Mphowabadimo may have won Big Brother Mzansi – and the R2 million prize money that comes with it – but she’s unlikely to look back on her ten weeks in the House with delight. This is a difficult job – spending 70 days in the House with individuals who are (at first) complete strangers will be difficult for everyone. You can’t be sure you’ll make friends, and being unable to leave makes getting away from the stress nearly difficult.
Mpho’s stint on the program began on January 23rd, when she and a group of other Housemates entered the House. The anticipation was palpable: these few Housemates had been chosen from tens of thousands of aspirants, people hoping to kickstart their careers or, if they won, take home R2 million.
It didn’t take long for things to become more difficult. The Housemates spent the first week getting to know one another, and it quickly became clear that many of them, especially Mphowabadimo, had struggles to share. Mpho was moved to tears as she recounted the story of how she had discreetly terminated an undesired pregnancy when she was a child.
It should be noted that she was not alone in feeling so vulnerable; other Housemates also broke down, and QV elected to leave the House on Day 3 voluntarily, citing unresolved difficulties she discovered when opening up to the other Housemates.
Mphowabadimo’s status as a sangoma was also a factor. She had intended to keep this detail hidden from the other Housemates, but it didn’t take long for her to reveal it, and she soon felt judged by the other Housemates, who were uncomfortable around her. While her concerns may not have been completely justified, there were times when other Housemates were less than complimentary in their remarks about her.
Her romance with Libo was likewise short-lived. While the two hit it off right away, things quickly soured, and Mpho suggested that they take a break — effectively putting any potential romance on hold. While Libo clearly desired the polar opposite, he eventually gave in, albeit quite dramatically. Their burgeoning romance didn’t so much stall as crash and burn, and their enmity was obvious for the majority of the season.
Her solitude was also a factor. Dinkybliss was one of her first buddies, which was good. The issue is that no one else tried it. Dinkybliss’s connection with the other Housemates was tumultuous to say the least, and she was Nominated – and was finally evicted, when the very first such opportunity arose.
Fortunately for Mpho, this occurred after Nthabii entered the House, and things began to improve. Nthabii immediately established herself as a formidable character with a personality that spared no one, and her tight friendship with Mpho would have made things a lot simpler. To a certain extent.
The two buddies were cut off from the rest of the House, and there was a strong sense of “we versus them” in the air. Despite this, their connection helps both of them get through it, but it can’t stay forever. The Libo, Tulz, and Themba coalition proved too strong to break – not least because Mphowabadimo was the only one who voted in a way that might force Libo to break it, While other possible couples scattered their Nominations across the show, they were once again Nominated beside each other, with Nthabii going home. Mpho’s solitude has come to an end.
Except that it wasn’t truly the case. On the same night, Libo contacted her and suggested that they should be less openly hostile to one another. While things between them were far from perfect, it did begin the process of normalizing relations. As a result, Mphowabadimo became less isolated than she had been, and her relationships with other Housemates, such as Sis Tamara, began to improve. Things were starting to look up.
But not to the point where she was no longer nominated. From that time until the end of the show, Mphowabadimo appeared on every Nominations list, and it was only the voting audience that kept her in the race. Because of her capacity to live, Themba saw her as a real threat and decided that using his Ultimate Veto Power to award her a spot in the final with him would be pointless, so he didn’t.
It didn’t matter because the fans had already allocated her a spot. Then, on the big night, they proceeded to remove Mpho’s two most formidable foes, Tulz and Libo, as quickly as they could. Mphowabadimo’s “Underground Gang” appeared to be cleaning up on her behalf. In the end Mpho and Gash1 were the top two Housemates, having received the most nominations of any other Housemate.
It was impossible for her not to dwell on her time in the House as she stood on the stage, waiting for the results: an exuberant, optimistic start followed by a heartbreaking account of her past, judgement, persecution (real or imagined), solitude, and loneliness. Then, finally, acceptance when the Housemates realized she was going to be here for a while. Her final week at the House was absolutely wonderful, and it appeared that Mpho’s life was coming together like it hadn’t in weeks.
Then there was the icing on the cake: the announcement of her victory! Mphowabadimo collapsed in a heap at the news, finally getting the proof she was yearning for: that it was all worth it. The absence of her son, the uncertainty, and the anguish were all part of the R2 million reward.
She is also, coincidentally, the first woman to ever win a Big Brother edition in South Africa. Maybe her victory wasn’t only a watershed moment for her.