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So many potential dates, but where’s the chemistry?

Zimbabwean born author and screenwriter Sue Nyathi will chair a session on online dating at the Time of the Writer Festival tomorrow (Sunday).

Zimbabwean born author and screenwriter Sue Nyathi will chair a session on online dating at the Time of the Writer Festival tomorrow (Sunday).

Published Mar 18, 2023


Durban - Never has dating been easier, or more fraught. It’s easy to sign up for a dating website. But what are the realities of the dating battlefield? Are there any modern dating rules? How toxic is it really?

These are the interesting social questions three expert authors will discuss as part of Durban’s Time of the Writer Festival which runs this week.

The writers, who all explore romance and dating in their novels, will share their perspectives on navigating the modern dating scene.

Dudu Busani Dube is a writer and journalist and the author and a series of self-published books including Hlomu The Wife, Zandile The Resolute and Naledi His Love.

Her latest book, Zulu Wedding (2018) is based on the popular film by the same name.

Lebohang Masango has a Master’s degree in social anthropology from the University of Witwatersrand, and is an award-winning writer and poet. Her children’s book, Mpumi’s Magic Beads (David Philip, 2018), is available in all 11 of South Africa’s official languages.

Durban writer Thabile Shange has qualifications in communications, journalism and media studies as well as education. She published a youth novel “The Morning After” in 2018. “In the Midst of It All”, published last year, is her first novel for adults.

Chairing the panel will be Zimbabwean writer Sukoluhle “Sue” Nyathi. Born in Bulawayo, Nyathi and now lives in South Africa.

She describes herself as an investment analyst by profession but a writer by passion. She left the financial services sector in 2018 so she could pursue writing full time. This has led her to not only focusing on fiction, but screenwriting too.

In Zimbabwe she wrote the column ‘Steaming Off’ in the Sunday Mail, which was something akin to the Carrie Jones column in ‘Sex and the City’.

Nyathi has three published novels: “The Polygamist” (2012), “The Gold Diggers” (2018). and “A Family Affair” (2020).

She recently edited the anthology “When Secrets Become Stories, Women Speak Out” (2021), a compilation of non-fiction essays with a gender based violence theme.

The Independent on Saturday caught up with her this week.

“We’re going to have a conversation about dating in contemporary South Africa and what that looks like. All three of the panellists have books that look at dating or relationships.

“We need to define what dating is now. It’s not the same as it was when I was growing up. I was born in 1978 and was dating in the 90s. I have never married, so have been in the dating market for 20 years. And how dating has changed. I find myself thinking, ‘I don’t like it now’. It’s changed. I prefer the good old days,” she said.

For Nyathi those changes are especially bewildering for people who are getting divorced. “They were married in their 20s and are now in their 40s and things have changed so much.

“Where do you meet people? There are issues around dating and safety. There are also financial issues. What do women expect from men, or men from other men for that matter. Dating doesn’t only exist in a heterosexual context. .

“Beyond that there’s interracial dating which I explore in a later book and also intercultural, which Thabile explores in her debut novel In the Midst of It All, where a Zulu woman with a Nigerian partner are dating during a period of xenophobia.”

Nyathi said one of the areas of discussion would be around the toxicity of social media.

“Instagram and people posting on it, really it builds up unrealistic expectations of what a relationship should look like.

“And then people benchmark themselves against these unrealistic expectations.

“And our relationships play out on social media as well.

“It puts pressure on a relationship. When it doesn’t work out, you now have to explain yourself to your followers.”

She also doesn’t like the endless chatting on social media.

“It’s what I call another talking stage on WhatsApp. I don’t understand it. Why not meet for coffee or a drink? But now we’re talking online, and after 20 chats you might meet. You may get along online but when you meet there’s no chemistry. Who’s got the time?”

Nyathi tells how her move to South Africa in 2008 helped focus her on her writing. She still has unpublished novels, one she wrote as a 13-year-old that she would like to revisit.

It gave her more access to publishers and a literary public than she had in Zimbabwe.

It also inspired her novel gold diggers. She had studied finance in Zimbabwe because she didn’t think there was space for writing there, but in 2018 left the world of finance behind.

“I decided to leave to focus on my writing.

“I was straddling two worlds, two very diverse worlds that didn’t intersect very much.

“I had this career in finance and was trying to raise a child, and write.

“I thought, ‘If it doesn’t work out, at least I will know it’. I’m still writing,” she says.

Catch this interesting conversation Sunday at 7pm at Durban’s Alliance Française. Tickets cost R30 from webtickets.

The Independent on Saturday