Rocky road from Bizana for powerful Thembeka
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