Debora Patta

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Debora Patta
Born (1964-09-01) 1 September 1964 (age 56)
NationalitySouth African
Alma materUniversity of Cape Town
OccupationBroadcast journalist, television producer, radio personality
Years active1990–present
Spouse(s)Mweli Mzizi (1996–2002)
Lance Levitas (2003–2011) Andrew (Surfer-boy) Levy ( 2012 - present)

Debora Patta (born 1 September 1964)[1] is a South African broadcast journalist and television producer investigative journalist.[2][3][4] She was born in Southern Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe) and has origins from Calabria, Italy.[5][6][7]

Patta is the Africa correspondent for the American news program The CBS Evening News.[8] She has been with CBS since 2013, following her departure from the long running investigative and current affairs show, 3rd Degree with Debora Patta.[9]

Early life[edit]

Patta was born in Southern Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe), where her Italian father had emigrated as a railway employee. Her father was from Rome, Italy and she lived there for a while when she was young. Her Italian family is originally from Praia a Mare in Calabria. She considers Italy her second home and travels there regularly.[2][3][4][10]

She moved to South Africa with her mother, a nurse and devout Catholic, and her sister in 1976 after her parents divorced.[4][10] She attended Rustenburg School for Girls in the Rondebosch suburb of Cape Town, where she matriculated in 1981.[11][12]

Patta studied at the University of Cape Town where she obtained a Bachelor of Social Sciences in 1984.[11][13] She briefly taught aerobics while at college.[10]


After graduating from college, Patta worked as a political activist teaching literacy in Cape Town's squatter camps until 1990, when she started working as a freelance reporter for the BBC.[10][11][14][15]


Patta joined Radio 702 in Johannesburg as a reporter in 1990 and worked her way up to news editor in 1994 and special assignments editor in 1997.[11][14]

The first news story she worked on that was aired on Radio 702 was about the return of ANC leader Oliver Tambo from exile in December 1990.[13]

In 1997 and 1998, while working as news and special assignments editor for Radio 702 and its sister station Cape Talk, she investigated and reported on the 1986 plane crash in which Mozambican President Samora Machel was killed.[16] She received several threatening phone calls during the investigation.[17] In June 1998 she participated in a post-apartheid Truth and Reconciliation Commission special hearing, providing expert opinion and assisting with questioning regarding the 1987 Helderberg plane crash and the Machel plane crash.[18] She was later interviewed for a 2008 Mayday (Air Crash Investigation or Air Emergency) documentary on the Helderberg plane crash.[19]

In October 2013, Patta returned to Radio 702 as a stand-in talk radio host.[20]


Patta has worked for, the first privately owned free-to-air television station in South Africa, since its inception in 1998. She started as a senior correspondent in Johannesburg and was subsequently appointed chief anchor of news.[17][21][22][23]

From 2000 to 2013 she was the executive producer and anchor of the weekly current affairs television programme 3rd Degree, a show conceptualized by her which focused on hard-hitting interviews.[24][25][26][27] The final episode of 3rd Degree aired on 14 May 2013.[28]

She has reported on major international stories such as the September 11 attacks and the death of Princess Diana and has interviewed many notable individuals including Shimon Peres, Oprah Winfrey, Nelson Mandela, Thabo Mbeki, Jacob Zuma, Cyril Ramaphosa, Julius Malema, Eugène Terre'Blanche and Robert McBride.[2][6][29]

She was appointed editor-in-chief of news in 2005.[30][31] In 2009 she resigned her position as editor-in-chief, "to follow her passion for journalism" and focus on 3rd Degree.[25][29]

She played a key role in the launch of South Africa's first 24-hour news channel eNews Channel Africa (eNCA) by in 2008.[32][33]

In 2012 a puppet version of Patta voiced by Nikki Jackman was cast as co-host of the satirical television news programme ZANews.[34][35]

On 7 May 2013, and eNCA announced that Debora Patta had resigned "to pursue other interests as a freelancer for international news companies".[36][37]

Following her departure from, she began working as a foreign correspondent for CBS News.[38]

Reporting style[edit]

Patta has been described as "direct", "to the point", "unafraid" and "being a voice for the voiceless":[39][40]

South Africans know her best as the hard-core investigative reporter who ruthlessly rips into everyone from crooked cabinet ministers to medical doctors on the take.

— Louise Liebenberg, The Herald[2]

Patta has been called names and is often described as aggressive, but it doesn't seem to bother her much.

— Bongiwe Khumalo, Times Live[41]

Her hard-hitting journalism exposing racism in South Africa has angered conservative whites. Black members of the public have also accused her of being racist, e.g. after exposing corrupt black doctors who sold medical certificates and after interviewing "bling queen" Khanyi Mbau, and Jewish members of the public have accused her of being anti-Semitic after airing the controversial 2002 documentary Palestine Is Still the Issue.[17][42][43][44]

She has also been criticized as not being qualified to talk about black culture by former ANC Youth League president Julius Malema during an interview with him and by black viewers offended by a 3rd Degree show on black hair weaves.[45][46]

AWB leader Eugène Terre'Blanche walked out of an interview with Patta after his release from prison in 2004. A complaint lodged against about the interview was dismissed by the Broadcasting Complaints Commission of South Africa.[41][47]

In 2010 Patta publicly apologized on television to Chrisna de Kock, a Freedom Front Plus youth leader at the University of the Free State, after accusing her of being a racist in an interview on 3rd Degree. An spokesperson conceded that "the manner in which the allegation was put across was unfortunate" and the racism comment was subsequently retracted.[48][49]

Patta has responded to criticism of her reporting with statements such as "that means I am doing my job well" and "we are doing this because we have a true democracy".[17][45]

Personal life[edit]

In April 1995 Patta married Mweli Mzizi.[3][12] The interracial couple had encountered hostility for a year, so she was surprised by the positive response of listeners to her announcement.[50] They were married in January 1996 and the wedding was attended by hundreds of guests including Nelson Mandela.[3] After the wedding the Department of Home Affairs notified Mzizi that the marriage was invalid because he did not fill out a form requiring black men to say that they were not already married. Newsweek reported that few South Africans were aware of this requirement and "many of the country's marriages are probably illegal in the eyes of the bureaucracy".[51]

In 2000 Patta and Mzizi unsuccessfully attempted to enter a whites-only picnic resort in the Free State together, filming the incident on a hidden camera for a 3rd Degree show on racism following which Patta received hate mail.[10][52]

Patta was voted one of the FHM 50 Most Eligible Women in the World by South African FHM readers in 2003.[26][53]

In June 2003 she married Lance Levitas.[12][54]

She has two daughters.[4][6][7] Her elder daughter Chiara Mzizi has worked as a presenter for YoTV, a youth entertainment show broadcast by SABC 1.[55]


Patta has won several awards:

  • 1992 South African Checkers Journalist of the Year[11][31]
  • 2004 Vodacom Journalist of the Year Gauteng Region[11][31]
  • 2004 MTN 10 Most Remarkable Women in Media[11][31]
  • 2007 Simonsvlei Journalist Achiever of the Year[56]
  • 2009 Vodacom Women in the Media[32][57]
  • 2010 CEO Magazine South Africa's Most Influential Women in Business and Government[58]
  • 2010 She received a Tricolor Globe Award from the Italian Women in the World association which recognizes outstanding achievers of Italian origin abroad.[6][59][60]
  • 2015 She was part of the CBS News team nominated to receive an Emmy Award for their coverage of the Ebola virus epidemic in West Africa.[61]


  • Baby Micaela : the inside story of South Africa's most famous abduction case. Co-authored by Anne Maggs and Debora Patta. Sandton: Zebra Press, 1996. ISBN 9781868700493.
  • One step behind Mandela : the story of Rory Steyn, Nelson Mandela's chief bodyguard. Co-authored by Rory Steyn and Debora Patta. Rivonia: Zebra Press, 2000. ISBN 9781868722693


  1. ^ "Debora Patta". The White House. Archived from the original on 3 December 2013. Retrieved 21 November 2013.
  2. ^ a b c d Liebenberg, Louise (17 September 2003). "Sad stories make tough journo Debora cry". The Herald. Archived from the original on 2 April 2007. Retrieved 3 March 2013. Debora, 'a very proud South African'
  3. ^ a b c d Riccardo, Orizio (8 January 1996). "Italiana la principessa zulu". Corriere della Sera (in Italian). Retrieved 3 March 2013. e' nata 31 anni fa nella Rhodesia, dove papa' era emigrato come impiegato delle ferrovie e aveva fatto carriera. Poi la separazione dei genitori, il trasferimento con la madre in Sudafrica, il ritorno del padre a Roma, la cittadinanza sudafricana
  4. ^ a b c d "'Is ek nog Debora Patta?'". Die Burger (in Afrikaans). 9 October 2009. Retrieved 4 March 2013. En nou, op 45, is dit tyd om minder baas en meer ma te wees.
  5. ^ "Premio globo tricolore" (in Italian). RadioEmiliaRomagna. 25 September 2010. Retrieved 2 March 2013. la giornalista investigativa più famosa in Sudafrica, di origine calabrese ma nata in Zimbabwe, Debora Patta
  6. ^ a b c d McRae, Fiona (12 October 2010). "'La vita' looks 'bella' for Debora Patta". Retrieved 2 March 2013.
  7. ^ a b Segar, Sue (30 May 2008). "Interview with Debora Patta: Not all Glamour". The Witness. Retrieved 2 March 2013.
  8. ^ "Debora Patta nominated for a news Emmy". 31 July 2015.
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  10. ^ a b c d e Wiesner, André (2001). "Interviews: Debora Patta". WorldOnline Tiscali. Archived from the original on 7 January 2012. Retrieved 3 March 2013.
  11. ^ a b c d e f g Koekemoer, Hanlie (August–September 2007). "Party Time Review: Ms Debora Patta". Durbs Magazine. Retrieved 4 March 2013.
  12. ^ a b c "Newsletter Number 49" (PDF). RGJS. December 2008. Retrieved 3 March 2013.[permanent dead link]
  13. ^ a b Govender, Michelle (October 2009). "No Glass Ceiling: My Interview with Debora Patta of 3rd Degree". Sweet Designs Magazine. Retrieved 4 March 2013.
  14. ^ a b "2009 Vodacom Women in The Media Awards finalists announced". 29 May 2009. Retrieved 5 March 2013.
  15. ^ "Healthcare of the Future: The Good, the Bad & the Nano? Media Round Table – 9 February 2011 Speaker Information" (PDF). South African Agency for Science and Technology Advancement. Retrieved 5 March 2013. 1990 marked her first foray into journalism working as a production assistant for the BBC.
  16. ^ Patta, Debora (10 July 1998). "How Samora Machel signed his own death warrant". Mail & Guardian. Retrieved 3 March 2013.
  17. ^ a b c d Pule wa Sekano (11 May 2003). "3rd Degree's Patta threatened". City Press. Retrieved 6 March 2013.
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  19. ^ "Air Crash Investigation: Cargo Conspiracy". National Geographic Channel. Retrieved 5 March 2013.
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  21. ^ Roos, Martjie (21 January 1999). "`Tien uit tien,' loof kykers se nuus". Beeld (in Afrikaans). Archived from the original on 4 March 2016. Retrieved 8 March 2013.
  22. ^ Malan, Mariana (19 August 2005). "Debora Patta oor nuwe uitdagings". Die Burger (in Afrikaans). Archived from the original on 4 March 2016. Retrieved 8 March 2013.
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  24. ^ "3rd Degree". TVSA. Retrieved 3 March 2013.
  25. ^ a b Vos, Ugen (1 October 2009). "Patta focuses on '3rd Degree'". The Citizen. Retrieved 4 March 2013.
  26. ^ a b Nel, Jaco (21 May 2003). "Debora Patta: Sonder skroom". Beeld (in Afrikaans). Retrieved 5 March 2013. Sy het aan die begin van die jaar die tydskrif FHM se lysie gehaal van die mees hubare vroue in die land.
  27. ^ "Debora Patta quits 3rd Degree". News24. 7 May 2013. Retrieved 14 May 2013.
  28. ^ Ferreira, Thinus (15 May 2013). "Debora Patta says goodbye". Channel24. Retrieved 15 May 2013.
  29. ^ a b "Debora Patta resigns as head of news". IOL. 1 October 2009. Retrieved 2 March 2013.
  30. ^ "New editor-in-chief for". 7 August 2005. Retrieved 4 March 2013.
  31. ^ a b c d "Private sector: Media". Mail & Guardian. 7 August 2008. Retrieved 4 March 2013. She is editor-in-chief for both and e.24, the cable news channel which launched its 24-hour news station in June 2008.
  32. ^ a b "Media maven scoops top award". IOL. 31 July 2009. Retrieved 3 March 2013.
  33. ^ Issa Sikiti da Silva (2 June 2008). "eNews 24-hour channel takes to the airwaves". Retrieved 4 March 2013.
  34. ^ "Debora Patta puppet to join ZA News". City Press. 1 August 2012. Archived from the original on 9 May 2013. Retrieved 3 March 2013.
  35. ^ Tagg, Tashi (21 August 2012). "Behind the Debora Patta puppet on ZANews". News24. Retrieved 3 March 2013. They chose Debora because she's good TV.
  36. ^ "3rd Degree and Debora Patta take a break". eNCA. 7 May 2013. Retrieved 7 May 2013.
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  38. ^ "CBS News women on the front line: Debora Patta and Sarah Carter". CBS News. 5 March 2015.
  39. ^ Gophe, Myolisi (3 February 2004). "Rape group protests over Patta's patter". IOL. Retrieved 4 March 2013.
  40. ^ Issa Sikiti da Silva (21 July 2009). "Programme praised, Patta panned". Retrieved 5 March 2013.
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  47. ^ "Case No - 28-2004 - - 3rd Degree - Eugene Terrblanche - Comment". BCCSA. Retrieved 5 March 2013.
  48. ^ "Debora Patta to apologise to FF Plus leader". Mail & Guardian. 6 July 2010. Retrieved 4 March 2013.
  49. ^ du Toit, Pieter (8 July 2010). "Debora Patta says sorry". Beeld. Retrieved 3 March 2013.
  50. ^ Matloff, Judith (27 April 1995). "Life in the New South Africa: Racial Strife Slowly Easing". The Christian Science Monitor. Retrieved 2 March 2013.
  51. ^ "So You Think You're Married?". Newsweek. 7 April 1996. Retrieved 3 March 2013.
  52. ^ Scott, Sally (9 November 2000). "Racist resort gets the 3rd Degree". IOL. Retrieved 3 March 2013.
  53. ^ "Hubaarste vroue" (in Afrikaans). Beeld. 9 January 2003. Retrieved 5 March 2013. Van die kriteria is dat hulle geld en bekende vriende moet hê en intelligent moet wees.[permanent dead link]
  54. ^ "Debora Patta ties the knot". News24. 17 July 2003. Retrieved 2 March 2013.
  55. ^ "Girls". SQ Artiste Management and Acting Academy. Archived from the original on 25 September 2012. Retrieved 4 March 2013.
  56. ^ Ottermann, Birgit (21 February 2008). "Shuttleworth voted 2007 achiever". News24. Retrieved 3 March 2013.
  57. ^ Rehbock, Nicky (4 June 2009). "Media awards for SA women". Retrieved 6 March 2013.
  58. ^ "2010's most influential women". 2 August 2010. Retrieved 6 March 2013.
  59. ^ "Premi: a Romina Arena e Debora Patta il Globo tricolore 2010". la Repubblica. 6 September 2010. Retrieved 4 March 2013.
  60. ^ "Italy recognises Debora Patta's success". 21 September 2010. Retrieved 4 March 2013.
  61. ^ "Debora Patta Up For An EMMY". Elle South Africa. 3 August 2015.

External links[edit]