I’ve been a breadwinner since I was 18 years old
Businesswoman and former Generations actress Sophie Ndaba says she has been paying black tax from the age of 18, when – unlike other carefree teenagers – she was forced to become a breadwinner at home.
At that tender age, Ndaba was taking care of her daughter, grandmother, mother, father and sister’s daughter.
“I had three jobs. I was an actress, a model and working in a casting agency because I wanted to provide for my family,” she says. At some point, she even sold clothes to make ends meet.
Paying black tax has become second nature to Ndaba, who says taking care of extended family members is part of her identity. “It was never a burden, because I started from an early age,” she says.
Twenty years ago, when Ndaba decided to go out and look for work, her family was surviving on her mother’s paltry old age grant of R155 per month, far from enough to provide for all of them.
She had no choice but to go and find something that could augment that income. “It wasn’t easy at all. It was a financial strain,” she says.
From the three jobs she eventually found, she would make at least R5 000 a month.
“But that money was not only for me. I had to buy my daughter’s nappies, groceries, electricity and take my young sister’s daughter to school,” she recalls. She says being a teenage mother made her work twice as hard to ensure her daughter was also well taken care of.
At that time, her peers would go out shopping and clubbing, and go on holidays.
“I couldn’t afford the luxury lifestyle. I couldn’t even afford to buy myself make-up or lipstick. A holiday was the last thing on my mind.”
Though at the time there was a slight chance of her affording a short holiday to Durban, she says her priority was always her family.
“My dream was that when I started working I would buy my mother a fridge and fill it with lots of food. And that’s what I did with my first salary.”
Before Ndaba bought her first car, she bought her mother new furniture.
Though Ndaba is a successful businesswoman and now comfortable financially, she doesn’t forget where she comes from and is still taking care of her family.
Her grandmother and mother have died but she is still looking after her 84-year-old father, who has a heart disease and has been on dialysis treatment for years.
“I’m paying for his medical bills, taking care of the house, buying him groceries and clothes,” she says.
“As long as I’m alive, I will take care of my family.”