work at the refugee camp in Dukwi. They are an exceptional NGO that really transforms people’s lives. They develop sustainable livelihoods, including education, vocational training, domestic violence, and sexual health. They could really need assistance right now with donations, used clothes, or blankets. Read more here: https://skillsharebots.org/?fbclid=IwAR3MY0Gf-Rl4zeQ-y99E8xvzFRjNVX_2KK_MZYkD8P6k6x0cWfq3f0kyIQE
When you moved from BTV, going overseas, you were not just a mere employee. At KGTV in San Diego, Leloba was incredibly valuable to the newsroom, having worked as a Writer and Producer, and well-respected Assignment Editor. And at UT-TV Leloba reported on important stories affecting the nation, from the Cleveland kidnappings, an American wrongly jailed in Mexico, and Edward Snowden. How has the experience as a foreigner been, if ever you get the feeling that you away from home?
I’ve never been made to feel like a foreigner if that’s your question. But I also live in liberal California where minds are open, and there’s a lot of free thinking. There are a lot of grassroots efforts here that really effect change in the world. It’s inspiring. But it is a different culture, and it took some getting used to. But I’ve never felt “other,” if that makes any sense.
You are also abreast with what is happening here at home in Botswana, you narrated a brilliant documentary film by The Eco Exist about mitigating human/elephant conflict in the Okavango Delta. How was the experience working with such a great team of professionals?
That experience was transformative for me. A lot of the news I cover is deep and heavy, and it can leave one feeling a bit empty. So, I find projects that are impactful and meaningful, that make my spirit dance, and this was certainly one of them. Gosh, Botswana is beautiful. I got to really see the Northern part of this country, its tribes, its cultures, and traditions, and I was blown away. I’m also passionate about conservation and wildlife, so the project was a labor of love in more ways than I can count.
A lot of young Batswana in the media space are looking at your path but not sure how to go about it. What advice would you give an individual to conquer international spaces?
Well, I think that’s a misconception that to be successful one must leave the country. The truth is, important Journalism can be done from anywhere. And we certainly have issues in Botswana that need professionals to handle them, people who know how to be fair, balanced, and impartial. And who understand the culture. But for anyone thinking of venturing abroad, my advice is work hard, keep your head down, and take any opportunity to learn.
Just give a glimpse of the perks of your profession, name an incident where you met an incredible person you never thought as a Motswana you could ever interview?
We get opportunities to go to the major awards, the Oscars, the Golden Globes etc. I guess that’s pretty cool.
Before I let you go what do you miss the most about home?
Everything! I miss hearing Thuzoski’s voice on Radio Botswana (MHSRIP), eating fat-cakes at Pop Inn, browsing through all the stalls at the main mall, visiting Botswana Book Center…and just hanging with my family, my parents in particular. They’re my friends.