KITSO RANTAO, A PRODUCT OF SOUTH AFRICA’S APARTHEID SYSTEM, STILL SHE RISES
She was brought up as a consequence of the South African apartheid system which infringed upon the human rights of black people. That meant that Kitso Rantao’s single mom could not be educated as she formed part of the statistic of Black Female South Africans who were domestic workers and earned below minimum wage. Ergo, basic amenities such as: shelter, food and clothing weren’t always so basic. In fact, they had to learn to go without. So, these basic items became a luxury when they were made available. From sleeping on pavements to going days without food then losing her older sister when she was finally beginning to find her bearings, Miss Rantao knows a thing or two about living the hard knock life.
Kitso, her mother’s second daughter would be undeterred as the challenges she faced would continuously be used as a lever to only propel her forward.
Describe your childhood. How did it affect you growing up?
My mom was raising three daughters with a domestic worker salary of R1500 roughly around N30,000. It was a weird dynamic to be so close to and completely surrounded by wealth, living in a tiny backroom in affluent suburbs but being poor. It was both inspiring and frustrating, I wanted to live in those houses but also disliked the type of society where the humanhood of a single mom domestic worker wasn’t recognised. Nonetheless my mom was a fighter and valued education and she managed to get us in to some really good schools. With all the hard work she was doing it only made sense to me to try do my part so I worked on getting really good marks, getting scholarships, and working part time from a young age, this really shaped my work ethic growing into my adulthood.
Give me a run-down of the jobs you’ve had to do to make ends meet.
It’s funny you ask because just the other day I was an hour early for work so I went off to have breakfast at Wimpy restaurant. While I was sitting there, the manager recognized me and for the life of me I couldn’t place his face. When we finally figured it out and I realised that he was the waiter that trained me 10 years ago at my first job waitressing at Wimpy at 15, it really took me back.
Since then, I’ve worked as a cashier in a Toy shop. Then I got into promotions for events and brands, one of which entailed working a make-up and skin care consultant for a big cosmetic company. Then I worked in radio as a newsreader, which led to me doing voice-overs for a mass market. A little before that, I had worked as a customer services call centre agent for a UK cell-phone network. It’s a long list over the years.
What keeps you going?
Writing and retail therapy. She laughingly adds, I work hard so I can afford nice things.
Honestly, I’m curious about who I will become on the other side of any tribulation. I always wonder, who will I be after I survive this? And that curiosity keeps me focused on enduring what I have to so that I survive and overcome. Besides that, my mother didn’t struggle as hard as she did for me to give up, I must carry on the work.
Describe the worst day in your life.
I had gone back to varsity after taking a break in third year, I had applied to get back on the bursary I was previously on before I left. I’d signed a year lease and loaned some money to put down the deposit. I was waiting on the bursary company to give the final go ahead. During the gap year, I had to redo some subjects while working full time. So after a couple of weeks of praying, fasting, waiting on this answer, the response came back as a no. I got the phone call at 11am, at 3 pm I had a meeting, I didn’t even have luxury or time to fall apart even though in that moment it I was caving in.
What are the principles you live by:
- This victory is already yours when you decide to continue.
- Include yourself on your list of people to take care of, you can’t light other fires with a burnt out candle.
Have you ever been depressed or had a time where it all became overwhelming?
Several times, in fact too many times to even list. One of the most life changing was when I walked out of the second semester of my third year of varsity, simply put, I just couldn’t do it anymore. I had struggled for so much of my life that I didn’t want to do it anymore and I demanded the break that life hadn’t dealt me. I came back stronger because of it.
Now, I handle break downs better, in fact they are essential. If I feel overwhelmed I don’t soldier through it or ignore it, I sit and feel it out, I address it, acknowledge it and when I’m done I make space to move on and feel joy again.
How did you manage to overcome the bouts of depression?
Life had thrown so much at me and didn’t stop, blow after blow and I realized that it wasn’t going to stop and if I had to rely on anti-depressants to be okay, I would be taking them for the rest of my life. I also hated the medication, I was tired of feeling nothing and numb. “You can’t protect yourself from sadness without protecting yourself from happiness” – I no longer wanted to feel nothing at the expense of the opportunity to be happy. I still have dark days but at least I get to feel happy, I’m grateful for that.
Where will Kitso be in the next 5 years?
I’ll be 30, a Masters graduate with many passport stamps and very happy with whatever it is I would be doing. I will be in the media and academic space – as to what exactly, I have no limitation. I would also be in another African country doing something meaningful and fulfilling for me and the space I’d be in.
At the time of publishing, Kitso was fresh out of University but as at today, she is living her dream working as a consultant for Prime Media, one of South Africa’s top media conglomerates. She is also part of a PR team looking to organise a youth development organization which will set out to help impoverished youth in her community. She more than most, knows the struggles that come with living in poverty and she is bent to make a difference wherever she finds herself. It looks like she’s well on her way. Today, we celebrate her.