Kabelo Mabalane: Rebel with a new cause

2015-10-06 08:33

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At the height of his popularity with award-winning group TKZee, Kabelo Mabalane owed the taxman R2 million. He had earned much more – most of which had gone up his nose. 

“Once I started taking cocaine, ecstasy didn’t cut it any more. I was paranoid. I wore sunglasses everywhere, even indoors. I was grinding my teeth all the time, and drinking excessively ... I’d go on four-day, five-day binges without any sleep at all,” writes Mabalane in his biography, I Ran for My Life, due for release this week. 

Speaking to City Press at a coffee shop in Houghton, northern Joburg, Mabalane told of how God had given him a second chance, and how he spent three years of his life in a drug-induced haze. 

Those drugs, he said, masked his insecurities and gave him the confidence and sense of invincibility to crack the music industry. 

He could have killed himself. Instead, he nearly killed someone else. 

“Another night, I was on ecstasy, and I had been drinking. I was driving, heading towards Sandton, tripping my head, drunk, in my friend’s 4x4. The robots went amber and I guess I floored it. And suddenly there was pizza-delivery guy. As I hit him, I just remember this pizza flying all over the place,” he writes. 

“I ran to a garage across the road. I had this funny notion that if you ate a lot of sugar, your blood alcohol level would go down. 

“So there I was, trying to eat all these Bar-Ones. The cops arrived at the scene. They also recognised me. And they told me to get out.” 

Mabalane said he became hooked on drugs in 1999, when he was in studio with TKZee recording their multiplatinum album Halloween. A DJ offered him ecstasy and it went downhill from there, he said. 

“Drinking, weed, ecstasy, cocaine ... This is how I remember 1999,” he writes. 

Mabalane and his fellow band members, Zwai Bala and Tokollo Tshabalala, made millions from record sales and performances, but most of his money was spent on drugs. 

Last year, he settled his R2 million tax bill, after having owed it to the revenue service for years. 

“I paid the taxman for four years. I only finished paying early last year. I’m a free man,” he told City Press. 

When he was on drugs, Mabalane constantly found himself in trouble – beating up people in clubs or ending up somehow on the wrong side of the law. One evening, he took offence at a comment a woman made to him. 

“I took a bottle of water, in the club, in front of everyone, and poured it all over her, calling her a bitch. I was that punk,” he said. “I got desensitised to stuff. Death was part of my life. I lost friends.” 

Off drugs now for 13 years, following a six-month stint in a rehabilitation centre, which changed his life, he has swapped drugs for the gym. 

He says he told his story to inspire other drug addicts battling addictions. 

“Drug addicts are insecure. You need to take something to feel secure. I used to feel superior and arrogant. I thought I was better than the next person,” he said. 

It was only in 2002 that he decided enough was enough. 

“I was at a friend’s house. He was a bit older than me, and he said: ‘This nonsense of yours needs to stop. You have everything going on for you.’ 

“My story is the story of hope. I know there are lots of people in active addiction, abusing drugs and alcohol. I just want to say to them: ‘I’m still standing after 13 years. If I can do it, you can do it too.’ 

“You’d be surprised how many people are ready to help you when you admit you’ve come to an end of yourself. There is help, hope, and it is possible.” 

When he first publicly admitted to being on drugs, people thought it was a publicity stunt. He had just gone solo and rumours were doing the rounds that he was trying to promote his debut album, Rebel with a Cause. 

Mabalane told his story to bestselling author Nechama Brodie, who helped him write the book. 

“We started working on the book late last year. He was very engaging and he just said things that were perfect. 

“He wasn’t afraid of speaking about things he’d done in his life. He was amazing with his detail,” she said.

Read more on:    kabelo mabalane  |  autobiography

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