When I wake up the first thing I do is…

... look for my glasses! I am very short-sighted and I wear contact lenses most days. I can’t seem to remember where I leave my glasses before I sleep!

What's your best memory of growing up in Zimbabwe?

My mother took me everywhere with her! I loved going to Barbour's and Greatermans (big department stores) with her – I found them fascinating.

What made you want to be a doctor (from age 4!)?

I knew that I was going to be a doctor and the reason I wanted to do medicine was to help people. And that’s exactly what I do!

I also wanted to be a newsreader, TV presenter, radio DJ, flight attendant and, more recently, a chef!

Were there pros and cons to studying medicine at the University of Pretoria?

UP was challenging because of the language policy – classes were still being offered in Afrikaans in 2000 and that was tough. I made some great friends at Tukkies and those are the memories I cherish!

How did you get into radio?


I auditioned to be a newsreader at Radio Tuks in 1996. To my surprise, I was taken as a DJ. I was over the moon! Apparently, I don’t sound the way that I look ... so that’s always interesting!

As someone who struggles with depression, what's your advice to others?

The most important – and probably the most difficult – step is to acknowledge that there is a problem. The next is to seek professional help. This may be therapy alone or therapy and medication. There are myths about psychiatric medication which is why people are afraid of taking it. The psychiatrist is able to assess and decide what medication will work for you.

One of your dreams is an HIV-free generation...

South Africa has pockets of excellence within the HIV programme. The Prevention-of-Mother-To-Child-Transmission (PMTCT ) programme has achieved great success. If we continue in the way we've started, we could achieve a less than 1% transmission rate within 10 years.

The biggest obstacle is getting people to test for HIV. If you don’t know your status, we can’t help you. We need to find a way of getting everyone to test for HIV.

What is being a "van Zyl" like?

People are always shocked – something I knew I'd have to live with after getting married in 2004!

Traffic cops make me laugh. They stop me, ask for my licence, and then spend the rest of the time interrogating me about my surname. I end up showing them pictures of Marinus and my kids!

What are your thoughts on balancing motherhood and a career?

I always say there is no balance with motherhood and my career. I’m not even trying to achieve it. The blessing is that Marinus is very hands-on. He also understands how important my career is to me, and he's helped allow me to flourish. I’ve slowed down a bit, so I’m spending more time with the kids. But Marinus does a lot with them.

Are all doctors treated equally, in your opinion?

People don’t always give female medical doctors the respect that they give to male doctors. It’s one of those things that I've grown to accept...

As a long-time "Banter", your last meal on earth would be…

Nando's chicken tangy tomato! I cheat here and there but Banting’s a way of life that has a great impact on my life.

We hear you love the “finer things in life"...

I have a soft spot for Louis Vuitton bags and fragrance. Duty-free fragrance shopping is unmatched! It just makes better sense to shop there if one has the opportunity.

My best local holiday destination is…

KwaZulu-Natal is a gem of a province. I love it and I can’t get enough of it!

Listen out for Dr Sindi on Kaya FM, one afternoon a month on UnCaptured and a short feature every Saturday morning with Sotho Meyer.

Twitter: @sindivanzyl