I promised to write Riky letters, says Louisa Zondo on why she wrote her memoir

Louisa Zondo at the launch of her memoir. Picture: Instagram

Louisa Zondo at the launch of her memoir. Picture: Instagram

Published Jun 11, 2023


It was a small and intimate affair as Louisa Zondo launched her memoir, “Dearest MaRiky: A Mother’s Journey through Grief, Trauma and Healing”, at Ikes Books on Durban’s Florida Road.

Zondo, a lawyer and human rights activist, was accompanied by her family as she discussed the process behind writing her memoir supported by her partner, Kumi Naidoo.

In her book, Zondo tells her story, the tragedy of losing her son, musician and rapper Rikhado “Riky Rick” Makhado, confronting her grief and dealing with the trauma of her past.

As part of preparation for the launch, Zondo said her constant wish was to be able to speak, no matter what comes up, and to be able to be carried through the events.

Speaking on the experience of launching her book, Zondo said she has found the process energising and fulfilling.

“The actual experience in the main, I found myself energised by sitting like this, feeling a sense of community with people, sharing openly with people and feeling that I’m not alone in a warm way. Of course, there are times when I get home and I just curl up, but overall I’ve been energised,” Zondo said.

Parts of Zondo’s memoir are formatted as letters to Riky Rick and according to her, the writing process has been a healing process and closure following the death of her son.

Zondo said the letters in the memoir came from the fact that she had promised her son that she was going to write some letters to him and tell him about some parts of her life.

According to the self-reflective mother, the details on life were matters Riky Rick was asking about in times that he was feeling troubled. He wanted to know why his mother was the way she was towards her children due to his overall experience of her.

Zondo said Makhado was open about his challenges. He felt confused by the experience of having a mother who came home and then went straight to her room and locked it.

“He felt that he was not wanted. I promised to tell him things and I promised to write him letters. I did sit down to really make an effort to write,” Zondo said.

On the writing process, Zondo admitted that it was a bit of struggle. She summited Mount Everest base camp 25 days after Makhado’s suicide. The trek had been in the pipeline for a long time. She embarked on the journey seeking solace and clarity amid the mountains.

Louisa Zondo summited Mount Everest base camp 25 days after Makhado’s suicide. Picture: Supplied

She embraced the letter writing format after having summited the mountain. The format was a way of communicating with her son.

“I was walking with the sense that going up Mount Everest to base camp, I’ll be walking with Rikhado, I’ll be taking him with me. I’ll be in engagement with Rikhado,” Zondo said.

She said that the letters brought her to a place where she speaks of her life to herself, her son and hopefully to her family and community.

Zondo said on returning from her summit, she thought that her writing would flow and would become easier. However, she struggled and this time she had to dig deeper.

“In actual fact, I only came to start writing after a long deep and painful unravelling therapy process,” Zondo said.

Zondo said the feedback she has received on the letters, is that the writing has been a much needed thing.

“The writing was received as a needed thing. I got a lot of feedback from people who said thank you so much for writing …It made me feel like I could help somebody who is in a similar situation of being engulfed by deep sadness and grief and loss and pain and all of that,” Zondo said.

She said that all of this gave her courage to write the book and she handed in her manuscript by the end of March.

The book is available at most bookshops around the country for R240.