BRINGING LIGHT: Kabelo Mabalane, seen here with musician Danny K, is spearheading an anti-drug campaign.
Picture: Boxer Ngwenya
‘Sukela kudala umuntu afisa ukuthi angaphumelela/ngaphandle kweyi’dagamizo ngaziyela.” (For a long time in my life I have wanted to succeed/And without the abuse of drugs, I’m on the road to success.)

These powerful lyrics are in the award-winning song Zonke (Everything), released almost 14 years ago by the iconic kwaito artist Kabelo “Bouga Luv” Mabalane.

Mabalane released Zonke shortly after he had returned from a drug rehabilitation centre. He had checked himself in following years of a much-publicised life of debauchery filled with drug and alcohol abuse and promiscuity.

Today, Mabalane leads the Anti-Substance Abuse Social Movement, a campaign of ordinary community members who are taking it upon themselves to rid Gauteng townships of drug and other substance abuse.

He explained how difficult but important it was to detail his struggles with substance abuse in his songs because he realised that for the first time in his life, he had been given a “get-out-of-jail-free card”.

“You have to get down and do the work at rehab and start to deal with yourself and all the demons inside, which is hard work.

“But the get-out-of-jail-free card and what came with it far outweighed the difficulties of openly admitting to the public how I struggled with drugs through my songs,” Mabalane said.

“This was because I could see for the first time that this get-out-of-jail-free card was opening up my life to so many possibilities that wouldn’t have been possible if I had carried on living the life I was living.”

Through his anti-substance abuse movement, Mabalane works intensively with township schools, local drug action communities (L-DACs) and other community groups to try to play his part in rooting out drug and substance abuse, especially among the youth.

He helps to facilitate rehab centres for young people who want to wean themselves off the life of substance abuse, and equally importantly, follows up with the recovering addicts on their reintegration into society.

Bouga Luv explained that his involvement in helping others kick their bad habits was also helpful to him as a recovering addict, as it was a constant reminder of where he came from - and where he refuses to go back to.

“I believe that it is important for me to carry out this anti-drugs campaign because I can only keep that which I have - my sobriety - by giving it away. So service is very important to me,” he enthused.

“Even while I am serving the community and helping other people who are in active addiction, I am still being held accountable.

“This is because people will look at me and say, ‘here is Kabza (his other nickname) helping me to walk this road. He is a beacon of hope to us that recovery is possible.’

“That in turn makes me accountable to say, ‘I can’t now drop the ball because I know that if I relapse, I will be taking down thousands of people with me’. So that keeps me clean because my sobriety is connected to a bigger purpose.”

Mabalane said he had to “box smart” in order to fund his goodwill projects, by aligning himself with like-minded groups such as L-DACs and other social partners to continue his fight against drugs.

Earlier this month, he completed his 10th Comrades Marathon with the assistance of SABC Foundation and Sport - under the banner “SABC Sport Against Drugs for Social Movement” - to celebrate 15 years of being clean from drugs.

“I have been on this road of helping people for a long time now and I haven’t earned a single red cent from my work because I’m not doing it for the money.

“I derive pleasure from the phone calls I get from people who I have helped, telling me how well they’re doing in their recovery,” he enthused.

“Other people call me to say they heard me somewhere and would love for me to help them. I would either refer them to somewhere credible or invite them over for a talk.

“If we can help just one person achieve what I have achieved from a sobriety perspective, then all is well. Because sometimes you can get overwhelmed by the mountain of work that needs to be done - but I take it one person at a time.”

Born in December 1976, Bouga Luv is a testament to the virtues for which the Class of ’76 were prepared to pay the ultimate sacrifice.

Asked what plans he had for the future of his anti-drugs movement, Mabalane said: “We have predominately been operating around Gauteng. There are obviously calls from around the country for our assistance.

“We are going to try as much as possible to go around the country and assist other young people, but Soweto alone can keep us busy for the next 10 to 20 years.”