Durban - In a show of defiance against the naysayers, Durban power couple Sbu and Shauwn Mpisane on Friday gave away seven fully furnished houses.
In what city officials, celebrities and local residents described as the ultimate act of generosity the couple who have been dogged by controversy for several years handed out keys to their astonished employees.
Tears flowed as the amazed recipients thanked the business couple for their kindness and for plucking them out of poverty.
“This is our very own Umhlanga or Zimbali,” said an overjoyed Malindi Mbeko, tears streaming down her face.
She and six others were handed keys to their houses, consisting of three bedrooms, including an en-suite, a lounge, dining area, kitchen and bathroom.
The spacious houses, fitted with aircons and mounted plasma TVs were furnished in either all white or all black top-of-the-range fittings and electrical appliances.
Various colourful ornaments adorned the cream-painted houses.
“Never in my wildest dreams did I ever think I would be a proud owner of such a stunning house.
“A fully paid-up house, that I can call my own,” said Mbeko.
The event was attended by eThekwini mayor James Nxumalo and the city’s head of human settlement, Nigel Gumede.
Speaking briefly on the side, the couple, who are mourning the death of Sbu’s brother, said they were happy to put smiles on their employees’ faces.
“We’re thanking our staff for the dedication and loyalty they have shown us over the years,” said Shauwn. “Including the very trying times,” she said referring to her several run-ins with the law.
The La Lucia couple who were last month acquitted of more than 100 counts of tax fraud said life was back to normal after their many court appearances.
Mpisane had been accused of inflating the invoices of her business – Zikhulise Cleaning, Maintenance, and Transport CC – by almost R5 million to cut her tax bill.
She was also accused of violating the Close Corporations Act by remaining Zikhulise’s sole member when she had a previous fraud conviction.
The National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) last month confirmed that charges of corruption and defeating the ends of justice would also be withdrawn against Mpisane as they related to the tax fraud matter.
The Mpisanes were however in a sombre mood after the death of Sbu’s brother, but they said they decided to go ahead with the event.
“We want to do more for our employees and the Durban community,” said Shauwn.
As the houses were handed out to the jovial recipients, celebrities, including soapie stars, TV presenters and radio personalities gushed and compared the houses to their own.
“My house is in a top estate in Joburg, but it doesn’t even compare to these lavish houses,” said a Generations actress after seeing the houses.
“Now I wished I also worked for the Mpisanes,” quipped another actor.
Celebrities included Generations actors Bawinile Modise, who plays Khethiwe, Sophia Ndaba (Queen) and The Link presenter Lerato Kganyago.
As the business couple handed out keys to the houses in an estate named after their Zikhulise Company, community members lined up to take pictures with the celebrities.
Although called Zikhulise Group Villa, KwaMashu residents and the recipients referred to the complex as Shauwnville or KwaMashu’s very own Zimbali.
“They get so much bad publicity, but we know all the good work that they’ve done and continue to do for normal people like us,” said another recipient, Khwezo Nodada.
The couple, who also undertook to refurnish Sbu’s former high school in the area, will be building a further 21 houses later this year for the needy and more of their employees.
The Mpisanes are also paying for tertiary fees for 27 students from underprivileged community and for medical bills for 57 HIV-positive Durban residents.
In December the flamboyant pair spoiled their 3 500 staff rotten at a Christmas bash on their farm near Pietermaritzburg, handing out gifts of plasma TVs, smartphones, home theatre systems and cheques of between R2 000 and R25 000.
The couple appear to have invested in another business venture after it emerged this week that Sbu had become the new owner of a Nelspruit- based National First Division soccer club Sivutsa Stars.
The club is believed to be worth between R10 million and R15m.