If there was Twitter and Facebook back in 1991, Xoliswa Nduneni-Ngema would have trended the whole Friday of December 20th that year and the weekend that followed. This was because of her strategic move in ending what was supposed to be one of the much-celebrated unions in South Africa’s entertainment industry.
If you were born after that year or too young like me to recall the events of that fateful day, you are probably asking yourself two questions.
What really happened on the 20th of December 1991?
And, who is this Xoliswa Nduneni- Ngema?
Well, the answers to all your questions are in this riveting and searing memoir titled, Heart of a Strong Woman- From Daveyton to Sarafina! My Story of Triumph.
In this memoir, Xoliswa Nduneni-Ngema, who is the ex-wife of Mbongeni Ngema recounts the events of that day in December 1991. Most importantly, she narrates the story of her own life, her upbringing in Daveyton township, a career in theatre, the genesis of Sarafina and her formidable role in the production. However, the story largely centres around her tempestuous and violent marriage to Mbongeni.
Heart of a Strong Woman provides a voice for Xoliswa to give answers to all the questions many South Africans and the world had about why Mbongeni and Leleti Khumalo’s wedding ceremony was cut short in 1991.
Now, I need to admit that Xoliswa has a strong character that helped her emerge from an abusive, torturous, and brutal life experience to become one of the most respected business executives in the country.
While this is Xoliswa’s way of finding healing by telling her story,it is worth mentioning that I found myself very angry while eating away at the pages.
I was angry at this gigantic figure of South African theatre Mbongeni Ngema, for having made Xoliswa’s life horrendous and traumatic for years.
Secondly, I was angry at myself as a man, for the mere fact that abuse of women continues to show its ugly face even today and it is us, black men, who are the biggest preparators of such evil deed.
This is a book that will change and save the lives of many people, especially women who are trapped in sexually and physically abusive marriages.
For us, black men, this book will provide the much-needed education that forcing your wife or girlfriend to sleep with you constitute sexual assault, which is a criminal offence.
Xoliswa has indeed added the much-needed voice and has given courage to young women in our society, particularly in the entertainment industry to speak out against sexual predators in the industry.
One issue which I thought Xoliswa will address in the book was why she still carries the surname of her ex-husband, who is no longer part of her life.
Besides that, this book is a must-read and a great addition in South Africa’s literature that continues to raise awareness around issues of sexual abuse and gender-based violence faced by women and children in South Africa.
Credit should also go to Fred Khumalo, who co-authored the book for delivering this story with simplistic language and also the short chapters that keep the reader’s attention intact throughout.
Khumalo showed his great skill as a writer and journalist, as he demonstrated the spirit of fairness by seeking a counter-response from Mbongeni for all that has been said in the book against his barbaric behaviour.