Gospel sensation Dr Tumi is the busiest that he has ever been during the 21-day national lockdown.
I am supposed to be meeting with the award-winning musician – real name Tumisang Makweya – on day 12 of the lockdown on Tuesday, when he calls to inform me that he is running 15 minutes late.
It is understandable, with Dr Tumi having just come from another frantic shift at Tembisa Hospital’s specialised Covid-19 unit.
He is one of the many private practice professionals who volunteered their services to public health during the Covid-19 outbreak.
Dr Tumi is wearing navy blue scrubs, with his stethoscopes around his neck. He immediately tells me that he hasn’t slept much lately and his eyes are evidently bloodshot.
“It’s been a hectic day 12. There is a lot going on considering that it is 21 days of being locked in,” Dr Tumi says.
“For the most part it’s a costly exercise in the sense that it reshapes your life and you must balance that with your family. I have been selfisolating a bit from my family when I come back from the hospital.
“One of the things I want now is to get involved in the mass screening for Covid-19 that’s happening. I’m just trying to figure out where I can fit all of that in my schedule and just tag along with people going into communities to do screenings.”
Dr Tumi is a qualified medical doctor with 12 years’ experience. He has had a private practice in Polokwane, Limpopo, for almost 10 years after leaving the public health sector in 2011.
The 38-year-old singer has for years being outspoken about his struggles with being a high-functioning insomniac. He wakes up at around 6am every day and he’s out of the house by 8am to head to Tembisa Hospital.
Dr Tumi says in the last two weeks that he has been there he has tested many patients and the results are yet to come back positive.
“I think it has been going well. I think the mass screening for Covid-19 that government is doing is going to help even more. I don’t think it has hit the townships hard so far,” Dr Tumi opines.
“If we can keep to where we are and keep as many people protected in the next couple of days we are going in the right direction. People have listened to the call to not just come to the hospital for everything.
“People come when they really have to. I was talking to people working in private practices and they are seeing fewer patients now. People are staying at home now and not coming in for minor headaches.”
When he gets home in the evening, Dr Tumi starts preparing for his worship sessions that streams daily at 8.30pm on Facebook. They last for about 10 to 15 minutes – with longer sessions of 30 minutes on Sundays.
“I do that just to motivate, inspire and pray for people – just to give them hope. I think people being locked up, they miss going to church,” he shares.
“I think church should be a person[al thing, even though] there is nothing wrong with fellowship and gathering with people. I feel like this moment will make people find themselves in a space where you don’t depend on going to church and hearing your pastor preach. “You really just need to find that space for yourself because it’s a personal relationship at the end of the day.” The married father of three boys between the ages of three and 11 says working at the specialised Covid-19 unit has affected his family life greatly.
“That’s the hard part about it. There are days where I get home from the hospital and I’m [giving off a] proper ‘don’t touch me’ type of vibe,” he points out.
“It’s important because I have little kids and they are very touchy. They like the idea that I come home and they remind each other ‘don’t touch daddy’.”
For the first time since he started at Tembisa Hospital Dr Tumi takes a break to spend time with his family this Easter weekend.
While he will be under lockdown, Dr Tumi will continue to spread the word of God from his home. He will stream worship sessions on his social media pages. Many churches have also hired Dr Tumi to record and stream worship sessions that are tailored for their social media platforms.
TV channels such as BET Africa have also asked Dr Tumi to stream the #BeAtHome worship sessions on their Facebook channel.
He has also pre-recorded material for DStv’s Africa Easter Channel that will pop up from tomorrow until Monday.
“I will be at home and everywhere, thanks to technology. I think I will be appearing in more places compared to if I was doing gigs in person,” Dr Tumi says.
“It’s interesting and a blessing that churches will call you to stream specifically for their church and pay you for it. They tell me we need you do these specific songs from your albums and we need you to address yourself towards our church. I will be at a lot of churches, but at home.”