I choose to live

Scandal actor, Tshepo ‘Howza’ Mosese, reveals why he chooses to live and how exactly he achieves this – by good diabetes management.

Tshepo Mosese may be better known as Howza, which derives from his second name, Howard, and is the nickname the South African entertainment industry has come accustom to calling him. The 33-year-old is a Kwaito singer as well as an actor; he has played the character of Lerumo in the e.tv soapie drama Scandal for the last three years. What you might not know is that Howza has been managing Type 1 diabetes for 13 years and appears to be the victor in the situation.

After detecting he was losing weight at a rapid rate and his vision was becoming blurry as well as constantly being hydrated, he went to see a doctor and was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes at the age of 20. “I was shocked. I thought that this was a disease that only elderly people got…my father had Type 2…it became crystal clear that no one is immune to getting diabetes,” Howza explained.

In December, we tend to go overboard indulging in too much of the food that we are not suppose to – sweets, chocolates, you name it, all the food that we really love and want to ‘chow’, but it is all on you to take responsibility and say ‘No, this is my life and I know what the repercussions of indulging in too much of these foods are, and this is how I am going to deal with the situation’.

But instead of seeing himself as a victim, he saw himself as the victor; he saw it as an opportunity to become a diabetes activist as he was in a position where he could use his influence in the entertainment industry to be an ambassador for diabetes, and with his huge following expose the disease. “This could be my purpose in life,” he said.

And that is exactly what he did. In 2010, he launched a song titled I choose to live which voices the dangers of diabetes which he terms the silent killer. The song was well-received and he was asked to perform it at an African Health Forum meeting. At that time, he was also a diabetes youth ambassador for a pharmaceutical company. Much needed awareness was created about the risks of diabetes, though he does admit that it shouldn’t have ended there, adding that they should have created more platforms for awareness and this is his current mission. “I am currently in discussions to start new awareness projects that will launch in 2017,” Howza said.

He will be supporting this year’s World Diabetes Day – 14 November – by sharing his walk with diabetes on several radio and TV stations. His aim is to make it clear that diabetes is a silent killer but it is not impossible to defeat, adding that the key to defeating it “is by accepting that you have the condition and knowing what you’re dealing with, then you’re able to act upon the strengths and weaknesses.”

Currently Howza takes a fast-acting insulin on average three times a day, however, it all depends on what his blood glucose levels are. He was prescribed a slow-release insulin as well, but hardly uses it as he finds he then struggles with hypoglycaemia (hypo). On a normal morning without insulin, Howza’s blood glucose levels are 6 or 7, but if his blood glucose levels are very high, sitting at 10 or 11, he prefers to go to the gym and exercise to bring it down.

When on set, Howza makes sure he has all the right meals to stabilise his sugar, and all the necessary food items to assist with hypo if it occurs, such as orange juice and sweets. “I try to make sure my sugar levels are pretty balanced so I don’t experience low blood sugar and inconvenience the production, but if my sugar is low, I prioritise myself first – the production company is very understanding as they knew from the start that I had diabetes,” Howza said. He added that sometimes if he hasn’t had a meal and his sugar levels decrease, it becomes harder to bring them up with sugars like sweets, so then he has to carbo-load by eating rice, sweet potato or normal potato.

Healthy eating and exercise are daily routine in the actor’s life. He trains every morning for one hour. “In my workout regime, I aim to do 20 minutes of cardio as it stimulates the body and helps with my sugar levels,” he said. All his meals are pre-planned by his domestic worker, who understands the condition and has knowledge on how imperative diet is for a person living with diabetes. “You need to educate everybody in your house about the condition, it is not just about you knowing about it,” he went on to say.

In Howza’s opinion, this is the current problem South Africa is facing and where society is lacking, “People are aware of an illness called diabetes, but are not conscious of the consequences of it more importantly and this is a problem. The only way to rectify this problem is by speaking about it – say if there is only one person in a household who has diabetes, everyone in that family has the responsibility of learning about it; should anything happen to anyone at school or work, then they will be in a position to understand that a person is experiencing low blood sugar or a sugar attack and know what to do,” he said.

Because diabetes is on the rise – there there are approximately 2,5 million people with diabetes in South Africa and more than 14 million in Sub-Saharan Africa1 – Howza feels a lot more could be done. He said, “We as a country have a responsibility to be aware of how many people are struggling with diabetes (living with diabetes) and how many people have passed on from diabetes. We all need to be aware of these statistics in order to understand the seriousness of the predicament we are in and then implement more projects that will best create dialogue and platforms, where people will be able to speak about diabetes and, most importantly, how to prevent it so less people have to go through what we diabetes sufferers have to.”

AllLife insurance company has made a real impression on the Kwaito star. “They’re on the ball in assisting people living with chronic illnesses, such as diabetes…there aren’t many insurance companies that offer the support they do, so maybe if we got more companies like them, the current diabetes epidemic in South Africa could be improved,” he stated.

Health issues have not only affected Howza but his wife as well; Salamina, who is an actress, suffered a stoke in 2013 just before her 30th birthday. Howza explained that it was a very testing period but by grace Salamina has fully recovered, is alive, healthy and doing great things. He added that it was due to their unity and strength as a family that they overcame this challenging time. It was also discovered his daughter, Tumelo, is allergic to gluten but in Howza’s opinion because she now has to follow a low carb, high protein diet, this limits her chance of getting diabetes, which was a grave concern of his. Little Tumelo is taken for regular diabetes screenings.

With the individual health issues they have undergone, Howza said it has taught him and his family to appreciate the gift of life. “When you are in a near-death experience, the only thing you can do is appreciate what you have because you could have lost it in a split second,” Howza said frankly.

If there is one message that he wants to highlight, especially with the festive season coming up, is diet. “In December, we tend to go overboard, indulging in too much of the food that we’re not suppose to – sweets, chocolates, you name it, all the food that we really love and want to ‘chow’, but it is all on you to take responsibility and say ‘No, this is my life, I know what the repercussions of indulging in too much of these foods are, and this is how I am going to deal with the situation’.”


Laurelle Williams is the Editor at Word for Word Media. She graduated from AFDA with a Bachelor of Arts Honours degree in Live Performance. She has a love for storytelling and sharing emotions through the power of words. Her aim is to educate, encourage and most of all show there is always hope. Feel free to email Laurelle on [email protected]