Abandoned: In conversation with Phumeza Mdabe

By Xabiso Ngqabe28 September 2021

Abandoned: In conversation with Phumeza Mdabe

Accepting that you’re adopted is one thing, but it’s a whole other story when you start wondering why your biological parents abandoned you. All you yearn for is answers and some sense of closure, and that is what Phumeza Mdabe offers in the reality show Abandoned.

Not only does Phumeza take the abandoned by the hand, but she also opens up about her own story of having been abandoned by her father.

We spoke to the actress and presenter about her experience on the show.

What led you to agree to host the show? 

It was important for me to show my range as a presenter and also it’s because of the concept of the show itself. I felt like it was going to give people hope that not all is lost.

I just wanted to be part of this narrative of giving people hope, no matter how long it takes.

Other than the episode you did in search of your father, which other episode resonated with you and why?

[Sighs]. The story that got to me was the one from Xolani because even after we were done, we were not done.

He’s still in prison. He doesn’t know the people who are representing him on the case pro bono, so his journey is still carrying on.

Xolani suffered a huge injustice. For a long period, it looked like the odds were against him, but it seems like things may now be looking up.

And, hopefully, we will be able to follow up on what has happened and let people know. We are busy working on it behind the scenes.

That was the one story that touched me, everyone in my family, and even the production team.

What goes through your mind when you embark on these various experiences with the abandoned?

It’s tricky because you never know what to expect. You don’t know if you’ll meet a parent who will admit their mistake or someone who will downright refuse to see their child.

Sometimes, while helping the person, I get emotionally attached. It’s always that adrenalin rush until you finally get an answer on why the child was abandoned.

For example, Happy’s story: when we were looking for her father, her stepmother was not having it.

Imagine coming back and telling a child that her father is fine but the stepmother is not agreeing to them uniting. Those type of situations are heartbreaking.

It’s the same thing that happened with my situation. My stepmother was not having it. But as heartbreaking as it is, all you can do is hope for the best.

What kind of research goes into hosting a reality show like Abandoned

I have to know what happened in terms of each person’s story so that I can ask the right questions. This makes it easy for the audience to get the full picture within three to four minutes.

The team puts together the research pack and we discuss it. This avoids having to go back and forth.

It’s also very important for me to be as neutral as possible. I’m a very emotional person, so I have to ensure there is balance and to remember that I’m here as a vessel to tell the story.

You also opened up about reuniting with your long-lost father. Did you ever consider backing out from that particular episode?

Not even once did it cross my mind that I should back out because I was desperate to find my father. I’ve been trying for years and I wasn’t getting anywhere.

So, while I was in the process of filming the show and helping people, I was like, “wait a minute, I think I’m these people.” God works in mysterious and funny ways.

I told the team that I was also looking for my father. They asked if I was willing to share my story and I said yes. I also needed closure.

I’ll be honest – in my case, I thought he was going to agree to talk about it. I never thought he would say all the things that he said to me.

Has he reached out to you since that episode?

Someone who worked for him saw the episode and sent an email confronting him about it. The man told my father how disappointed he was with him.

In the episode, my father was speaking to the producer of the show and wasn’t aware that his voice was being recorded. He didn’t know that I would hear the recording.

Apparently, after finding out that I heard the recording, he was in tears. The person who confronted him said it was as if someone had died. He was in tears about the fact that this thing was on TV. I then told the guy that it was fine, because what was more important to me was closure.

At the end of the day, my father’s blood runs through my veins. His legacy and identity will always be a part of my kids. It was important for me to close that chapter. He has my number now and he’s going to call me whenever he decides to.

Watch all episodes of Abandoned S1 now on Showmax.

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