Tails of Hoffmann wag in township
● An unemployed opera singer who can’t travel because of the lockdown is drawing crowds to a township pet salon, where he treats customers to impromptu singing solos.
Masakhane Sotayisi is better known for his voice than his veterinary advice. But that may well change, judging by the popularity of his pet grooming service in Khayelitsha.
The singer dishes out flea powder and pet health-care tips in equal measure, thanks to generous donations from the Animal Welfare Society of SA (AWS).
He has had to expand his operation from a small-scale affair using one old bathtub borrowed from his mother — she used to grow flowers in it — to a multitub enterprise in the street outside his house.
“My mother was using the bathtub as a garden — I took that from her and said I’d bring it back when I have something else,” Sotayisi told the Sunday Times this week.
“Then two people came and said they want to donate bathtubs.
“The outcome has been amazing. People have a need to clean their dogs, especially old people or others who are afraid to wash dogs because they think it is too difficult. I think some people’s dogs have never been washed. And then when people see somebody else’s dog getting clean, they want it too.”
Sotayisi charges R20 a dog, and owners get complementary pet dip and other accessories when available. He also does house calls if people have more than two dogs. He has three dogs of his own.
There was a bustle of activity outside his home when the Sunday Times visited last week. Children inspected the line of kennels donated by the AWS and all eyes turned to Sotayisi when he broke into song.
Before Covid-19, Sotayisi travelled widely with the Isango Ensemble, featuring in a stage production of the acclaimed 2005 operatic film U-Carmen eKhayelitsha.
He said this line of work had been forced online since the start of the pandemic, but the disappointment is offset by helping animals.
“People sometimes give comments like, ‘Oh, you are no longer travelling the world, now you just wash dogs.’ But I don’t take it personally because they don’t understand what I am trying to do.”
Jacque le Roux of the AWS said: “This is a first — that is why we thought this is amazing. He is a youngster into singing who has decided there is a need in his community. He is using the little resources he has got to make a huge difference. Those are the kinds of people the AWS wants to support.”