Bongani Ndlovu, Showbiz Correspondent
Watching South African gospel musician Dr Tumi serenading the masses, singing Hillsong type of music and leading them in worship, one may think he is a snob. But quite honestly, when he is off stage, one quickly realises that his demeanour is just a gimmick.
Last week amid the air of praise and worship that had engulfed Pelandaba Stadium during the Gwanda International Gospel Music Festival, Dr Tumi was tasked to set the tone of the event.
Those who expected Dr Tumi, real name Tumisang Makweya, to be singing and dancing throughout his set were in for a rude and at the same time, pleasant awakening. The music was rich, uplifting and cajoled the masses who even at the end of the festival, said Dr Tumi was among their top performers.
However, it was when the show had ended that the story of Dr Tumi being a regular Sikhumbuzo starts.
A Toyota Quantum had been arranged to ferry journalists to and from the venue and on the Friday after Dr Tumi’s performance, there was a 30-minute delay for the vehicle to leave the stadium. It was understood the vehicle was waiting for ‘someone’.
That someone was none other than Dr Tumi who entered the vehicle dressed in all black with a red jacket that covered his torso from the biting Gwanda cold. He greeted everyone with a “Hie guys”.
As the Toyota Quantum turned into Gwanda-Bulawayo road marking the beginning of our journey, Dr Tumi in the darkness of the vehicle spoke candidly about his life, career and family.
For him, protection of his family and loved ones from the things that affect him publicly is of paramount importance.
“My main worry is when something bad is written about me, how it’ll affect my children and my wife. They find out no matter how much you try to protect them so I’m on my toes every day,” said Dr Tumi.
He shared one of the incidents in January this year when he was reported to have said he cancelled performing at an event because gay TV personality Somizi Mhlongo was going to be a guest preacher.
He said the reason that he pulled out was not because of Somizi, but because he had signed a contract with another promoter.
“The shows were in the same city and the contract we signed with the first promoter stated that I can’t hold a show within that same city for a month before and after.
“That’s how we pulled out. But people made it seem like I have something against Somizi and it was totally wrong,” reflected Dr Tumi.
“But what can I do when it’s all over the media?”
To try and handle such negative publicity, the award-winning songwriter and producer said he has developed a thick skin.
“Most of the time, I just keep quiet and let everything blow over. If it’s not the truth, it’ll blow over and my life moves on.”
Away from his personal life, in his career as a musician, Dr Tumi says he is doing very well for himself. He is booked until next year and only has one month of the year that he has reserved for his shows.
Last year, he became the first gospel musician in South Africa to fill up the 20 000 capacity Ticket Pro Dome and a month or so later, he managed to organise another show called Gathering of Worshipers which attracted 30 000 people. He said all these bookings have made him concentrate on his music more than his medical field as it pays more. Dr Tumi actually studied medicine.
“I make my month’s salary with one show. I’m booked every weekend and during the week, I just visit my practice to check if everything is fine then go to another show,” he said.
Booking him for a show is quite pricy as he charges R150 000.
Also, because of his hectic schedule, the artiste sometimes has little time to spend with his family, but he has a remedy.
“Every show I hold when the children aren’t in school they attend and watch their dad perform. During weekends, I spend as much time with my children and wife.”
But his life has not always been rosy as he was once broke.
“At one stage of my life, I was once broke. I had bought three cars that I didn’t need. It was at the beginning of my career as a doctor. I thought I’d be very wealthy and buy anything and everything.
“I learnt quickly that I could starve and thus began my journey to be a better person and invest my money wisely for the sake of my family,” he narrated.
Singing and working are not the only things that Dr Tumi is into as he is an avid supporter of football giants Kaizer Chiefs and was happy the team had acquired the services of Zimbabwe international Khama Billiat.
As the Quantum entered Bulawayo, Dr Tumi shared that he was readying for a show in Durban in the evening (last Saturday).
He said he was excited that he will be back in Zimbabwe as he will be part of award-winning gospel musician Janet Manyowa’s Grateful album launch today in Harare.