Revered playwright Mbongeni Ngema’s ex-wife, Xoliswa Nduneni-Ngema, says she klapped Sarafina protagonist Leleti Khumalo almost to a pulp after discovering that she was involved in an adulterous aff air with her husband.
Nduneni-Ngema has revealed the startling news, which was kept hush-hush, in her memoir titled Heart of A Strong Woman, written by seasoned author Fred Khumalo. Narrating the drama, Nduneni-Ngema, who is currently the CEO of Joburg City Theatres, said she left Joburg in 1985 and went to KwaZulu-Natal to finish her degree, leaving the Sarafina crew, including Khumalo and her husband, to continue with the work of the theatrical drama in preparation for a series of overseas performances.
Nduneni-Ngema, who was in charge of the finances of Mbongeni’s company, Committed Artists, regularly contacted the company director who dropped hints about affairs among the cast and crew members. She said in one of her long phone calls with Mbongeni, he told her Khumalo was under the weather with ulcers. Nduneni-Ngema said she suggested Mbongeni take Khumalo to her mother’s home in Daveyton so she could look after her. “Leleti joined the rest of my family at our home and received care from my mother until she recovered and rejoined her fellow cast members,” she writes.
She said she was shocked when her mother warned her to be careful of Khumalo when she returned home from Durban for the Easter holidays. Nduneni-Ngema said her mother told her that Khumalo would sit on Ngema’s lap when he came to visit her in her house and they would hug each other and make jokes in front of her.
But Nduneni-Ngema dismissed her mother’s suspicion as misplaced because she considered Khumalo as way too young to have an intimate relationship with her husband. She said when she later realised that everybody knew about the furtive dalliance between Khumalo and her husband, she went bonkers and decided to show her flames in 1987.
“Because I couldn’t deal physically with Mbongeni, I thought I should reach for the low hanging fruit. At the back of the hotel we were using as our base was the Oriental Plaza parking lot and in it there were some trees. I cut a nice steady switch from one of the branches. I took it back to the old hotel, back to the room I shared with Mbongeni,” she said.
She said when she heard the cast members were back from the theatre in downtown Joburg where they were performing, she approached the female cast members who were in their room and ordered them, except Khumalo, to go outside. “The girls scuttled out of the room, screaming in shock. I fell on Leleti. I beat her. I beat her. But I was careful not to hit on her face. I also did not want to beat her on her legs. She had to go on the stage and perform the following day. So with my stick I concentrated on her body. She screamed, crying for mercy, crying for help. There was no mercy from me…’ After all I’ve done for you, you kick me in the face, bitch!’. I
beat her at my own leisure, knowing that Mbongeni was still at Kippie’s Jazz Club drinking. I beat her until she was silent,” she said. She said when Ngema returned, he intervened, beating her with the switch she had beat Khumalo with. It was then she decided to end the marriage.
Nduneni-Ngema’s violent behaviour seems to have been caused by Ngema’s list of extra-marital affairs, which included cheating on her with singer Tu Nokwe before moving on to Khumalo. Nduneni-Ngema said Ngema was abusive and displayed his abusive behaviour when he one day parked his car at her parents gate and hooted for her to come out. Since this had followed one of their many fights, her father, who was holding a stick, walked out and marched towards his car.
Ngema then picked half a brick and hit the windscreen of her car and sped off . So abusive was Mbongeni that one day when Nduneni-Ngema was at Committed Artists’ offices, Ngema walked towards her holding a plate of food and, unprovoked, threw it at her, in front of the cast and crew members. “Anyway embarrassed, I went to the toilet, cleaned myself up, then left the office immediately. As I drove from the scene of the attack, my clothes were still covered in blotches of beetroot juice,” she said, adding that her tears flowed when she also in his hotel room – ex-wife stick, walked out and marched towards his car.
Ngema then picked half a brick and hit the windscreen of her car and So abusive was Mbongeni that one day when Nduneni-Ngema was at Committed Artists’ offices, Ngema walked towards her holding a plate of food and, unprovoked, threw it at her, in front of the cast and crew members.
“Anyway embarrassed, I went to the toilet, cleaned myself up, then left the office immediately. As I drove from the scene of the attack, my clothes were still covered in blotches of beetroot juice,” she said, adding that her tears flowed when she also Leleti took a severe beating after cheating with Ngema noticed a piece of chicken stuck to one of her shoes.
Nduneni-Ngema also notes an incident at their place in the US when she found panties of a woman in their bedroom. When she asked him about them, he apologised. At their house in Daveyton, she said, the children who were living with her caught Ngema and their employee in their bedroom.
She also said Ngema took his abuse towards her to another level when he later refused to use his hands to eat food and ordered her to feed him. “Yes, put one spoonful of food in his mouth after another. One piece of meat after another. Mbongeni would complain ‘hey, you, these pieces you’ve cut are too big! Cut my meat into small piece’,” she said.