RUDA LANDMAN, for 19 years the iconic female face of Carte Blanche, appears in front of me. Like those Sunday evenings. Fierce, controlled, deeply compassionate. Her beloved book collection is partly visible. Robertson Davies, Joseph Campbell, Deon Meyer.
Here where I am now
Landman celebrates her 70th this month. Her elegant, upright posture and laser-sharp brain hardly reflect seven decades. I would believe her if she invited me to her 60th.
“This weekend I saw The Economist's front page, this guy walking out of his coffin, the story about whether we are going to live to 120. It makes me so anxious. I'm very happy with a life with a beginning, middle and finally an end," she says.
“When I look at my older friends, I get a little scared… the end of life is often difficult. But where I am now, through grace but also through proper planning and a lifetime of discipline, reflection and a partnership between me and my husband, JP, I can go on and do things for myself and society. It's an incredible privilege.
“At this age, one is much calmer than you were. Gracious me, when I think how turbulent and restless and quarrelsome we were in our 40s. I don't want a repeat of any other stage of my life. I don't have a bucket list. What is, is good."
“We ended up here by chance after JP and I both got jobs here after university.
“I really love Johannesburg. The city management is discouraging at the moment but everything is really just around the corner. Great bookshops, coffee places… A city is not one big affair. I don't live in Diepsloot or Alexandra but on the border between Melville and Parkview. It's beautiful and peaceful. Our only child is also settled here, very close to us. That's really wonderful.
“I'm in the Cape for five minutes, then I think: goodness no, this weather! Johannesburg doesn't have weather. These warm early summer days, you sit on the grass in the evening… it feels like childhood in Keimoes, where the smoke of the braai would rise straight up.
“And of course the garden is also lovely now and the jacarandas are turning purple. For climate change, Gauteng is arguably the best, right in the middle; because to the west it will only become drier, to the east only wetter."
Poor management is Landman's nemesis. “At the moment I'm absolutely furious with Rand Water and Johannesburg's city council. Our city's streets are a bloody disgrace. If only someone would tell me we have a plan to do A, B, C. When we're on a road trip I sometimes fantasise about how I would like to fix up a rural town.
“People speculate whether South Africa can work. Look at the Gautrain, the 2010 World Cup, the Springboks… these are success stories. However, our current politics dishearten me. The 2024 general election… I'm betwixt and between. No one impresses. JP taught me, ‘Don't look at the snapshot, watch the movie.' Oh well."
Keep on moving
Landman maintains a healthy lifestyle. “The principle of cause and effect applies. You decide how you want to look and feel and direct your days accordingly. You must exercise four times a week for an hour to function optimally. It's as simple as that. Of course, this excludes when you get cancer or something like that.
“About 33 years ago I did aerobics at a gym; our children all played together outside on the grass while we exercised.
“Recently, I saw an advertisement for Nia classes at that very studio. I had no idea what it entailed. Then I just went. It's so great! Our instructor is a small person, a fairy. Her approach is, ‘it's up to you, it's your body'. There's no right or wrong. We are a diverse group of women who dance together, age doesn't matter. You look at the fairy and you let your body do what it wants. I struggle with my back, and after 10 minutes of rhythm I am simply better aligned."
Ruda the fixer
Her passion for quality teaching and guidance and support for students has manifested itself in her GRAD and later GRADnext guides*.
“I wrote the submission for it in September 2015. I went from port to starboard in fruitless attempts to obtain funding. Van Schaik Publishers immediately realised the guides would fill a gap and gave wings to my student support dream."
With a donation of R100,000, 10,000 copies of GRAD were printed and distributed at four universities in 2017. “After that I went hat in hand to Capitec, because I believed they would also support the concept. Fortunately for masses of students, they bought in and in 2018 we distributed 142,400 copies to 22 universities. This voluntary project brings me pure joy.”
In 2023, 136,000 GRAD and 93,000 GRADnext manuals reached students and matric learners. Demand still exceeds supply.
That's how Ruda rolls. Fix it, make it better.
*Read more at https://grad.org.za/
♦ VWB ♦
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