'It's my story - I'll tell it'

By Drum Digital
17 May 2012

SOUTH AFRICA’s newest afropop sensation Zahara, born Bulelwa Mkutukana (24), looks radiant as she walks through the streets of her hometown Phumlani, near East London, pausing to hug fans who come up wanting to speak to her. She’s clearly happy with her recent success.

This is a far cry from the bleak picture of her home life painted in the media just a few weeks before the South African Music Awards (SAMAs), where she won eight awards just nine months after the release of her debut album.The shocking reports claimed her sisters had told the media that the successful – and presumably well-off –star couldn’t even afford to buy airtime for her cellphone and struggled with transport when she visited her family because her record label, TS Records, was not paying their “cash cow” enough.

It was further alleged that she sleeps on her mother’s bed when she goes home as her family lives in a crowded shack and when in Joburg she’s treated like a maid by her mentor Nhlanhla Nciza and her husband TK.

But this is not the scene that greets us when we visit the singer in a comfortable, newly built Tuscan house in Phumlani. “I wish you had come yesterday,” Zahara gushes. “I was overwhelmed with emotion because I didn’t expect my community to welcome me back home with so much love.”

There’s no doubt the media reports have taken a toll on the family, especially on Zahara’s mother, Xoliswa (55), who found it so traumatic she had to be hospitalised.

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