In the hit song, Stimela sam’ saseZola, acclaimed playwright and musician Mbongeni Ngema uses vivid language to express his undying love which, at some point, he compares to a “finger lickin” bone!
The love song, released as the country was emerging from a dark period of apartheid, is a recurring backtrack of many relationships, with Ngema a source of both inspiration and hope for millions of South Africans.
He and his Sarafina crew embodied what black people could achieve when freed from apartheid.
The release of the book Heart of a Strong Woman by his ex-wife Xoliswa Nduneni-Ngema has, however, cast a shadow on so bright a star, questioning the basis of the hope and inspiration Ngema personified.
Nduneni-Ngema makes very disturbing claims in the book. She writes that Ngema, under the influence of alcohol following a reconciliatory dinner in Durban, took out a wheel spanner and threatened to rearrange her jaws so that she was no longer attractive to other men.
She writes further that Ngema assaulted her in her room in Nigeria, suspecting she was with another man. But when he found no one, he tried to push her out of the window outside of which were steel blades that would obviously have killed her. The book is a repository of horror stories that show Nduneni-Ngema is indeed a strong woman.
While Ngema has opted to say that he will only comment once the book is officially launched, noting that new platforms that give people a voice require “incredible amount of discipline, honesty and transparency”, he further says he could only defend himself after getting a copy of the book.
We wonder what’s taking him so long. The book is already available at Exclusive Books.
It is also curious that when so gruesome a tale is told, there’s no need to prevaricate. It is either Ngema was in that hotel room in Nigeria and failed to push her out the window or not. It is either he threw half a brick on her car in Daveyton when Xoliswa’s father charged at him for being an abuser or not.
It is either he tried to get married to Leleti Khumalo while married or did not. Hide and seek won’t help. This Women’s Month, Ngema must either come clean and confirm what he knows is true or prove that the hair-raising allegations against him are false.
It is sad that the best among us, the ones who give us hope, are the ones who disappoint us the most. The kind of rage described in the book and the pain suffered over many years by Nduneni-Ngema can only mean, if true, that Ngema must be held responsible for his actions while his former wife must be assisted to heal.
The book may be cathartic for Nduneni-Ngema. It may not be enough – in the same way that a mere sorry from Ngema will not suffice.