What happens when South Africa’s hero to the homeless ‘Bi Phakathi’ goes broke?

Bi Phakathi helping the homeless. Supplied image.

Bi Phakathi helping the homeless. Supplied image.

Published Oct 28, 2023


Johannesburg - Over the last few years, Bi Phakathi has earned the reputation of being a hero to the homeless.

On social media, the philanthropist is often seen dishing out stacks of cash to those most in need in South Africa.

But what happens when the man responsible for helping out thousands of homeless individuals goes broke himself?

Will anyone step up and offer to help the well-known philanthropist the way he has helped thousands over the last few years?

It turns out South Africans are a generous bunch.

For the last few weeks, the philanthropist has been inundated with messages on social media from South Africans eager to help Phakathi after he recently took to social media to announce that he was broke.

South Africans from all walks of life have come forward, offering to send money to Phakathi to help him get out of his tough spot.

However, Phakathi has this week revealed that he is not actually broke and that his decision to take to social media to announce he had no money was actually a social experiment to see if people would help a stranger.

And South Africans passed with flying colours, says Phakathi.

“I decided to embark on a campaign to see if people would help a stranger in need. In this case, it was a what if BI Phakathi was broke, and who would help him? So many people responded positively and turned out well,” Phakathi told the Saturday Star.

As part of the sixth Good Deed from the Capitec #MakeADifference campaign, philanthropist BI Phakathi and musician K.O gifted Rajah Brigmohun, a homeless man from Durban living in the streets f Cape Town, groceries and over R10 000. Picture: Screen grab.

He says this campaign is part of his strategy to raise awareness on helping a stranger.

“The campaign is an extension of BI Phakathi strategy, asking help from a stranger and rewarding them with a token of appreciation.”

“We have been doing it on video, pretending as if I am asking for R2 and rewarding them with R2000. We have tried it on Twitter (Now X), and it worked successfully.”

Phakathi says the experiment went super well, with many South Africans willing to give Phakathi money to help him.

“So many people responded positively. Some donated R100s, others R20s, and it's not a lot of money raised, but it showed how much they love BI Phakathi and were willing to assist him to do his work.”

He was sent money, and in return, he rewarded them with a token of appreciation.

As part of the sixth Good Deed from the Capitec #MakeADifference campaign, philanthropist BI Phakathi and musician K.O gifted Rajah Brigmohun, a homeless man from Durban living in the streets f Cape Town, groceries and over R10 000. Picture: Screen grab.

“It was a very humbling experience, and the spirit of Ubuntu was alive. We needed such to show the world that South Africans are givers by nature. We share the little we have to help someone.”

Phakathi continues to be an inspiration to millions of South Africans with his generosity towards those less fortunate.

He does not do it for publicity either, with South Africans yet to find out who is the man behind the Bi Phakathi social media accounts.

He says he hopes to continue helping those less fortunate for years to come.

“It is my purpose in life to help the poor. To spread kindness and inspire others to help one another even when I am not there. I inspire charitable works and other organizations to do more work.”

He says his faith had inspired him to first begin his charity work.

“Firstly, it was inspired by Jesus Christ to help the poor, uplift the orphans and the widows, to help the disabled and the elderly. We can all do it if we do it out of love. I just happen to make it look cool.”

He says the journey has also been incredibly rewarding for himself.

“It is a rewarding experience to have a family like this. I share my life every day with strangers, and we share the same experiences in our communities. I am inspired by the people who appreciate what I do every day.

“My main aim is to inspire others to help the poor, regardless of their predicament. To influence a culture with a spirit of ubuntu/humanity depends on us to survive. Everyone is suffering.”

Phakathi’s videos of him helping the poor have often gone viral on social media, reaching millions of views.

Thousands of videos have been uploaded on the Facebook page “Bi Phakathi”, which shows a man handing out money and groceries to the less fortunate.

He has also paid for makeovers for homeless people, paid university fees for students who can't afford to pay their fees, and even helped reunite a homeless family.

His Facebook page has reached well over a million followers, and he continues to garner support.

He says it’s been an incredible experience coming across people from all walks of life.

“There are so many heart-warming stories on my page for people to see. The last one that touched me was the man who was pushing two heavy wheelbarrows from Johannesburg to Pretoria alone. I will never forget that moment.”

Phakathi is also sticking to his word by insisting he will always remain anonymous and will never reveal his face.

“I’m not willing to show my face. I meet people everyday, but to be public will put glory to the man than the work of God. This is the work of God to spread love and kindness, not to glorify a man who is human like everyone.

“BI Phakathi is not special. To stay humble and be treated like everyone it is challenging but satisfying. We are all needed in this journey to uplift one another. If everyone can do this work, that will be awesome.”