The Triumphant Rise of Thandi Draai


As I embark on this journey of healing and telling my story, there are many things that I do not remember. I realized that I had blocked out some of the horrible memories as they were just too painful, or I didn’t even realize that I had blocked them.  I have been told from the people who counselled and cared for me that these were the experiences I had shared as I went through counselling and therapy.

The Pain…

I was only a toddler when the abuse started, and all I remember is the feeling of crippling fear that swept over me every afternoon around 3:30pm, as that was the time the beatings and the “play time” started.  I remember the fear, the constant crying, the anguish, the cigarette burns all over my little body (even my face), the pain in my heart and body from the physical, emotional and sexual abuse. My mother had left me in the care of my grandparents, who abused alcohol, and me.

A caring pre-school teacher noticed me and suddenly she took me to a place, for me to be safe, but I was so scared. ‘Where was she taking me? It couldn’t be worse than the hell I had been living in? What was going to happen to me?’ I cried… I was only four years old. I was taken to this house in Port Shepstone where there were very kind people and good food. I loved the food!  This place had many people living there, children and mommies who had similar problems to me.  This place was called Place of Restoration. Every afternoon I would break out in a sweat, because I was afraid of night-time. I had nightmares and often fell off my bed as I screamed in pain, running from my perpetrators…

At only four years old, half of my life I had only known deep pain and anguish. I was thoroughly prepped for the court-cases and sitting at the court rooms was totally nerve wrecking.  I feared for when he would appear. ‘Would he beat me up again, in front of all these people??’  I was relieved when he didn’t pitch, but that also meant the case got postponed. After the fourth time of going to court a few years later, I remember telling my mom Veronica, “I am not going back to court anymore”. A warrant of arrest was put out for him, but nothing ever came of it.


I was provided a safe environment with safe adults, care, warmth, age-appropriate therapy, health care, education, but mostly unconditional love. A staff member, Veronica Jubber, showed an interest in fostering me. She was assessed and screened by the social worker, and was approved to be a suitable foster mom. It took a few short weeks and I belonged to her! I had a foster mom who doted over me and became my forever mom, she gave me all the love a young child could need, always encouraging me and assisting me to deal with my pain over the years.  I learnt survival skills, I learned about love and care, I learned that I was special and that I did not deserve to be abused. I was just right and my mom kept reminding me that there was a plan and purpose for my life…


I showed a natural love for music, making up new songs and imagining myself singing and dancing to adoring audiences.  I was encouraged to do pageants and we had to perform in front of the staff and children at GCF, and all would clap and encourage us as we developed confidence.  Hope grew in me and I moved from strength to strength as a young woman, all the time allowing myself to dream BIG… encouraged by my mom Veronica and the other staff members who believed in me. Through my high school years, I was an active member in music, arts, and the school choir all the time knew that I wanted to be a musician one day.

Years have gone by since I left GCF and have been staying in Johannesburg, but I keep thinking back and remembering what GCF and my mom did for me… Whenever I visit GCF, I am told by the staff members how proud they are of the woman I have become and the success I have achieved. They remind me that it takes a really strong person to do what I have done. I have now become an activist for Violence Against Children (child abuse), because my life shows that it’s possible to “Let your hopes, not your hurts, shape your future”.


Today, I am a Music Producer, Vocalist DJ and Songwriter! I have only been in the industry for 7 years and I’ve reached quite a number of achievements. The most notable being top 4 of SA hit show Masters of Spin. I mentored and produced for the winning team on SABC 3’s Talent on Track TV Show, to name a few. I was the first woman in South Africa to release a self-produced EP with my previous Down on Me & Ingozi EP. Recent headline shows include Moving Deep (NL), My Tribe My Vibe (UK), Drums Radio (NL) and Education Amsterdam (NL), Nocal Music on 20 (Angola) and most recently, Lockdown House Party on Channel O and Africa Is Not a Jungle Online Edition. I have now shifted my focus on the global stage and kicked off the year 2020 with a world wide release of my E.P Iris, which has been released via German Powerhouse Get Physical Records on 8 May 2020 (available on all streaming platforms). The EP has been catching airwaves across the world and has been play listed across 10 countries, including UK, Sweden, Spain, Belgium, Netherlands, Italy, and Germany.

Giving Back…

GCF is now my charity of choice. From 1992 to date, GCF continues its amazing work of ensuring that vulnerable children are given an equal opportunity to enjoy their rights to family care, to survive, be protected and develop to their full potential.

On 20 April 2019, a few South Coast DJ’s and I hosted a ‘Gift of Giving – A Night Out for Charity’ event in Margate where all proceeds of the entire evening went to GCF.

To support my campaign ‘Hope for Tomorrow’ for the children at GCF, please follow the link:

A little bit about Give a Child a Family…

The Place of Restoration Trust, operating as Give a Child a Family, was registered in 1992 and functions as a place of safety for children who have been orphaned, abandoned, neglected, abused or are at risk in any way. They provide a safe environment, age-appropriate therapy, healthcare and early childhood development education. Even though Give a Child a Family is a safe haven for children, the organisation strongly believes children belong in families, and in some cases, like Thandi, it was not in the best interest for her to go back to her family from which she was removed.  The foster care programme which was started in 2002, recruits, assesses, screens and trains prospective foster parents to ensure that the children have safe and nurturing families to be placed into, once they are ready to be reintegrated back into society.

All my love,

Thandi Draai


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  1. Fiddla on July 27, 2020 at 3:10 am

    Thandi thank you for sharing your story with us all, this is another moment of strengthening and grown which you have achieved in abundance. You are a huge encouragement to myself and many other and you are cherished and loved by us all.

    Continue to shine and climb hurdles, look forward to catching up.

    Peace love and Music ☮️❤️🙏🏽🎶

  2. Lindiwe on July 28, 2020 at 10:50 pm

    Hahaha Jane maHadebe you surprised me this Thandi Draai I wasn’t sure it’s you well done gal .keep it up the good work continue be a blessing to many
    With love Lindiwe

  3. Gugu on November 26, 2020 at 7:45 pm

    Your mixtapes always inspires me on Ukhozi Fm

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