His face features in every picture in the double-storey house. The largest portrait, a hand painted likeness of the handsome gospel star, hangs in the doorway of the home he bought with his wife in Dainfern, north of Joburg.
In the lounge the nine Samas and handful of Crown Gospel Music awards Sfiso Ncwane won are proudly on display in a locked glass cabinet. It’s been three years since the popular singer died but little has changed in the home he shared with his wife and their kids.
Even the bedding is the same set they used when the Kulungile Baba hit maker was alive. Ayanda Ncwane says some of her friends find it creepy she has so many reminders of her late husband. It’s like living with a ghost, they say, but Ayanda (34) believes taking it all down will symbolise letting go – and that’s something she just isn’t ready to do.
“When I’m ready to remove his pictures, it will happen naturally,” she tells DRUM. “I still feel very connected to Sfiso,” she adds. “I know we said the vows – till death do us part – and death did part us, but I am not ready to part. I haven’t been able to accept that. I’m not ready to let go.”
Everything is just as Sfiso left it when he died suddenly from kidney failure at the age of 37 on 5 December 2016, leaving a heartbroken Ayanda to care for the couple’s two young children, Ngcweti (14) and Mawenza (11). She becomes emotional when she speaks about the man she thought she’d spend the rest of her life with.
“Sometimes the boys and I behave as though Sfiso might walk in the door any minute,” Ayanda says, her eyes welling. “We speak about him and prepare food the same way we used to and end up watching his DVDs to help us feel better.” The widow is intent on keeping his memory alive and has now poured all her grief into a book dedicated to her husband.
For the Love of Sfiso Ncwane reveals intimate details about her before she married the gospel singer, and the strain his fame later caused. The couple would’ve celebrated their 10th anniversary in 2017. Sfiso, she says, had always planned to write a book to commemorate the occasion, and now she’s fulfilled his wish.
They met in Johannesburg when Ayanda, then 18, had gone to buy ice cream with a group of friends. “He asked me, ‘Manje (Now), what is a beautiful girl like you doing in a big city like this alone without family?’ I told him I was working to raise money to further my education and also pursue my passion for modelling and acting,” she writes.
They clicked as they both came from KZN. “We had a long conversation. At the end of the conversation, he said, ‘Yaz, Ayanda, mina ngizokushada one day (You know, Ayanda, I’m going to marry you)’.” But Ayanda wasn’t interested in dating. She’d been wary of men after an incident in her teens left her traumatized.
“My fear of men was made even worse when a neighbour broke into our house one night and tried to rape me,” she reveals in her book. “The neighbour tried to suffocate me with a pillow as he attempted to force himself on me. I managed to scream for help, and Gogo Cici heard me and immediately came to my assistance.”
She never saw the neighbour again, and later opened up to Sfiso about the incident. In the chapter titled The Final Year, Ayanda shares details of his last days. “One morning, late in November 2016, Sfiso woke up very excited. He had a dream where he had been invited to a palace in Birmingham UK, where he was to perform for Queen Elizabeth,” she writes.
“In his dream he saw a convoy of white horses and chariots coming towards his car to receive and escort him into the palace yard. When he entered the palace he was ushered in, welcomed and told they had been expecting him and were preparing the stage for him to perform. On the stage he saw a gold microphone similar to the one he had customised for himself.”
She believes the dream was a sign from God. “He knew he was going to die, but we ignored the signs and it only hit me after he passed,” she says. In the same chapter she shares how Sfiso cleaned the house and bought groceries before he died. “He was preparing us for his departure.”
They were devoted to each other, but Ayanda and Sfiso’s relationship wasn’t perfect. She was branded a gold-digger by his family, and the tension between Ayanda and her mother-in-law, Fikile Ncwane, is well-documented. “Sfiso was a breadwinner at home and, unfortunately, everyone who marries a breadwinner will go through what I went through,” Ayanda says.
“They will always be hated and accused of spending their child’s money.” Her book doesn’t delve into her relationship with Fikile as Sfiso wouldn’t want her to. “In my culture, you don’t discuss your in-laws,” she adds. “I still regard his biological mother as my family and I wish one day she’ll accept me.”
Her sons are adjusting but Ngcweti and Mawenza still miss Sfiso. When they’re feeling down, Ayanda tells them to write letters to their father. In this way she’s also able to monitor their healing. “Ngcweti wrote a funny letter telling his dad he had lost weight and if his dad was around, he’d be the only one in the house with a big belly.”
On special occasions she takes them to visit Sfiso’s grave. “I don’t know what to say when I get there because the wound is still fresh.” Ayanda doesn’t see herself finding love soon. “I’m still learning to live without my husband, and dating is the last thing on my mind.” But this hasn’t kept suitors at bay.
Ayanda says men hit on her while she was on the mourning mattress. “When Sfiso passed I was getting calls from men wanting to take me out, even after his burial. I don’t take them seriously. Anyway, I know Sfiso wouldn’t want me to date at all – he was super jealous,” she says with a laugh.
“I just wonder if the next man will be strong enough to be with a woman who will forever be labelled Sfiso Ncwane’s wife.” He’ll also have to measure up to Sfiso. “I feel sorry for the man who will follow as I’ll always compare him to the way Sfiso loved me. “It will take a strong and special man to understand my journey.”