Rocky road from Bizana for pow­er­ful Them­beka

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Pow­er­house vo­cal­ist Them­beka Mn­guni is des­per­ate to win The Voice SA be­cause it will change her son’s life.

“I’m go­ing to fight to get this. My son and I need this,” she says.

Mn­guni (33), who hails from a vil­lage out­side Bizana, East­ern Cape, is the sin­gle mum of Sabelo (5), who suf­fers from se­vere autism. Now, more than ever, she can­not af­ford to give up on her dream.

She has sur­vived do­mes­tic vi­o­lence, poverty and two fail­ures at singing re­al­ity show Idols SA to be­come one of the singing tal­ent show’s viewer favourites, and she ap­pears des­tined for a spot in the fi­nal four.

Coaches Bobby van Jaarsveld, Karen Zoid and Lira Mo­lapo turned their red chairs for her when she au­di­tioned. She chose queen of SA rock Zoid as her coach.

“I’m a girl from a small vil­lage in Bizana, but I want to show peo­ple that I once had a dream and it came true,” she says. Grow­ing up in Bizana was no walk in the park. “I used to walk bare­foot to school for about 45 min­utes. But that made me the strong woman I am to­day. My cir­cum­stances don’t de­ter­mine who I am,” she says. Her fam­ily later moved to Dur­ban.

The win­ner of the show will re­ceive a R200 000 cash prize, a R500 000 Fiat 500, Sam­sung gad­gets worth R60 695 and cloth­ing worth R100 000.

The first thing she will do if she wins is pay off her son’s school fees.

“Rais­ing an autis­tic child hasn’t been easy. It’s like rais­ing five kids in one,” she says.

“The day I ac­cepted that this is my son and his con­di­tion won’t change, I learnt to look at life in a pos­i­tive way.”

Un­able to af­ford his school fees while she com­petes in the show, Mn­guni’s son is now in the full-time care of her mother and sis­ter.

“I haven’t seen him in a while, but we com­mu­ni­cate via video calls. I’m al­ways happy to see his happy face,” she says.

“I miss him a lot, but I’m do­ing this for him. Mum will come back home with the prize.”

Mn­guni re­calls how the lit­tle boy al­most died last year dur­ing an op­er­a­tion to re­move some of his teeth and the doc­tors bat­tled to re­sus­ci­tate him. Two months be­fore that, they buried the lit­tle boy’s fa­ther. Al­though the man was emo­tion­ally and phys­i­cally abu­sive to­wards her, “he was a very re­spon­si­ble and sup­port­ive fa­ther to his son”.

Mn­guni be­came de­pressed and nearly gave up on mu­sic.

“I ran out of cash un­til a friend of mine con­vinced me to en­ter The Voice SA. I didn’t have money for pub­lic trans­port. I only had R13 in my pocket and a friend had to give me money,” she re­mem­bers.

“To be hon­est, I didn’t want to hear any­thing about singing com­pe­ti­tions. This af­ter I was re­jected on Idols twice [in 2009 and 2010], be­cause the judges told me they didn’t know what to do with me.”

Al­though she hopes to win, she has also left a bit of space for dis­ap­point­ment.

“If I don’t win, the plan is to have my own diva re­al­ity show. This is a good plat­form for me. I’m the next Tina Turner of South Africa. I be­lieve in good things be­cause I was meant for big­ger things.”

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The Voice SA con­tes­tant Them­beka Mn­guni

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