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 affair 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
I was careful not to hit her on the face … she had to perform 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 the beating.