Crowd warms to 'saviour' Bhaka

KELLY Khumalo's name looms large in Pinetown, Durban.

Patients who are here to consult KwaZulu-Natal herbalist Zamokwakhe "Bhaka" Nzama are still worried that the controversial singer could orchestrate the demise of their trusted inyanga.

When Sowetan arrived at one of Nzama's popular spots, an hour before his scheduled time, hundreds of people were already in a meandering queue.

The elderly and youngsters with sores, mostly on their legs, waited patiently for the man they regard as their saviour. Most of them cannot walk unaided.

"Kelly Khumalo is bad news. I was worried that the poor child [Nzama] would fall into the trap like Senzo Meyiwa," whispered an elderly woman.

Finally, Nzama rocks up an hour and a half late. He makes a grand entrance in his red convertible Audi and drops the top as he manoeuvres through the crowd, and screams of "Bhaka" reverberate. Fans push and shove to get closer to him, with their cellphones ready for the selfies.

He exits the car carrying a black and white oak walking stick believed to have healing powers.

He enters the makeshift stage and starts dancing to one of his songs, Thayilemoto, and the crowd roars. Nzama is more of a rock star than a herbalist.

He leaps off the stage and strolls through his fans, dropping R100 notes along the way. His bodyguards, in black suits, have a hard time keeping the overzealous crowd at arm's length.

Nzama then walks towards old women, some with walking sticks, who are sitting on the floor watching the festivities. "There are people who have taken their last cent to come here, and back home there is not even a loaf of bread. Take this money ma (mother) and buy the kids something to eat," he says as he hands out a few R100 notes.

People here say Nzama is known for throwing money around wherever he goes. "I prefer to call it giving a donation to the people who need the money most. They use their last cent to buy my medicine because it gives them life. The money that I give them puts food on the table."

He then calls first-time patients to come forward. Over here, consultation is done in public.

"If my ancestors allow, I give them the bottle [of medicine] for free," he announces to the crowd.

On the other side, a long queue of people who have come to buy the R300-a-bottle muthi is growing.

His muthi, believed to heal body sores and illnesses such as TB, diabetes and Aids-related diseases, has given life to patients at death's door, the content clientele testify.

His beauty cream and soap are also popular with young women. The soap is believed to cleanse and glow the skin and attract success and the opposite sex. Back on stage, Nzama interacts with his patients as they offer their testimonies of how he has helped them.

Apart from the serious matter of ill health, his patients keep bringing up the issue of Kelly Khumalo and Khanyi Mbau, whom they see as temptresses.

"We still need you. Whatever you do don't go to Kelly," cried one of the women.

Before his exit, escorted by a convoy of bodyguards all the way from his home in Hillary, he assures his followers that he wants nothing to do with the two women.

The guards keep an eye on the bulgy money bags he has filled for the day.