HE WAS a Jacob Zuma supporter through and through. When the nation raged over the state the former president had left the country in, he sang Zuma’s praises. And when the former statesman “brought shame” to Fartescue Conco’s house by impregnating his youngest child, he stood up for the politician.
His daughter, Nonkanyiso Conco, wasn’t forced to sleep with Zuma, Fartescue told DRUM when news broke that Zuma had fathered a child with the 24-year-old. But now the pensioner is singing a different tune and is nowhere near as pleased with his grandchild’s father.
Sakhumuzi Zuma, born on Zuma’s 76th birthday in April, is believed to be the former statesman’s 23rd child, and the firstborn of Nonkanyiso, a staunch promoter of virginity testing, who Zuma had met at a traditional ceremony.
Zuma has impregnated a total of 15 women and Nonkanyiso is the 15th. With these 15 women, Zuma has sired a total of 24 children – a super dad indeed.
Fartescue (88) saw no problem with how the lovers met or the 52-year-age gap between them. It was just another smear campaign and people were “trying everything to have Zuma jailed”, he said.
He was looking forward to being father-inlaw to the man just 12 years younger than him – but first Fartescue wanted Zuma to “cleanse his house” by paying lobola. Now he says he hasn’t received a cent and Zuma has gone from hero to zero in the old man’s eyes.
We’re welcomed into the family’s home in KwaPata, Pietermaritzburg, by Fartescue’s wife, Thoko. He’s seated on a cream leather couch in the modest living room. The couple’s helper, Nozuko Mfeni, who helped raise Nonkanyiso, is also there. The house is fraught with tension – the trio is so quiet you can hear a pin drop. Eventually, Fartescue speaks.
Nonkanyiso’s engagement to Zuma has torn the family apart, he says. His family doesn’t want him to air their laundry, but Fartescue is fed up. “I want my lobola and damages for my daughter’s pregnancy,” he fumes.
He wants everyone to know how he truly feels. He’s disappointed with his daughter and he’s furious with her fiancé. “Zuma made me a bloody fool. He must pay the damages; I’ve had enough of his lies.”
Fartescue is drained by all the deceit. His daughter and her mom, Nombuso, asked him to present a particular story to the media. “I was told to lie but now I’m tired of living a lie.
“A day before DRUM visited me I was forced to cover up for Zuma’s shame and portray him as a good person,” he reveals. “He isn’t – he has made me a fool and I regret my words.”
HE LAST spoke to Zuma when he was visiting Nonkanyiso in Ballito where she lives in an “upmarket” flat. Fartescue begged him to follow traditional customs. “I spoke to Zuma on Nonkanyiso’s phone and he agreed to pay the damages. But I haven’t received anything.”
Fartescue says his insistence that Zuma pay him has caused friction in the family. “Everyone has turned against me because I keep asking when Zuma is paying the damages and lobola. As Nonkanyiso’s father, I have the right to ask these questions. I raised her and I’m trying to protect her.”
Fartescue is frank when he talks about Nonkanyiso’s childhood. He met her mother when they were both married.
“I had two children from my wife, Thoko, but this didn’t stop us from dating each other. When Nombuso became pregnant I suggested we move to her hometown, Matatiele, where we could live together with our child.”
The former bus driver built a house there where the couple lived with Nonkanyiso as well as Nombuso’s three children from her estranged husband. “I’d made it clear to Nombuso I’d do anything for her except marry her. When we broke up I took Nonkanyiso with me, and my wife raised her. Nombuso moved to Joburg.”
Thoko is still hurt by Fartescue’s betrayal and doesn’t want to be drawn into the discussion. “I raised Nonkanyiso but I don’t wish to be involved in this,” she says before leaving the room.
Fartescue is angry. “I raised Nonkanyiso while her mother was in Joburg struggling to make a living.”
He flips through an old family photo album. “I sent her to Model C schools as I wanted her to have a brighter future.”
The outraged father wants Zuma to pay R30 000 for Nonkanyiso’s hand in marriage.
Nonkanysio has cut all ties with her father. The last time he saw her was in May. “She’s blocked me and has changed her number,” he says. “She won’t take my calls. She only communicates with her stepmother and her biological mother.”
He wants people to know his daughter doesn’t have his blessing. “I never approved of Nonkanyiso and Jacob Zuma’s relationship. All along I’ve been pretending to be okay with it but I’m not.
“I raised her well and I honestly didn’t expect Zuma as her boyfriend. When I learnt she was pregnant I was shocked. But it was too late to do anything.”
HE GOT wind Nonkanyiso was pregnant sometime last year. “She hinted someone wants to pay lobola for her,” Fartescue recalls. “I told her to send that person to me.” He dismissed the conversation when no one approached him to discuss lobola.
“When she was pregnant she’d come visit us, but I never noticed anything because she’d wear big clothes to hide the pregnancy.”
He learnt through media his daughter had given birth to Zuma’s son and “felt both angry and undermined.”
Fartescue wants to be clear he’s not angry at his grandson. “I’ve only seen Sakhumuzi once and I love him. I have no problem with this child. I just have a problem with his parents,” he stresses.
“What makes me angry is that both Nonkanyiso and Zuma made me lie.”
Fartescue says he was visited by Nonkanyiso and Nombuso at Zuma’s request. “They told me to lie to the media. I was supposed to tell the public Zuma paid R184 000 towards lobola.”
But he hasn’t received a cent. “I believe it was actually paid to Nombuso,” he
When we ask Nombuso for comment, she’s outraged by his claims. “Fartescue
uyaphapha (he’s too forward, that one.) I raised Nonkanyiso all by myself. He won’t get a cent from me,” she says before hanging up.
Meanwhile repeated attempts to get comment from Nonkanyiso proved fruitless. When we eventually got through to her she dropped the call when she heard it was DRUM, and blocked our number.
Zuma’s chief negotiator, Joseph Zuma, says he’s taken the matter up with the former president. “I spoke to him and I can tell you, lobola wasn’t paid. I’ll personally deal with my brother.”
When asked when he’d finalise the matter with Zuma, Joseph said it was hard to give a timeframe as “it’s been difficult to sit him down”.
It remains to be seen when lobola will be paid, and if Nonkanyiso will make it down the aisle.