As a little girl growing up in rural KwaZulu-Natal, Nomachule Mngoma, nee Gigaba, better known as Noma in celebrity circles, had big dreams just like the rest of us. All she wanted was to chase her dreams – she wanted to be an independent woman and a pilot, and succeed so that she could help others. But life sometimes throws us in a different direction, and Noma was no different. She never imagined herself in the spotlight for the things she is currently facing. The past few months (and, in fact, years) of her life read like the script of a horror movie meets a thriller, but the mom of two is well on her way to rewriting the script.
LIFE GIVES HER LEMONS
She found herself behind bars – a reality she never thought she could face in her life. Her crime? Noma was arrested for malicious damage to property after allegedly scratching her husband’s friend’s luxury car in a fit of rage. Although this is an ongoing case, it has since emerged that her arrest by the Hawks was unlawful. Her estranged husband, Malusi Gigaba, had allegedly pulled a few strings with the Hawks, she says. The court later found this to be unlawful.
In a tell-all interview with TRUELOVE, a clearly emotional Noma says, “My unlawful arrest was shocking and really hurt me, but it opened my eyes to how we, as women, still need to go a long way before we overcome oppression, abuse and patriarchy. Standing up to challenge my arrest was not only for me; I did it for all the other women who are going through a similar situation.” She admits that although it was a very emotional and draining journey, she’s happy that justice was served, although the malicious damage to property case still continues (at the time of going to print, the case was set to be heard on 26 March).
GOING BACK TO HER ROOTS
It sounds as if Noma has been fighting battles behind the scenes that we are clueless about, but she has managed to stand tall. What’s liberating for her, and a first step forward, was going back to her maiden name, Mngoma. Even though she is still trapped in a Titanic of a marriage, she sees light at the end of the tunnel, and what better way to start a new chapter than by reclaiming her old surname.
“To be honest,” she says. “I wanted to change it as far back as two years ago when things got out of hand and my marriage was crumbling. It was the perfect opportunity. I am a Mngoma! It’s the person I am comfortable with, and going back to my surname has given me liberty. I wanted to belong to where I am from.” She emphasises that she didn’t want to wait for her divorce decree before changing her surname.
Noma continues, “I knew the public would have opinions and concerns. I needed to do it to be happy – it was about me and not anyone else. I told my family a week before I announced that I was changing my surname, and asked them to respect my decision.”
She admits, though, that moving from Mrs Gigabyte, a nickname she carried with pride, wasn’t as easy as she makes it sound. “I had to take my children into consideration, because it meant I had to tell them about the divorce so that they did not have to find out from outsiders why I was no longer using my marital surname,” she says, explaining that breaking the news of the divorce was hard, but she opted for therapy with her two boys, aged eight and nine, to help with the transition.
DOING THE UNEXPECTED
When Noma talks about her children, her face lights up and you can immediately tell that they mean the world to her and she would do anything for them. Because her divorce is not yet final and custody issues haven’t been ironed out yet, Noma makes a shocking revelation.
“Malusi and I are still staying together!” she sighs. “Some days are good, but at other times there is tension. We do try to be civil. People say I am being bitter, but there is no way I can leave my kids like that, and sadly, I can’t take them away until everything is final. I would like us to have an amicable divorce.”
Noma adds that this arrangement works, as he also does want to be involved in the life of his kids and they do have one thing in common – they both love their kids.
While most women wouldn’t dare be caught in such a situation, Noma has thick skin and doesn’t care what people will say or think. “Listen!” she exclaims, “I won’t be pressured into anything. After all, I am not a conformist. My kids are my priority, and I don’t care what people say. I can’t leave my kids just because I can’t stand their dad. It’s a toxic environment at times, but I am going to stay for the sake of my kids. I was raised by divorced parents, but they still respected each other,”
SEX SCANDALS RUINED HER MARRIAGE
Noma makes another startling revelation and says her marriage was over as far back as 2015. She says she was ready to walk away for good in 2018, but alleges that Malusi begged her to stay. “He said he was going through a lot and I felt sad for him, and because I was also studying, I gave him a chance. I blame myself for staying too long,” she reveals.
It wasn’t until last year that divorce was on the cards again, but this time initiated by Malusi. But in the bigger scheme of things, Noma says what led to the slow death of her marriage were the sex scandals, tapes, and extra marital affairs her husband had.
“He didn’t commit to our vows and marriage and I allowed him to lie to me. He was not accountable. Seriously, if I blame anyone I would be acting like a victim,” the IT specialist explains.
I can’t leave my kids just because I can’t stand their dad. It’s a toxic environment at times, but I am going to stay for the sake of my kids
PULLING HER DOWN
Upon revealing that she was getting a divorce, Noma became an object of public scrutiny, with other women saying she deserved what she was going through because she “had taken” Malusi from his ex-wife. Noma first made a public appearance with Malusi when the former finance minister celebrated his 40th birthday at the Radisson Blu Hotel in Sandton in 2011. From then on, her life was never the same. “Women say I deserve what is happening to me, but I don’t take it personally. They don’t know our history. It’s not as if I was the only person; it’s just that he married me out of everyone,” she pauses. “I can’t blame other women; it was him. I am not blaming anyone for the collapse of our marriage. He is the one who made the vows and broke them.”
IT’S TIME TO MOVE ON
Looking back, Noma admits that they had their fair share of happy times. “Malusi is a romantic and doesn’t talk much. I really loved those qualities,” Noma smiles, before putting on a straight face again. “But he killed the romance because it came to a point when he would shower me with gifts, but deep down I knew he wanted to get away with something. It was no longer genuine; it was a way for him not to be accountable. Looking back, I let a lot of things slide,” she says, adding that Malusi loved her in the 10 years they were together, of which six of those were marriage. She confesses that his weakness was other women.
While you may think this chapter might have put Noma off men for good, this isn’t the case. “I am a sucker for love, and I will love again. That is why I have gone for therapy. I hate painting people with the same brush and would hate to bring issues from my previous marriage into a new relationship. I will move on and will get married again one day.”
WINDING DOWN A HECTIC PAST
By the sound of things, Noma has reconnected with the little girl from Mzimkhulu, who had big dreams and plans.
I can’t blame other women; it was him. I am not blaming anyone for the collapse of our marriage. He is the one who made the vows and broke them
“A new me is already born. As much I am going through a process and there are days when I am not OK because I am human, I am my own inspiration because I am doing the things I have always wanted to do, regardless of what is happening. This is part of my journey. I am not expecting a smooth transition. This year I am working hard, and I need to be positive,” she beams with hope.
She is slowly reconnecting with her childhood, and what better way to do this than to help the people from her community through her foundation?
“My fondest memory of where I come from is the spirit of giving. People help each other with everything. You are never alone and you are raised by the whole community,” she recalls. “At some point, I had to put my foundation on hold because I was married to someone who is reserved and who doesn’t understand the spirit of giving, so as to avoid explaining myself all the time and argue why I need to give or donate to people who come from a disadvantaged background. I chose to put my foundation on hold, but I recently rebranded it and am now working on exciting projects. I’m so happy because it’s something that is close to my heart. The Noma Foundation is not political, and I no longer have restrictions on who I can work with.” Noma is also beside herself about her new baby – she bought a factory that manufactures clothing.
ROAD TO SUCCESS
Her road to success and starting over hasn’t been without twists and turns. It is hard to believe that this is the same girl who went to Singisi Junior Secondary School and walked about 10 km to get there. “My parents taught me to be humble wherever I am, and respect everyone around me, including strangers,” she emphasises.
And Noma has tried to be humble, but circumstances forced her to unleash the woman she never knew existed. “I am not here to be liked by any person. I am not frightened of people. I have learnt to stand up for myself and not to be hard on myself,” she says, adding that she’s always praying for strength. And judging by what she has been through and continues to go through, the new Noma is fearless and untouchable.