Soweto-born actress and singer Mara Louw's memoirs spill the beans on family secrets.
Actress and iconic singer Marah Teboho Louw, for 44 years of her life, thought she knew who she really was until the truth, a best-kept family secret for several years, eventually came out in recent years.

The Mzimhlophe, Soweto-born entertainer, who currently portrays the character of Buwi in Mzansi Magic’s The Queen, reveals some shocking family secrets in her autobiography.

Marah, among other major productions during the apartheid years had lead roles in musicals. Among them were Sikhalo (written and directed by late theatre icon Gibson Kente in the 1960s), Meropa (which toured Japan in the 1970s), King Kong, Babe Come Duze and Nkosi Sikelel’ iAfrika.

Marah acted in Muvhango from its inception in the late 1990s until 2004 and has also been a controversial judge on Idols South Africa.

In It’s Me, Marah, an explosive, no-holds-barred book published by Jacana Media, Marah reveals that while growing up in the dusty streets of Soweto in the 1960s she was made to believe that Trueblue Mabasotho Louw, first-born daughter of the Rev Mokgethi Benjamin Louw and Charlotte Masindi Louw, was her sister.

Instead, it turns out that this guarded family secret was all lies.

Mokgethi and his wife, in fact, are her grandparents, and Trueblue, who has Khoisan blood coursing through her veins, is not her sister, but her biological mother.

Her grandparents raised Marah as their own daughter, without revealing the truth.

This was done apparently to protect her as she was born out of wedlock, and her real father in the Eastern Cape had a fallout with her mother after her birth. Although she says in the book that she loved them both, and still refers to them today as her late parents, she wishes that they had told her the truth, especially after Trueblue’s death in 1972.

Marah discovered the truth in 2006, at the age of 44, after an intensive investigation during which she interviewed surviving relatives scattered across Joburg and as far afield as Boomplass village in the Eastern Cape, where her family roots are to be found.

In this relentless search, she also discovered the identity of her real father, Simanda Binca, a prominent and well-respected community leader in the Eastern Cape.

Instead of bringing Marah the inner peace she was looking for, the discovery left her devastated.

The actress reveals in the book that her relationship with her biological father is frosty to this day after she confronted him about the past and how she had been kept in the dark for more than four decades.

“Binca is the only one left in the family who knows exactly what happened, yet he still refuses to tell me his version of the story, about how he met my mother and why he has not kept contact with his daughter over the years.

“I have made a conscious decision to cut ties with him, find peace, and move on with my life. I don’t hate him. I have forgiven him.

“I welcome my siblings (half-sisters and brothers who include Siphokazi Zokwana, wife of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Minister Senzeni Zokwana), and have nothing against them.

“I just cannot have him as an albatross in my life. I just hope one day he comes clean,” she writes in It’s Me, Marah.

Marah explains that she had made several attempts to connect with her biological father over the years, including inviting him to her home in Joburg.

But all efforts have failed to mend the fallout between father and daughter.

This, she told The Sunday Independent, in an interview on Friday, is affecting her badly at present.

“Even though I have come to terms with the revelations about my life, that my parents were actually my grandparents, and that who I thought was my sister (Trueblue) was my mother, and we had related very well as such before she died tragically in 1972, the issue of my biological father is affecting me badly.

“That is perhaps the reason why I sometimes feel that my parents perhaps should have told me the truth about my biological mother when she died in 1972.

“It is perhaps because my biological father still refuses to discuss the issues I have raised with him that I will not find closure in my life until he comes clean,” Marah says.

At this stage of the interview, she broke down, tears flowing down her cheeks.

After composing herself, she revealed that she was close to the rest of her family, with one of her half-sisters confirming that she would be attending the launch of the book at the Vilakazi Restaurant in Soweto on Wednesday.

However, this much-awaited book is not only about Marah’s issues with her family background.

The mother of one (she had a daughter Moratuoa at the age of 17 with a childhood boyfriend) also celebrates her life as a star who has performed for many dignitaries over the years.

They include former president Nelson Mandela and Struggle stalwart Walter Sisulu.

She also deals with issues of racism during the years of apartheid and post-apartheid.

Her past lovers are not spared either as she names a number of them, some of whom play prominent roles in society today.

They include choral conductor George Mxadana (who she says was her first boyfriend), Billy Thompson from Scotland, her husband for 19 years until they divorced acrimoniously in a highly publicised case in 2004, and well-known musician Thapelo Mofokeng, her boyfriend in the 1970s.

The actress also touches on controversial and well-publicised events regarding her professional life in recent years, and how her drink was spiked when she was a judge in Idols SA, an episode that led to her axing from the show.

She claims in the book that she knows who spiked the energy drink with vodka, resulting in her getting visibly drunk on air.

* It’s Me, Marah will be launched at Vilakazi Restaurant in Orlando West, Soweto, on Wednesday.

The Sunday Independent