Caring with Pizzazz

Caregiver Zodwa Mabuza’s gentle, intuitive approach to caregiving moved George Louw to investigate and learn more about her journey

Pizzazz meaning an attractive combination of vitality and glamour. Synonyms include stylishness, elegance, gracefulness, poise, sophistication, chic or finesse.

I first met Zodwa Mabuza when she became a carer to my 95-year-old father-in-law. My dad has severe dementia and, at times, became anxious with bouts of delusion. Zodwa is a gentle soul. She has the ability to anticipate mood changes and affect calming solutions that settled my dad down before he even became agitated.

She did so with gentle, friendly firmness. For instance, if he became agitated, she would turn on the TV to a wildlife programme, without sound, and simultaneously play classical music. The calming effect was remarkable.

On another occasion, my dad reminisced about his childhood in Usakos, a small town in Namibia. Zodwa went to YouTube and gave him great joy by playing him a number of clips on Usakos on her phone.

One day, when I was visiting my dad, he fell asleep in his chair and I started chatting with Zodwa. She told me that she grew up in Vryheid in Northern KwaZulu-Natal. After school, she worked in an old age home. It was here where she realised her passion for caring.

But, looking for greener work pastures, she moved to Johannesburg where she was employed by Kobus van de Venter, a C6/7 quadriplegic. She cared for Kobus for two years, from 2017 to 2019.

When he relocated to Betty’s Bay in the Western Cape, Zodwa felt that this was too far away from her family and support structure. She moved on to other jobs until she ended up at La Vie Frail Care at Celebration Retirement Estate, where she came to care for my father-in-law.

I gave Kobus a call to get his views on Zodwa. He is a rather reserved and private fellow, so it was a bit like pulling teeth from a chicken. Eventually, he warmed to the challenge. So, here is their story…

Kobus has been a quadriplegic for 34 years and has employed a number of caregivers over the years. So, he considers himself somewhat of an expert on the attributes of a good caregiver. For Kobus, Zodwa was a caregiver-par-excellence.

Kobus van de Venter

To quote Kobus: “For me, Zodwa embodies all the qualities of what a superb carer should be. In the first instance, she is empathetic and passionate about the wellbeing of her companion.

“What truly sets her apart is an uncanny intuition to identify issues and needs aforehand. I guess her attention to both the big picture and details supports this.”

The attributes of Zodwa’s personality that stood out for Kobus were her “presence” and her ability to look forward. This is how he described it: “Personality or how a carer ‘shows up’ – not just with people they care for but also to the people around them – Zodwa had in spades.

“Whether it was people that I brought into my home, whether it was friends or more serious, she could see from my demeanour. When it was a business thing that was important, her personality would show up, particularly her dress sense, how she would dress up to see those people,” he said.

“Presence: She knows what’s what. She can read a situation and react accordingly. She understands from the perspective of the person for who she is caring, what the issue is. For instance, I took Zodwa for lunch at the Butcher Shop in Sandton Square and there were no worries. She maintained herself one hundred percent there. She did not let up that she was my carer, she allowed me to introduce her as I wished,” Kobus explained.

“Forward looking: Zodwa has an uncanny knack to anticipate consequences of situations. If something bad happened in the past, she ensures that it will not happen again. Zodwa looks ahead, anticipates instead of waiting for things to happen. A good carer can be compared to a priest, a nurse or a teacher. They move the community and yet they are underpaid, as are policemen or firemen,” he added.

Kobus, at that time, lived in a house in Bryanston and Zodwa stayed in a small flatlet on the premises. This was important to Kobus as there was no interruption in her services while also providing separation, allowing Zodwa her privacy.

Noticing her desire to learn new skills, Kobus brought her a sewing machine and she took to sewing like a house on fire. To say thank you, Zodwa made Kobus a bedspread for his bed.

Kobus also funded Zodwa’s training for her driver’s licence. Zodwa had a few nerves during her first driver’s test attempt, but passed her test the second time around. Since then, she drove Kobus around when his driver was off duty.

Here are Kobus’s words on funding driver’s licence: “I do this with all those that work for me because I understand that it is a massive skill to have. A relationship with a carer is like a high performance team – you build them by what you put in.”

Zodwa loves music, but when it came to rock, she did not have an affinity for Kobus’s hard rock. She preferred more gentle rock music. As Kobus admitted: “She shows superb intellect and a wicked sense of humour. Being taught the intricacies of hard rock music by me, required both.” (With my father-in-law, Zodwa absolutely loved his classical music.)

A final word from Kobus: “Zodwa became a friend as well as a carer, but always knew where professional boundaries lay.”


Ida’s Corner is a regular column by George Louw, who qualified as a medical doctor, but, due to a progressing spastic paralysis, chose a career in health administration.

The column is named after Ida Hlongwa, who worked as caregiver for Ari Seirlis for 20 years. Her charm, smile, commitment, quality care and sacrifice set the bar incredibly high for the caregiving fraternity. email: yorslo@icloud.com

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