Blind ambition - busker's decade of gospel on a Cape Town street corner

2018-12-23 08:43
Thozama Zothe smiles broadly when a hand touches hers as a donor drops some coins into her worn-out coffee mug. (Tammy Petersen, News24)

Thozama Zothe smiles broadly when a hand touches hers as a donor drops some coins into her worn-out coffee mug. (Tammy Petersen, News24)

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Thozama Zothe smiles broadly when a hand touches hers as a donor drops some coins into her worn-out coffee mug.

She can't see how much money it is, but she stops mid-song to say thank you.

For 10 years, the blind woman has occupied the same corner of St George's Mall in Cape Town, singing gospel songs and church hymns from early in the morning until the bustling streets of the CBD become quiet.

READ: Blind Cape Town busker awarded R300K

She enjoys busking, she says, but dreams of catching the ear of someone able to help her record an album so that her children can live a more comfortable life and be proud of their mother.

Zothe, 49, was born with impaired vision, but was only diagnosed at the age of 2 when her grandmother noticed that she bumped into things and ran in the wrong direction when playing with her friends.

Completely blind

After completing her schooling at the Athlone School for the Blind, she worked as a switchboard operator at an organisation for people with disabilities.

She lost her job over 20 years ago, shortly before the birth of her son.

Around the same time, her vision worsened, and by the age of 33 she was completely blind.

"But I thank God for giving me the chance to see the world before the darkness came. When I lost my sight, I knew where everything was. I could travel, cook, even mop my own floors. Sometimes people don't believe that I am blind, because I still try to do everything myself," Zothe says proudly.

She could also be there for her husband, who suffers from epilepsy and mental conditions.

"Everyone - my husband and two children - depend on me. I have no choice but to be strong. They look to me for guidance and solutions when there are problems. So when I had no work, and times became tougher, I knew I had to make a plan."

One day, Zothe travelled to Cape Town from Khayelitsha, found a busy corner and started to sing.

"I know it's my talent and I love it. I sang and I sang and I sang and by the end of the day, I had enough money to feed my children. I don't beg or ask for money. I open my mouth and let God speak. If it touches people, I am happy. And I am grateful when people help me in a small way in turn."


She is proud of what she does, wearing her Sunday best as she sits on a crate outside Mr Price, two bottles of water at her feet for her constant drink breaks.

"The government tells us to do something to help ourselves. This is me helping myself. For some reason, people think being blind or deaf means your brain doesn't work. Mine works fine, yet nobody wants to give me a job. I wish I could find a steady income. But I don't have many options."

Her corner is not the safest place, Zothe admits, but believes it's where she gets the most foot traffic.

"It can be dangerous. People try to rob me, but the traders and security guards around me are my eyes. They one day caught a guy trying to take the money from my cup. They chased him and gave him a good beating. Shame," she says.

The songs she sings are mostly what she learnt at The Worship Centre in Khayelitsha, but Zothe has also written a few of her own. She is hopeful that one day a record producer will pass by, recognise her talent and make her a star, she jokes.

"Singing heals my spirit. My life has been difficult, but all I want is to thank and praise God for what he has done for me and what he will still do for me and my family. I don't know where our Christmas meal will come from, but I know my Lord will make a way."

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