Nehemiah Tjatji is meant to be a star. Here’s how I know. At the SABC1 media launch for their four fresh faces of the channel - also dubbed SABC1 opens up the industry - Tjatji stood out. The lanky presenter and online radio stand-in jock was charming, knowledgeable and even funny.
He is the presenter of a new show called Verified, which will hit your screens soon. But before that, he was one of the thousands of hopefuls who auditioned to present Mzansi Insider, alongside the seasoned pro, Rorisang Thandekiso.
The channel travelled to five cities in search of someone who would fill Kat Sinavasin’s shoes and found a plethora of talent.
While Mzansi Insider - a youthful, lifestyle magazine show - only took Kgaugelo Mokholwane as a presenter, the channel opened up spots on other shows for three more presenters. Sthembiso Dliiwayo is the new Mikasi Sukasi presenter, while Mulisa Mudau joined the Real Goboza.
Following rampant conversations about seeing the same faces in our entertainment industry all the time, there was a rallying cry to open up the industry. This is SABC1’s answer.
During the panel discussion at the media launch, Tjatji confidently said: “Yes, the industry needs to open up but what is the reason that the industry needs to open up? It’s me. They didn’t have a Nehemiah.”
About Tjatji’s audition for Mzansi Insider, producer and former presenter Akhumzi Jezile said: “As soon as he walked into the room, he had a very bright personality and a very bright future.”
But back to why I think Tjatji is meant to be a star. When we stepped outside to chat about his new show and his journey, he gave me a humorous, yet warm interview. Then my recorder failed to capture those moments.
Instead of sulking about it, the Witbank-bred presenter immediately retained his high spirits then told me extra anecdotes about his experiences as though the previous, energetic interview hadn’t even happened. That’s unlike a newbie. Which is why he’ll probably outlast most people.
“Before I auditioned for Mzansi Insider,” he started again, “actually, since the age of 18, I have always wanted to be a performer and entertainer. During high school, I did part-time performing arts to the point where I was accepted to study at Amda - the American Musical and Dramatic Academy in New York. I got a 65% scholarship, and the other 35% was too expensive to raise. So I stayed at home and joined a community radio station, eMalahleni, then Transafrica Radio, then got into 7de Laan.”
At the moment, Tjatji is also appearing in the second season of Ring of Lies.
“I’ve MC-ed everything from comedy shows to 21st birthday parties and weddings,” he told me. “I’ve been hustling in and out because I couldn’t afford to go to school.”
After being told he hadn’t got the Mzansi Insider gig, Tjatji was asked to audition for another show. There were only a handful of other hopefuls there, and Tjatji immediately knew that he had this one in the bag.
“I knew in the moment that I walked in that this is mine,” he smiled. “Even after my audition, the sound guy was like: ‘Hey, dude, your energy is amazing! You’re too dope.’ I just knew. I’ve worked so hard for this particular moment that I felt it in my gut that this is it.”
Verified sees Tjatji play the middle between two content creators who are taken through various challenges before they are “verified” by the audience as the best of the two. Interestingly, Tjatji does not yet have the blue tick next to his name on social media, but I have no doubt that he, too, will be verified soon.
* Catch the four new SABC1 faces on various shows on the channel.