When the chips are down friends are few …I am a single mother and so I had no choice but to move on from the ordeal. Actress Palesa Madisakwane speaks on her journey of healing after a horror car accident that almost claimed her life, after a drunk driver rammed into her car earlier this year, she is happy to be back, acting again. Palesa is back on TV in Dream: The Lebo Mathosa Story, in which she plays Mamfundisi, Lebo’s stepmom. It’s a small role, but I am happy,” she told DRUM magazine. The former Generations star is a brave warrior, her ambitious appetite to shift boundaries is still strong, and she can’t wait to bite her teeth deeper into more roles, but she is concerned about her future because her injuries are more than skin-deep.
Initially, she had been worried about her looks, as she thought the injuries would left her face deformed, but the worrying thing is that she is experiencing a host of symptoms for a disjointed wellness, she hasn’t been the same again. “When I did an interview at e.tv’s Sunrise two months ago, I just went blank. Sometimes in a conversation I forget what I want to say,” she said.
Blackouts, short-term memory loss and constant headaches are just some of the after effects affecting her, these things have dogged her since the crash. “I know something is wrong, but doctors are yet to diagnose me,” she added. Palesa is hoping to visit specialists for more diagnosis in the coming year because she has no medical insurance so can only afford to see GPs. The 42-year old actress is now worried that her condition may put her career in disarray. “I don’t know what’s going to happen to me going forward because I work with scripts. I feel like my career is on the line here,” she said.
The positive thing is that she still has the fighting spirit, and believes fate always have a way to prove us wrong, she is confident things turn out in her favour. Despite all the challenges she did come across during the course of this year, she is still standing. As if that was all, it has been a rocky couple of years for Palesa, first, she lost her job as a news anchor on ANN7, then the bank repossessed her Mercedes-Benz after she missed her R12 000 instalment three months in a row – and just when she got back on her feet and bought a second-hand car, the crash happened.
As if watching a script from a horror movie, she is being haunted by bad scenes since that day. When the accident happened Palesa and her then-9-year-old daughter, Mohumi Zoe, were returning home from her niece’s traditional wedding in the Vaal, Gauteng. The actress stopped her Toyota Etios at a red traffic light on Witkoppen Road, while singing out loud to Pastor Benjamin Dube’s Victorious from his Presence album. She was about to take off after the traffic lights turned green, but, suddenly she was blinded by bright lights and heard a deafening bang.
“I saw smoke coming out of the car and the airbags had popped. The first thing I did was to check if Zoe was okay,” she told DRUM. Palesa noticed that she couldn’t get to her daughter in the back seat, all the car doors had jammed, so they were trapped. “I thought my daughter and I were going to burn to ashes,” she recalled.
Because she had taken a knock to her head from the impact of the collision, she lost consciousness. Moments later she was woken up by a panic stricken couple who came to her rescue and called the emergency services. They managed to free Palesa and Mohumi who had been trapped, and rushed them to Charlotte Maxeke Johannesburg Academic Hospital for medical attention.
The doctors sealed the blood gash in her forehead with 24 stitches but Palesa was worried her money-maker would be marred by the big sutures. “I looked at my face and knew my career was over with that scar,” she said. She opted for plastic surgery performed by leading plastic surgeon Dr Ridwan Mia after her baby daddy, Somizi Mhlongo, offered to pay, but, contrary to what was widely reported, Palesa said, it is the Letsiki family who paid the bill. Her niece had married into the Letsiki family, so the groom’s family offered foot the bill because she had spent the day with them at the wedding. They had already offered to pay when Somizi also offered. I am really grateful for all the support,” she said.
Even though her physical scars have healed well, just weeks after the accident, she admitted she was afraid to ever sit behind the wheel again. “When I saw cars next to me, I panicked,” she said. She had to be brave and learn to be comfortable behind the steering wheel again in order to drive her son Khumo (16) and Mohumi to and from school. “I am a single mother and so I had no choice but to move on from the ordeal because my kids still need to be fetched from school,” she added.
HER eldest daughter plays a young Lebo Mathosa in the BET series Dream: The Lebo Mathosa Story. While they don’t share any scenes, Palesa has offered Bahumi (24) a word of advice. “She must ignore social media and focus on her God-given talent. And she must enjoy herself on set,” she advised.
Being a seasoned artist, Palesa knows quite well how ugly the dark side of fame can be, which is why she was concerned when she heard that Bahumi, her daughter with Somizi, would be following in their footsteps. “She didn’t even tell me she was going to audition. I was watching the news and I saw someone who looked like her standing in the queue,” she recalled with a laugh. She contacted her to confirm, Bahumi didn’t pick up the phone. “She later said, ‘I know why you were calling, Mom. Yes, it was me’. The two are very close.
When Bahumi bagged the role, her mom was the first to know. “I was very happy for my daughter. As much as I didn’t want her to follow this path, I am very proud of her,” she said. Palesa also has every reason to be proud of herself. She has since launched a foundation called Come Out, code named after the terror of that fateful night when her youngest child was trapped in the car. “I screamed for her to come out, but she was stuck,” she recalled.
The foundation is aimed at helping car crash victims access services provided by the
Road Accident Fund. The actress became tabloid fodder around the time of the crash with reports she’d been down and out. She was soon to learn that when chips are down, friends are few. “I was all on my own. That is when I realised who my real friends are. The family I used to throw money at stayed away,” she said.
With no one to turn to, Palesa withdrew into a deep funk. “I became a mockery and spectacle to people. Some were gossiping and laughing at me. I also didn’t see my worth. I wanted to be loved by men. I allowed a lot of trash into my life, but not anymore,” she poured out. She is looking forward to the new year with lots of changes in her life. “Even though I don’t have much, I’ve stopped fighting and trying so hard to be loved. I am just content with my life and know God will provide,” Palesa said.