Beneath the glamour lay a different story - one of constant cheating, abuse, polygamy and eventually a traumatic divorce. Xoliswa Ndudeni-Ngema’s story, published by Kwela Books and told to Fred Khumalo, sheds light on an important part of South Africa’s thetre history. Picture: Supplied.
Beneath the glamour lay a different story - one of constant cheating, abuse, polygamy and eventually a traumatic divorce. Xoliswa Ndudeni-Ngema’s story, published by Kwela Books and told to Fred Khumalo, sheds light on an important part of South Africa’s thetre history. Picture: Supplied.

I’m not angry, just telling my story, says Mbongeni Ngema’s ex wife on new explosive book

By Lesego Makgatho Time of article published Sep 27, 2020

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Johannesburg - What happened between Mbongeni Ngema, Leleti Khumalo, Xoliswa Nduneni-Ngema and many other women of Sarafina!?

The book Heart of A Strong Woman – From Daveyton to Sarafina: My Story of Triumph, tells Nduneni-Ngema’s story, now the CE of Joburg City Theatres. The book is written by Fred Khumalo.

“This is no angry book. I just want to tell my story. I have healed somehow, and now, I feel is the time to tell my story,” she said, speaking to the Sunday Independent on the genesis of her experience.

In the book, Nduneni-Ngema alleges that her ex-husband raped her at a Durban hotel eight months after they separated over his extramarital affair with Leleti.

Before the rape, she says, Ngema had threatened to break her jaw with a spanner. He also allegedly beat her so hard that she collapsed when she tried to leave the room the following day.

The rape allegedly occurred on the day Ngema picked her up from work, apologised for the affair and begged for them to rekindle their love.

However, she would have none of it and told him she was done. They had a heated argument, after which Ngema asked that they have dinner.

After dinner, she asked to be taken home, but Ngema is alleged to have become violent, stopping the car on the highway, accusing her of cheating and threatening to hit her with a spanner.

After calming down and putting the spanner back in the boot, Ngema allegedly drove to his hotel where he demanded sex. She said Ngema grabbed her and tried to take her clothes off when she refused.

“What happened to me thirty years ago is a story that needed to be told. It’s a story that was in my heart for a long time. It is one I told to my children, my family and people close to me.

“In 2018, I had time to breathe, and I decided to work on my story, and someone referred me to Fred Khumalo, and we took the time to visit all the places from back then that I occupied, and he was able to walk in my shoes and see where I grew up.”

She says it felt right to publish it in August as it was relevant to do so. All she wanted to do was break the silence.

“I became a zombie. And being a zombie meant I was powerless. My marriage brought me the highs and lows.”

One of the lessons she has learned from her life story is that when a marriage doesn’t work, one should leave.

“If your marriage becomes abusive – mentally, physically or emotionally, it is time to leave. If you stay, you are giving your partner license to hurt you more. I also need to forgive the younger me for allowing the abuse to happen. I need to reconcile the younger version of me with who I am now.”

In chapter eight of her book, Nduneni-Ngema recounts how she beat up actress Leleti Khumalo after finding out about her affair with her then-husband Mbongeni Ngema.

“I fell on Leleti. I beat her. I beat her. I was careful not to hit her on her face. I was also careful not to hit her on her legs. She had to go on stage and perform the following day. So with my stick, I concentrated on her body,” she writes.

Reflecting back on the experience, Nduneni-Ngema said she does not have a relationship with Khumalo, and still needs to reconcile with her.

“But I am hoping that one day we will be able to reconcile, together with the other cast members. We need to have a facilitated truth and reconciliation of our own, where we are able to talk and hash things out. We need to start talking about issues so we can all heal. The entire cast needs healing.”

When asked if she has found peace with Mbongeni, she says not yet.

“When you find peace, you find peace within yourself first. I am yet to find peace with him. I need to find out why he had to do all those things to me. I need that truth and reconciliation session, with not just him, but with all the cast members”.

In conclusion, all she says she wanted to do with this book was to tell her truth and empower more women.

“The book should empower you. If there is anything the reader should take away from this, it is to find peace and to not let your hardships determine your future. Here I am, still standing.”

♦ Heart of A Strong Woman – From Daveyton to Sarafina! My story of triumph is available at all major bookstores.

Sunday Independent

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