His mother dying just six hours before his son was born, learning his beloved child had a disability and running the gauntlet of strangers constantly ridiculing him for his weight . . . It would be enough to break many a man but Mkhululi Siqula – Heavy K to his fans – is used to hardship.
He may live in a posh estate in Midrand, Johannesburg, and
drive a green Mercedes-Benz C63 and a matte-black Mercedes-AMG GL 63 but he
hasn’t forgotten the days when his mom sacrificed everything for her children
to put food on the table. He understands why she did it though – he too will do
anything for his kids and is fiercely protective of his vulnerable little boy.
Two-year-old Juju was diagnosed with cerebral palsy, a condition that affects muscle tone, movement, motor skills and sometimes brain function. The multi-award-winning house DJ and his fiancée, Ntombi Nguse, took their son to a paediatrician when he woke up feverish when he was a year old.
“He wasn’t walking or crawling. We thought he was just a lazy baby but the paediatrician saw something different,” Ntombi tells DRUM as the couple opens up about how things are going with their son. That visit to the doctor changed their lives. “Juju can’t walk or crawl. We thought the reason was because he was slightly overweight but it was more than that.”
Ntombi (22) blamed herself for Juju’s condition and became depressed after he was diagnosed, she says. “I thought maybe I’d done something wrong during my pregnancy. I went into a really dark space and I was diagnosed with clinical depression. I relied on medication and the support of my husband.”
But it wasn’t long before the young couple decided to pick up the pieces and start learning all they could about their child’s condition. “I want to give my son the best treatment so he’s the best version of himself,” Heavy K (26) says, adding they regularly take Juju for checkups and physiotherapy. “We have special shoes for him to help stretch his legs,” Ntombi says.
Heavy K says he wants others to learn from their experience. “Right now I need to be a hitmaker, a father, a husband and be there for my family. I don’t have time for negativity. Our child isn’t any different from other children – he follows instructions well. He just struggles to walk.”
Heavy K spends a lot of time with his young family. The couple has a second child, Yuri, born a year after Juju, and are focused on being the best parents they can be. But there are challenges. He recalls an incident when he was performing his new song, Ngibonile, with Somizi Mhlongo on Idols SA last year and Juju had a seizure and had to be rushed to hospital.
“It’s very difficult at times. After the performance I rushed to the hospital.” While the couple initially struggled after learning about Juju’s condition, they’ve learnt to live with it. There’s no air of sadness about the pair, who plan to get married this month.
Heavy K met the love of his life at a club in Grahamstown in the Eastern Cape in 2014. He was smitten from the word go but she didn’t make it easy for him. “I come from a stable family and my parents influenced the way I view women. They really loved each other and the girl I saw had something that reminded me of home,” he recalls.
He approached her after his set but Ntombi wasn’t impressed. “I knew who he was but I wasn’t interested in dating a celebrity,” she says. “She was also not happy about me asking her out at a club so I became arrogant and left her alone,” Heavy K interjects.
“She didn’t care that I was a famous DJ – she wanted me to ask her out the right way and not make her feel cheap.” A year later Ntombi moved to Johannesburg to study marketing and the two met again through a mutual friend. “I couldn’t believe I was seeing her again – I knew then it was meant to be,” Heavy K says. “I got her number and pursued her for four months before she gave in.”
Ntombi says she saw another side of him. “He was kind, caring and persistent. He went out of his way to show me how much he loved me. I didn’t make it easy for him!” More than a year into the relationship Heavy K proposed to Ntombi in their studio at home.
“I played her a song and I got on my knees and asked her to marry me. She never saw it coming,” he says. The couple plan to have a civil ceremony this month and will have a wedding with all the trimmings in October. Everything happens for a reason, the muso believes. And the same applies to the fact he lost his beloved mother, Thobeka, just as Ntombi started having contractions with Juju. “While Ntombi was in hospital, I got a call from my father saying my mother had fallen from the bed and passed away.”
Heavy K says his mother hadn’t been ill but had developed stomach problems after eating some meat. He’s sad his mother never met his son but there’s something spiritual in a life being lost and another one starting at almost the same time. He knows she would be proud of him and how much his music has changed his life and that of his family. Heavy K is especially proud of being able to buy his father a house in Algoa Park in Port Elizabeth, allowing him to move from the four-room home in Veeplaas where Heavy K grew up.
His dad, Phindile, was a welder who rode his bicycle to work for 18 years and earned just R200 a week, but those days are over. His father now drives a Mercedes Benz C200, lives in a smart house and no longer works, thanks to his son. “My father worked hard for his family and I make sure he’s reaping the rewards now. Every month I give him a R12 000 ‘salary’,” he says. He can certainly afford it.
Heavy K is responsible for some of the biggest hits in the country and has scooped a number of awards. Yet he makes a point of staying grounded and remembering where he came from. He also tries not to take to heart the cruel remarks people make about his weight. “I’ve been hurt,” he admits.
“But I’ve learnt to be strong because my wife and family love me the way I am.” The Drumboss, as he’s sometimes known, is working on an album due for release in April.
“It features the likes of Sean Paul, Wizkid, Davido, Cassper Nyovest, Bucie, Nokwazi, Tiwa Savage, Eddy Kenzo – just to name a few.”
He’ll also be releasing a live DVD of his greatest hits and plans to fill up the Ticketpro Dome in Johannesburg for the launch of the album. All in all, it’s going to be a busy year for Heavy K, both at home and on the decks. “I work like a slave,” he says, “because I want to live like a king.”