Celebs and their secrets to a successful union

By Noor-Jehan Yoro Badat Time of article published Feb 14, 2012

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For Valentine’s Day, South African celebrities share their top tips for wedded blis


ARCHBISHOP DESMON TUTU has been married for 56 years to LEAH.

“Besides care for the other, honesty, respect and faithfulness – essential elements for any meaningful relationship – I would say there are three secret ingredients behind my enduring love affair with Leah.

“The first is encapsulated in the notice she has put on the mantelpiece proclaiming, ‘You are entitled to your wrong opinion’. It is about tolerating one another, even when you don’t always agree. Leah’s tolerance of me is definitely part of the glue that holds us together.

“The second special factor is humour, the ability to laugh with each other and at ourselves. Humour and humanity are closely interlinked.

“Last but not least is the desire to affirm one another, to be romantic, to show concern, to open car doors, to pay compliments: ‘You look smashing in that outfit, Wow! I love you!’”


DAWN and DES LINDBERG, SA’s much-loved showbiz duo, have been married for 47 years.

“We were married in a garden and wrote our own ceremony and our own vows. Needless to say, I did not promise to ‘obey or submit’ to my husband but I did promise to ‘love and cherish him in sickness and health’ which I think I’ve done quite well so far and he for me.

“Des hired a horse and cart to bring me to the wedding, but he forgot to cover the sign ‘Prima Meat’ with flowers so there I was, his prime hind quarter, delivered in style. I was furious.

“Contrary to what people might think, I am convinced that our marriage kept our careers going and the fact that we shared our work, play, joys of performing and being on stage together kept our marriage together.

“In other words, we didn’t have time to even contemplate divorce. We were too busy planning our next tour or production and if we parted, who would sing the harmonies? I’m very practical.

“Our focus was also on our family: our sons, my sisters and brothers, and now our grandies, Zaria, two, and Shia, one. We worked from home, so we were always on hand to help the kids with homework, and when the kids were small, we took them with us wherever we went. The family unit is and always was paramount.

“Here’s the secret formula: passion, compassion, hard work and, above all, a sense of humour. Being married to volatile Des, I did need a sense of humour.

“Des says: ‘Being married to dynamic Dawn, I had to develop one, or else!’

“P.S. We still hold hands at the movies.”


IAIN MACDONALD, the artistic director of the South African Ballet Theatre, and KAREN BEUKES, one of SA’s best loved ballerinas, married 11 years ago.

“Most importantly, we both love God more than ourselves and each other. Our shared faith in God keeps us united and is the most important aspect of our relationship.

“We also strongly believe in maintaining our friendship, have enormous respect for each other and laugh a lot together. We share the same sense of humour.”


Boxer JACOB ‘BABY JAKE’ MATLALA and wife MAPULE have been married for 21 years.

“She’s the love of my life, and we have two boys. My wife and I started dating in the 80s. We were friends first, then lovers and then we got married.

“The key thing in a marriage is communication and trusting one another. We respect and support each other.

“In the business I don’t shut her out. We’re involved in each other’s lives and also give each other space. At home we agree to disagree.

“It’s important to have a powerful woman to support you and you being behind her. Couples are made that way.

“I enjoy my marriage. It’s a difficult process but you work at it.”


Actress VINETTE EBRAHIM and her life partner, actor IVAN D LUCAS, have been together for 20 years.

“It’s not always easy because we’re both very passionate people. But I think our secret is saying how you feel when you’re feeling it. Also, don’t be afraid to seek help when you need it.

“Don’t be afraid, too, of being a bit silly at times with each other, even when you’re 50 plus. Sometimes in a relationship we take ourselves so seriously that we forget about the lovely things, especially as we get older. We forget the silliness that used to be attractive. Be that silly sometimes and don’t always be so serious. For our anniversary this year, we’re going to the Sting concert.”


Actor JACK DEVNARAIN and wife PAM have been married for 17 years.

“Part of the adventure is to be able to discover the person you are married to, and making sure that each of you grow as individuals within the relationship. I think for some people the big problem stems from the fact that they think they know everything there is to know about their partners. But I don’t think that’s true. As long as two people grow in a relationship there’s always something to discover. That is part of the adventure and what keeps the passion and spark alive. It’s essential in maintaining the marriage and union.

“I think the idea of wedded bliss is misleading and over romanticised. Certainly there’s a blissful stage. But how you manage your relationship determines the longevity of it.”


NKHENSANI NKOSI, founder of Stoned Cherrie and entrepreneur, and husband ZAM NKOSI, TV personality and production executive, have been together for 17 years but married for eight.

“I would attribute the strength of our marriage to a deep spiritual bond which is strengthened by the shared principles of honesty, open mindedness and willingness.

“We have known each other for years and have an unconditional acceptance of ourselves and each other. Although we both are consistently finding ways to improve ourselves, we never try to change each other.

“It also does not hurt that my husband is easy on the eye, nudge-nudge, wink wink.”


Actress BONNIE HENNA (nee MBULI) and her actor SISANDA HENNA have been married for seven years.

“First, fundamentally we believe in the same things and share the same values. We have a commonality in our faith which is actually half the job done. We use that foundation as the platform upon which we solve our issues.

“We know that forgiveness is key, holding a grudge poisons a marriage, and staying angry with one another is not allowed. If we have an argument, we’re not allowed to leave the house until the issue has been fixed.

“Vulnerability towards each other is also important. The other person is on your side, so you should not be defensive. We try to remain vulnerable to each other as much as possible. For example, we’re able to say when we’re feeling sad, needy or anxious.

“We set aside specific time to go out on dates, like going bowling, taking a walk or going to movies. If we don’t schedule it, it’s not going to happen. We’re stringent about it.

“A huge cornerstone for us is that we have marriage mentors. When we are struggling, we see couples who we’ve identified as having strong marriages and we open up to them about our problems. We ask them to hear us out and help us.

“Those are the times when we’ve had breakthroughs. We’re big on getting help and it’s amazing because people do want to help.They want to invest in young people’s marriages and want to see them grow.”


Performing artist and entrepreneur YVONNE CHAKA CHAKA and her husband DOCTOR TINY MHINGA have been married for 23 years.

“I don’t know if there’s a recipe for marriage. If it works, it works. You can do all the right things yet it can still fall apart. No one wants to get married and then divorced. You’ll want to work at it if you want to grow old together. So I don’t think there’s a recipe – it’s a work in progress.

“Obviously if there are kids and extended family involved, you’ve got to look at those things. But at the end of the day it’s all about you. It’s all about love, respect, understanding, tolerating and respecting each other’s views.

“With me what you see is what you get. I don’t pretend to be someone else. You can’t also just go and want to change somebody.”


Actress LEEANDA REDDY and her husband CLIVE CHETTY have been married for 13 years.

“My tips? Ladies, it’s knowing not to ask ‘Do I look fat in this?’, but rather ‘Which do I look hotter in?’

“Men need to know that massage is king! And bribery works too!”

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