Close-Up | Dubai or not Dubai: An open letter to Khanyi Mbau

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Khanyi Mbau. Photo: Gallo Images/Oupa Bopape
Khanyi Mbau. Photo: Gallo Images/Oupa Bopape

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Dear Goddess

I saw you trending on Twitter the other day. Well, duh, what’s new? You’re always trending.

You are a trend. The word “trending” was created with you in mind. The People’s Poet, Mzwakhe Mbuli, should write a poem about you. Something like:

“Trend, trend, trend; oh, Mbau is trending again.

Zig-zag to the right, she is trending;

Zig-zag to the left, she’s trending.

The centre will forever hold,

’cos Khanyi is trending, trending ...nding ...ding ...ing.

Who is in Dubai? Is Bruce Lee in Dubai?

Is Rambo in Dubai? Is Bin Laden in Dubai?

Is Kim Kardashian in Dubai? Is Nicki Minaj in Dubai?

Because we know, Khanyi left a man in Dubai;

Waphum’engathi uyabuya in Dubai.”

Ah, look at this silly old man getting intoxicated by his own pseudo-witticisms.

What I am saying, my dear, is that even at my old age, you’re an inspiration. A tonic for tired nerves. Your shenanigans never fail to bring a smile to my face.

I had to write those lines to get your attention. You’re hard to pin down, you Khanyisile owakhanyisa imbawula.

To those of us who write fiction, if you were to create a character exactly like Khanyi Mbau, the publishers would laugh: “She is not believable!”

And, shem, the real-life Mbau is totally incredible. Khanyi, you are unbelievable.

I remember being a guest on your show some years ago. Was it Nespresso or Expresso? Something like that.

In as much as I felt honoured to be invited to your show, I was a bit confused. Why was an old fart like myself being invited to a show hosted by a vivacious young woman who appealed to the beautiful, young, fashionable people of South Africa?

My daughter, Gugu, who was a teenager at the time, had a ready answer: “Daddy, Khanyi is smarter than she is given credit for. She probably has read some of your books or has been impressed with your newspaper columns and she thought by inviting you to her show you would bring some gravitas to it.”

Gravitas. I like that word. It sums up what you are. Some people mistake gravitas for behaving dourly, boringly.

Maybe my daughter was right in her analysis of you. Maybe you had a good producer who was open-minded enough to invite old farts like myself to a fashionable TV show.

Anyway, based on my daughter’s reassurance, I accepted the invitation.

You, Khanyi, flew me – yes, yes, yes! – from Joburg to Cape Town.

Look at me, sitting in the studio, entranced by your thick lips, being smothered by your perfume.

I can see your lips moving; you must be asking me a question, but I can’t comprehend what you are saying because your cleavage has a more articulate and louder voice than your mouth.

It is only when you call me “Uncle Fred” that the spell gets broken. The injustice!

I’m younger than your former husband Mandla Mthembu, and am trimmer and more statuesque than that Afrikaner former boyfriend of yours, Somebody-or-the-other Gouws. A blob of fat, that guy. But you call me UNCLE FRED! The impudence!

But, coming from your lips those impertinent words have long been forgiven.

Khanyi, you may invite me on your show again, anytime! Wherever you’re hosting it, even Dubai. Especially Dubai. You can dump me there in Dubai if you want. The Guptas are also there. They’ll rescue me. I know they like Zulus and all.

Khanyi, you can even touch me on my studio. I won’t mind.

But... I’m getting lost in the thickets of my own words. I’m beginning to forget why I started writing this missive to you.

Let me take a puff of the thing I was smoking when the idea to write you first came. A puff will help me remember.

Ah, eureka! Now I remember! I started writing this letter simply because I saw you trending once again.

Some people are saying some nasty things about you. Some of them are saying it was unfair and unladylike for you to leave your boyfriend at that hotel in Dubai under false pretences.

READ: Khanyi hurt me and left me high and dry in Dubai – boyfriend

What they forget is that many of them have fathers who left their wives one morning saying they were going to get some milk and bread, never to be heard from again.

Who are they, then, to judge you? You are, after all, a single woman, an independent-minded lady.

If you decide you want to leave your boyfriend in Dubai, who are we to find fault with that?

Men dump women every day and no one complains. Now that you are taking the war to these men, you’re being vilified. They call you a gold-digger. Really?

You see, what these critics don’t want to admit is that men come to you hoping that your charisma, your fame, your class will rub off on to them. If they want to bask in your fame, they have to pay the price!

Like Dolly Parton, you are a feminist who doesn’t climb on the rooftop to proclaim your feminism.

In this, you remind me of Wole Soyinka, the Nobel laureate for literature fighting against fellow writers of the Negritude movement.

Very briefly, artists of the Negritude movement were saying an African writer must declare his or her blackness or Africanness before they write. OK, academics reading this, please don’t crucify me for this crude summary of Negritude.

Anyway, Soyinka refused to buy into Negritude and he explained why. He said a tiger doesn’t proclaim its tigritude, it pounces.

That’s you, you do not proclaim your feminism, you don’t theorise about feminism, you live it. You are it. Like Soyinka’s tiger, you pounce

Khanyi, continue burning like the mbawula (brazier) that you are.


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