SOMIZI’S EMERGING FROM AN ABYSS OF DESPAIR
Idols judge, choreographer and TV personality Somizi Mhlongo launched his book, last week, aimed at inspiring black children to dream big
Extract from chapter: “The downfall of Somizi Mhlongo”.
THIS was around the time I was found guilty of sexually assaulting that man, which to this day I still insist I wasn’t guilty of; the law went in its own favour, not mine.
Work stopped coming in, no one wanted to touch me. I started losing friends I thought were friends for life. Money stopped coming in. At this point I was not in a relationship.
I lived in Lonehill, a house I bought with Tom, and when we broke up Tom moved out and I had to carry on with bond repayments. Then I didn’t have work, no gigs, no income, I started struggling. I struggled so much that I became depressed and I decided to take antidepressants, but I took them for one day and I didn’t like the after-effects.
They made me feel like everything was okay when in reality it wasn’t. I believed that I had to face my problems head-on. I stopped drinking and having casual sex. I just told myself: “Somizi, face it head-on”. It was tough. At the beginning of 2009 I needed some spiritual guidance and upliftment. The only way was prayer. I started going to Rhema Church, where I met Kabelo Mabalane, who was with kwaito group TKZee.
He was a recovering drug addict and now pious, training to be a pastor. I asked him to be my spiritual guide, and he helped me. I didn’t even say much to him, but he was the one person I looked up to, thinking if he could get over what he was going through and be successful, so can I. In 2009 things were still tough.
I was driving the big Discovery and I couldn’t afford it. I was late with payments, my bond was in arrears, the banks were calling left, right and centre. I didn’t have a cent to my name. I could have easily gone back to my mother and stayed at home, but I was like, “No Somizi, soldier on, soldier on”, so I soldiered on.
It was difficult to a point that I cried every day. At night I felt better that the day was over and I hoped for a better day tomorrow. But when I woke up and realised that I was still in that space, I’d cry all over again.
I started ostracising myself. I had a BMW Z4, which was also in arrears and the bank had called so many times they couldn’t take it anymore and the next thing, a knock on my door, they’d come to repossess the car. I took everything out of the car, they took it and left. There was a lady I knew for a while called Zuki Velebayi, they called her VB, she lived not too far from my house and we got closer and closer because we went through similar problems financially.
This was the one person I could share all my problems with and she consoled me. She was a ray of hope, through her words she encouraged me: “Mtshana, kuza kulunga, hang in there”. She was that one friend, I could go and eat at her house and she’d come and cook for me or we’d find ways to hustle and make some little money here and there.
It got to a point where we both decided to go to China Town and buy stuff for R300 and sell it at the MTN call centre. Cheap stuff, clothing, anything we could sell to make a profit, and that’s how we survived. This struggle brought us closer. There was a time I’d wake up and search for coins all over the house.
One day I found R11. However, driving to the garage was more expensive with my big car. I didn’t have petrol, so I walked. I went to Pick n Pay and bought chicken gizzards, they were R9, and I bought one tomato and walked back home. Thank goodness I could cook. I made pap, chicken gizzards and gravy.
And I was happy I would keep it in the fridge and heat it up to last me for three days. Still no work, nothing was happening, I would do odd jobs here and there and be paid R1 500 and that would be fine. I still didn’t tell my mother that I didn’t have work.
As a breadwinner, I’m thankful that my family knew I was struggling and they didn’t bother me, without me even telling them. I got a job as a judge on a dance contest show called Dance Your Butt Off. I got paid R5 000 per episode over 13 episodes.
It was less tax, and whatever I got from that I would pay or try to repay what I owed. I tried to use a fraction to pay my bond and what’s left would go towards the instalment on my Discovery. It was basically a hand-to-mouth situation. This went on and on until one day I decided to go out.
I met a boy I knew and we went out and had a great time. We came back home, and in the morning I woke up and the car wasn’t there. So this boy literally drugged me, nothing happened between me and him but he took my car.
I kept hope alive and was grateful he could have killed me, but instead only took the car. We searched for it and it was nowhere to be found. Now there I was, paying for a car that I didn’t have anymore. Guess who came to the rescue and lent me his car? Tom. The same Tom who is an ex, still in the picture, he’s there for me when no one else was there.
I used Tom’s car for a while as he had to go overseas on holiday. I had to make a plan and hire a car when he returned. Stupid me, what car did I hire? A Range Rover, just to “keep up with the Motsepes”.
Now I was paying R14 000 a month for a car that doesn’t even belong to me. I drove that car. I was looking good, but things were not picking up. And then the taxman hit me. He told me I owed R3.4 million. I went to the Sars offices and they nailed me. I sobbed in front of them. I was crying bucketloads.
They were going to take my car. I told them the car was not mine. They forced me to sell my house. I tried to stall that and find ways of getting out of the mess without shedding my house. It was tough. I went back home miserable. Dance Your Butt Off was over, still no work was coming in. No one wanted me.
It was towards June. I got a call to come in and do the choreography for the Confederations Cup, because the World Cup was coming to South Africa. I had to prove to myself that I still had it. There was no money, I think I got paid about R40 000, and that was not enough, given the problems I was facing.
With the Confederations Cup in the bag, I had to also prove that I was qualified to be involved in an event as big as the World Cup. If I did a good job, I would be called in to do the World Cup. The Confederations Cup in June was a success, yet no one said anything about it.
Back to July/August nothing was happening. Then I got a call from Lira. She wanted me to choreograph her first live DVD at Carnival City. I didn’t have that much money, and she paid me a reasonable amount, enough for what I did, and that was an Aha! moment for me, when I realised that God was saying to me: “If you don’t believe that I’m here for you through this child Lira, then nothing will make you believe”.
When I saw what Lira did during that sold-out show, a one-woman show, people singing along and she was giving it to them, I saw the light and that was my turning point. I knew then that God is alive. I was going to be patient with God. I was going to be patient with myself. If God can do this to me with Lira then my time was coming. I’m thankful to Lira for that day, I tell her every day and whenever I get a chance to say thank you for that night.
Thank you for hiring me, no amount of money can pay me enough to surpass what you’ve done for me when I was at the lowest point in my life. And that was my breakthrough. After that show, my life has never been the same.
Newspapers were saying Somizi is down and out, people were saying Somizi is down and out, everybody was saying Somizi was down and out, but there were a few people who believed in me, including my mother, my daughter, my family; some friends believed that Somizi was not down and out, he’s a fighter. And I fought until the World Cup.
I saw the light ... I knew then that God is alive ...