Mphowabadimo may have won Big Brother Mzansi – and the R2 million that comes along with the title – but it’s highly unlikely she’ll look back on her 10 weeks in the House with uncomplicated joy. This is a tough gig – 70 days in the House with people who are (at least at first) complete strangers is going to be a challenge for everyone. You cannot be guaranteed that you will have friends, and the inability to leave makes getting away from tension basically impossible.
Mpho’s time on the show started on 23 January when she entered the House along with a crop of other Housemates. Excitement was palpable – these few Housemates had been selected from tens of thousands of hopefuls: people oping to jumpstart their careers or – if they could win this thing – take home R2 million along with it.
It didn’t take long for things to get a bit harder. The first week in the House was based around the Housemates getting to know one another, and it quickly became apparent that many of them had hardships to share – including Mphowabadimo. Relating the story of how she had secretly aborted an unwanted pregnancy as a youngster, Mpho was reduced to tears reliving the harrowing memory. It should be said that she was not alone in feeling this exposed – other Housemates also broke down, and QV even chose to voluntarily leave the House on Day 3, citing the unresolved issues she realised she had while opening up to the other Housemates.
There was also the issue of Mphowabadimo being a sangoma. Having initially planned to keep this detail a secret from the other Housemates, it didn’t take long for her to share, and she quickly got the feeling that she was being judged by the other Housemates who felt uncomfortable around her. While her suspicions may not have been entirely founded, there were certainly moments when other Housemates were less than perfectly kind when making statements about her.
There was also her short-lived relationship with Libo. While the two hit it off very early, it didn’t take long before things started to sour, and Mpho started to say that they might need to take a break – putting any possible romance on the backburner. While Libo certainly wanted the very opposite, he did eventually acquiesce, although perhaps a bit dramatically. Their budding relationship didn’t so much stall down as crash and burn, and the animosity between them was palpable for most of the season.
There was also her isolation. She had become early friends with Dinkybliss, which is nice. The problem is that nobody else did. Dinkybliss’s relationship with the other Housemates was fiery to say the least, and she found herself Nominated – and Evicted – when the very first such opportunity arose. Luckily for Mpho, that happened after Nthabii entered the House, and things once again started to look up. Nthabii quickly emerged as a strong character, with a personality that stood back for nobody, and her very close friendship with Mpho would certainly have made things easier. To a point.
The two friends isolated themselves from the rest of the House, and there was very much an “us versus them” attitude going on. Nevertheless, their closeness help pull both of them through it, but it could not last for long. The alliance of Libo, Tulz and Themba proved too tough to break – not least of all because Mphowabadimo was the only one who voted in a way that might force Libo to break it, while other potential partners placed their Nominations all over the show – and they were, once again, Nominated alongside each other, with Nthabii being the one to go home. Mpho’s isolation was now complete.
Except it wasn’t really. It was on that same night that Libo approached her, saying that they could perhaps be less overtly hostile with one another. While things were not perfectly hunky-dory between them, it did start the process of normalising relations. As a result, Mphowabadimo found herself less isolated than she might have been, and her relationship with other Housemates like Sis Tamara started to improve, too. Things were looking up.
Not so much that she stopped being Nominated, though. Mphowabadimo found herself on every Nominations list from that point to the end of the show, and it was only the voting audience that kept her in the running. It was this ability to survive that got Themba to identify her as a real threat, saying that it would make no sense for him to use his Ultimate Veto Power to give her a place in the final alongside him, so he didn’t.
It didn’t make much difference – the audience gave her a spot there, themselves. And then – on the big night – proceeded to eliminate Mpho’s too greatest adversaries, Tulz and Libo, just as soon as they could. It looked like Mphowabadimo’s “Underground Gang” were cleaning House on her behalf. In the end, the Top 2 Housemates were Mpho and Gash1 – the very two Housemates who had been Nominated more than any other.
As she was standing on the stage, waiting to hear the outcome, it was impossible not to reflect on her time in the House: an excited, optimistic start followed by a harrowing story of her past, judgement, persecution (real or imagined), isolation, loneliness. Then – eventually – acceptance as the Housemates realised that she was here to stay. Her final week in the House was completely positive, and it looked like things were coming together for Mpho like they hadn’t in weeks.
And then the cherry on top – the announcement of her win! Collapsing in a heap at the news, Mphowabadimo finally received the confirmation that she was hoping for: that it was all worthwhile. The absence from her son, the uncertainty, the despair – all down payments on the big payoff of R2 million.
She is also – incidentally – the first woman to win any edition of a Big Brother in South Africa, ever. Maybe her win was not just a turning point for her.