Former street dweller Bonga Sithole wants to use the gift of his voice to help others like him

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Bonga Sithole's kindness and voice wins over good-Samaritan's heart.
Bonga Sithole's kindness and voice wins over good-Samaritan's heart.

The Bonga Sithole many people first saw on social media – a street dweller with a unique voice and a certain charisma – is a totally different Bonga today, when Drum speaks to him.

Not only is he booked and busy as a voice-over artist, but he is no longer living on the streets.

For some time, Bonga's videos have been going viral on social media, with many users commenting on what a natural radio presenter he could be – if only someone could get him off the street and help him get his life back on track.

His videos racked up views and caught the attention of lawyer and media practitioner Sisanda Qwabe.

She noticed Bonga's talent and decided to find him.

Now – from sleeping on concrete floors and pavements under bridges, to waking up in white high-thread count sheets in hotels and guesthouses – Bonga is living his dreams.

The 35-year-old always seems good-natured, but today he is positively ebullient with joy.

It is his birthday, after all.

Sisanda planned a surprise party for him at Mike's Kitchen in Parktown and Bonga is still glowing from the excitement when he sits down to chat to Drum about his journey.

After spending several years as a street dweller, Bonga says this life-changing moment he's currently going through – where he is now the toast of the town – is not a mistake, and he’s grateful for it all.

Living on the streets, Bonga says he met the family he didn’t think he’d have. But his own biological family, which he ran away from in 2006, is actually quite big.

“I’ve got 19 siblings on my father’s side, and I’ve got two siblings on my mother’s side. My father lived in Rustenburg, and my mother lives eZola, Soweto. So I’ve always moved back and forth throughout my upbringing as a result.

“My father was a taxi owner. But he was shot dead nine times in the head in 2017. I was already a street dweller at the time.”

Bonga Sithole
Bonga Sithole doing voice over work

He's always been a bookworm, he tells Drum, which is why he loves using big words.

“I went to average schools, and I believe that this is God-given. I am an avid reader, I love literature, I love books – especially encyclopaedias,” he emphasises.

When asked where his love for reading comes from, Bonga jokes, “It comes from this huge head of mine.”

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The 35-year-old is also passionate about his faith.

In his life, he is following “the light of Jesus".

"I was born and bred in Christianity, so Jesus said we must follow his footsteps. He lived a life of impact – he was of help to the marginalised and society at large.”

Bonga believes, as a Christan, he is also called to do good for others.

“That is why when I was with the (former) Gauteng MEC of education Panayza Lesufi and other cabinet ministers during a small talk, and they asked me what was my dream, I said that my dream is to leave a legacy, to be of assistance and to empower others.”

Bonga especially wants to help empower other street dwellers.

“I believe that being a street dweller was not a mistake but rather a journey which was prescribed by God so that one day I can reflect back and be of assistance to people like me.

“There’s something I’ve realised. The streets are so full of talent and what these kids are suffering from is rejection from society."

"People judge and treat you like an outcast, a nobody, and that discourages you not to pursue your fullest potential.

“As a society, we need to start exercising the word 'love', because we are so preoccupied with what we have and materialistic things instead of embracing other lives.

“I won’t lie, my mission is to be of greater impact. I believe that people who live on the street are marginalised by society and are not afforded the opportunity to showcase themselves, for instance at the malls.

“As a street dweller you are treated like a scumbag, you are treated like a doormat, instead of a human who embodies the spirit of God within themselves. When I see them at intersections or robots, I see God’s image.”

Bonga Sithole
Bonga Sithole in studio

Bonga tells Drum that he became a street dweller in 2006 after a “domestic matters that forced me out of my home".

"It was the tantrums and violence, and how I was abused. But it is not something that I want to dwell deep into because right now we are in the process of trying to push it aside and reconcile. I’m not holding any grudges.”

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Sisanda tells Drum that she decided to reach out to Bonga after she saw a video of him on TikTok.

“About two weeks before I met him, I saw a video of him talking to someone from TikTok and she was asking, ‘Hey I haven’t see you in a while. What is going on?’ and he came up with these big English words.

"I watched it once, and his voice just stuck in my head. But on that video he looked extremely dirty, his nails and hands were like not so clean.

“So after I saw his video, I went to my brother who stays in Auckland Park and, as I was driving, I saw him (Bonga).

"He was still wearing the same clothes, and I greeted him. I parked by the side of the road, then he gave me his cup because he was expecting me to put a donation in it.

Sisanda Qwabe
Sisanda Qwabe

“I told him I was [not] going to donate and asked if I can talk with him for a few minutes. He agreed.

"I asked him about who he is, where he is from, why is he there and how he got there. Throughout the conversation, I realised that there’s something about this guy. I asked for his permission to record him.”

Bonga has already started recording voice-over work, and South Africans are rooting for him and his dreams to help others like him.

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