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Thembi the domestic worker - how she became an internet sensation and divided SA

22 June 2020 - 15:56 By Cebelihle Bhengu
Thembi and her employer Malcolm Wentzel have become internet sensations. Their close relationship is loved by many.
Thembi and her employer Malcolm Wentzel have become internet sensations. Their close relationship is loved by many.
Image: Twitter/@Sikhosanasa

Thembi Ubisi and Malcolm Wentzel have given  South Africans a glimpse into their lives and relationship through videos shared via TikTok.

The videos have received thousands of views and shares across social media platforms, but not everyone is a fan. 

In one of the videos, Thembi, a domestic worker,  wears her employer's jacket after he asked if she wasn’t feeling cold. She told him, “today it’s f*** cold, I want this one. It’s very nice.” Wentzel laughs and responds, “leave my lekker jacket alone, ya, that one is nice, it’s antifreeze.”

Some have accused Wentzel of exploiting Thembi.

Negative responses:

Positive responses 

Some of SA’s most famous and influential people including Mmusi Maimane have called on brands and companies to give the domestic employee endorsement deals, saying her sense of humour and bubbly personality could make her a lot of money.

Others suggested that the two start a YouTube web series where they would document their days, or have Thembi review domestic cleaning products.

Thembi and Malcolm speak

On Sunday, News24 reported that Thembi has been Wentzel's employee for nine years. She said she had been unaware that he was filming for TikTok, but said the love shown to her on social media makes her happy. She told the publication that she has been flooded with calls from people in her area.

Wentzel, who works as a consultant in the mining sector, said he does not consider Thembi as just someone who works for him, saying “we work together”.

Wentzel has been accused of exploiting Thembi to gain social media fame, and of “feeding his white saviour ego”.

Wentzel has noted the comments about race.

In his latest video, he said, “thanks for making us trend on Twitter, just a special thanks for the people that bring in race in the most positive thing we are doing here.” He then turns to Thembi and says, “come, let's bring them [race]. Thembi can be seen getting packets of rice [pronounced rys in Afrikaans] from the grocery cupboard.