The Royal Bafokeng Stadium in Rustenburg was the scene for Bafana's poor performance and draw at home to the east Africans
Salahdin Said Ahmed opened the scoring for Ethiopia in the first half, before Katlego Mphela equalised in the second.
South Africa started brightly and Siyabonga Nomvethe benefited from a defensive error in the third minute, but instead of firing in he tried to square the ball and the chance was gone.
Barely two minutes later, the PSL Footballer of the Season made a run down the right, but this time his cross was too strong.
Bafana continued to dominate for long spells, but could not find the breakthrough. Nomvethe's partner up front, Katlego Mphela, took a free kick straight at the goalkeeper and Sisay Bancha Basa fumbled his attempt, but was able to gather the ball with two Bafana players charging him down.
Bafana were in complete control at this stage, and they did not know what hit them when Salahdin Said Ahmed benefited from an error by Tsepo Masilela and worked his way into the area before firing home off the underside of the crossbar, giving Itumeleng Khune no chance in the 28th minute.
Things went from bad to worse for Bafana when Masilela was forced off the field in the 34th minute because of injury, to be replaced by Punch Masenamela.
Ethiopia grew in confidence and almost grabbed a second on the stroke of half time when Said was at it again, but this time he shot wide.
The score was 1-0 to Ethiopia at the interval. Pitso Mosimane made a change at half time, taking off the inefficient Reneilwe Letsholonyane for Oupa Manyisa.
However, Bafana started the second half on a bad note when Bongani Khumalo was booked for a foul on Said. Ethiopia goalkeeper Bancha Basa played for time after taking Nomvethe's boot to the face in the 51st minute and Bafana knew the second half was going to be much difficult than the first, especially when Ethiopia put more numbers at the back making Bafana's job all the more difficult.
South Africa, though, fought back to equalise in the 77th minute through 'Killer' Mphela, who Mosimane had predicted a day earlier could come through for Bafana.
The Mamelodi Sundowns marksman managed to out-muscle his marker to latch on to a long pass before curling a brilliant shot past the goalkeeper to score his 23rd goal for Bafana in 46 matches.
But Bafana could not find a winner in the final minutes, and the spoils were shared, meaning that Central African Republic tops Group A after their win over Botswana, while South Africa and Ethiopia sit on a point each.