Tired from cleaning one of the houses in Port Elizabeth where she does odd domestic jobs‚ Amanda Moyo closed her eyes for a quick nap she hoped would take away her headache. And then her cellphone rang.
It was a call that would change her entire world. A world that‚ for the most part‚ had been a long‚ hard struggle.
Just a few months ago‚ Moyo impulsively entered a national Times Media competition‚ where a lucky reader stood the chance of winning a Ferrari 458 Spider – a prize worth more than R5.3-million.
She had received a call late last year to say she was a finalist – one of 130 – and since then‚ while she had occasionally allowed herself to indulge in the fantasy of being a winner‚ she had always shrugged these thoughts off.
When Moyo’s phone rang — the number not displayed and simply reading “unknown number” — she squinted at her Samsung Duos phone‚ debating with herself whether to answer or not‚ as it could very well have been a call centre agent reminding her of an overdue account payment.
She eventually answered.
“The person said ‘hello‚ is that Amanda Moyo?’ and I said ‘yes’. Then they said ‘congratulations‚ you have won a Ferrari’. In my moment of shock‚ I answered in Xhosa despite them speaking English. I said ‘mna?’ [me?] and they all laughed. I was on speaker phone‚” she said.
Moyo would be flown up to Johannesburg‚ be dined at a fine restaurant – both first-time experiences – and be officially awarded her prize.
The rest of the conversation was a blur as her life’s struggles flashed before her‚ as she stood with her phone stuck to her ear‚ her eyes closed and her one fist nervously clenched.
Moyo‚ 35‚ grew up in the farming area around Lovemore‚ where she lived with relatives. She never knew her mother and was only told that she belonged to the Nzotho clan‚ while her father was “taken away by social workers” when she was very young.
Moyo moved in with her relatives and did her junior schooling at Lovemore Primary School.
“I didn’t go to high school because there was no money‚ so I decided to let the family take their children to school and I’d fend for myself‚” she said.
When the other children in the house left for school‚ the then 15-year-old Moyo would go to a neighbouring farmer to do some weed work that would see her earn R50 a week.
“From then on‚ I never looked back. I went from one job to another‚” she said.
The mother of three moved to a tiny shack in Walmer Township in 2008 with her partner Luvuyo Tsabalala*‚ 41‚ who used to work as a driver but is now a gardener.
In 2013‚ the pair lost everything – their house‚ car and Tshabalala’s company car – in an “unexplained” fire.
“We had to start from scratch again. [Tshabalala] lost his job after that and I wasn’t getting jobs as frequently as I started having very long‚ dry spells in between. It was tough‚” she said. “But I’m used to struggling‚ so we picked ourselves up slowly but surely.
“I have always wanted to create a life for my children that is better than mine growing up. I knew I had to work… hard.”
In 2011‚ Moyo met her current employer Janet*‚ a recruitment agent who has over the years grown to become a friend‚ confidante and Moyo’s biggest source of support.
“We have been through many ups and downs together. She was living a high life and lost everything and has picked herself up‚ but through it all she always had an open hand for us and we did the same for her when she was down and out‚” Moyo said.
“There were times when we would have no food at all and no jobs. The little jobs we could do paid just enough money for a meal. It has really been by God’s grace that we survived. There’s no logical explanation.
“That is why when the call came‚ it felt like a load was being lifted with each scream and shout of excitement. I still don’t believe that me‚ Amanda‚ has won.”
She said the windfall was exactly what she had been praying for to get her dreams up and running and so the dream prize will be used to help fulfil those. She is taking R3 million cash as her prize instead of the supercar.
“I’m going to put away money for my children’s education up to university and invest some of it for the future‚” she said thoughtfully.
Asked how she was going to spoil herself‚ she simply smiled and said: “All I want is a brick house and a small car‚ my dear. I don’t want any drastic changes to my life that will draw unnecessary attention.”
As Moyo speaks‚ with her half-asleep 19-month-old son suckling at her breast‚ she is still incredulous that she is an instant winner of a prize worth millions.
“For now … I’m happy and nervous‚ more than anything.”
* Not their real names as requested by the parties to protect their privacy