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Soldier returns to 'idols' 10 years after first try

Idols SA returns to television on Sunday.

Last year, the reality singing contest clocked more than 24million votes and yielded a fairy tale story when a former street kid, Vincent Bones, emerged a winner.

This year, another young man with a painful childhood, Thami Shobebe, 27, is aiming for the stars. He returns 10 years after his first audition in 2005.

He got a great start when he performed Adele's version of Make You Feel My Love, wowing the judges in Pretoria.

Shobebe chose the song because "it speaks of unbreakable love".

"The type I have for my sisters. The love I always wish I had received as a kid," he said.

Shobebe joined the military to escape his poor background. After his mother left their home in KZN's Mtubatuba to seek a job in Johannesburg when he was just eight, he practically brought himself up.

He ended up with relatives in Empangeni, northern KZN, where he pushed trolleys at a hardware store for a living. "I joined the military because I had been home unemployed for more than a year and I was tired of part-time jobs."

He underwent military training in Lephalale, Limpopo, after being based in Pretoria. While there, Shobebe learnt how to play the bagpipes and earned a place for himself in history.

"I have always been interested in bringing new flavour to music and it was an opportunity to become the fourth black person in the South African military to do it."

His two sisters live with relatives in KZN and are "going through the same terrible experiences I went through when I was younger".

He wants to provide them with a normal childhood and an even bigger chance of making it in life.

"So many children in South Africa go through this and that is why I'm hoping people will support me and help me make my dreams come true."

Shobebe picked Khaya Mthethwa as his favourite Idol so far. "He is a true reflection of the type of Idol I want to be one day."