The street is lined with people – practically everyone in KwaMadlala has come to see the traditional wedding of one of KwaZulu-Natal’s most prominent sons.
Businessman Musa Mseleku, clad in ibheshu, a traditional Zulu garment made of cowhide, beams as he waits for his bride to arrive at his childhood home.
She reaches the gate bearing gifts of blankets, sheets and food for her in-laws as part of umembeso.
Busisiwe Cele has spent the past 17 years married to Musa (44) but felt she couldn’t really call herself his wife – until now, the day they celebrate their traditional wedding.
The bride is wearing isidwaba (a traditional black skirt), with ubuhlalu (beads) draped over her shoulders and isicholo (a flared hat) with a white veil that covers her face. Her entourage ululates as she enters Musa’s home where he ties inyongo (goat’s gall) around her wrist as part of a custom that officially welcomes her into the family.
Finally Busisiwe, better known as MaCele, is officially Musa’s makoti.
When she has a moment to catch her breath she tells DRUM she’s waited a long time for this day.
The couple, who found fame on Mzansi Magic’s reality show Uthando Nes’Thembu, wed in a white wedding in 2002 but MaCele believes it’s the traditional wedding that seals their marriage.
“After today I can proudly call myself his wife,” MaCele (43) says.
She’s whisked off to the large white marquee where her 300 guests are waiting. Two cows have been slaughtered for the festivities and after everyone has tucked into their choice of roasted or boiled meat with usu (tripe) ujeqe (steamed bread), amadombolo (dumplings) and samp and beans, it’s time for MaCele to take to the stage.
She’s candid as she speaks of the challenges of accepting she’s part of a polygamous relationship.
“I asked God why He put me in this position, why He gave me this type of marriage,” MaCele says.
“Polygamy was against my values and beliefs. It was beyond my understanding. I was forced to adapt to the in God’s plan.”
She reads from the Bible and quotes Ephesians 5:22, “As a Christian I have no duty to love my husband. My obligation is to tolerate and obey him in everything he does.
“I’m glad the Mseleku family accepted me as I am,” she continues. “As a result I have maintained my individuality and I still do my own things.”
Whe it’s his turn to address the guests Musa praises MaCele’s devotion to him.
“MaCele has been by my side through thick and thin, she’s my friend, my rock, she knows my heart of hearts,” he says. “I have no doubt she’ll never leave me, no matter what. She loves me unconditionally. She’s my wife and the love of my life. I’m not as scared of her as most people think,” he quips.
The couple, who met at a supermarket 18 years ago, have three children. They’ve had their fair share of ups and downs over the years.
“She’s been through hell and she survived,” Musa tells guests.
MaCele, a devout Christian, initially battled to accept his polygamous lifestyle he acknowledges. “She dumped me and went back to her parents’ house, but I never gave up on her. I’d go sit by the gate until she came back home.”
He has three other wives, but according to Musa, MaCele is the chosen one.
“I’ve constantly assured MaCele that taking multiple wives doesn’t mean I love her any less. In fact, she was chosen by my ancestors to look after this family.
“My actions were never meant to embarrass you or your family and friends,” he tells her in front of their guests.
“That’s why I’ve done things exceedingly to prove my love for you. You deserve a crown because you’ve endured so much for me. I still haven’t done enough to thank you.”
At first MaCele’s family rejected Musa’s lifestyle, her sister Dani Maphumulo tells DRUM.
“When he took other wives after MaCele, we hated him,” she says.
Musa had asked MaCele’s permission to marry his second, his third and his fourth wives.
“MaCele’s family felt disrespected and belittled,” Dani recalls.
“We felt as though she wasn’t worth anything to him. After some time he made us understand he’s a polygamist. He also proved MaCele is still his number one – he fought for her.”
Five days later Musa is ready to say “I do” – this time to Nokukhanya Yeni-Mseleku.
It’s the second time the businessman is marrying his second wife. Nokukhanya, known as MaYeni, wed Musa at home affairs over 10 years ago and now she’s getting her white wedding, with their traditional wedding at Musa’s KwaMadlala home the following day.
But for now the groom can’t stop smiling as he waits for his bride to arrive.
Musa is dapper in a crisp blue suit. Pink and white blooms adorn the altar and the banks of the Umtamvuna River are the perfect backdrop for the couple’s big day.
It’s a sunny day and guests are offered parasols as they take their seats and wait for MaYeni (38) to make her grand entrance. Their son, Mnini (5), is their pageboy and walks ahead of his mom carrying a wooden placard proclaiming: “Just wait until you see her!”
The bride is indeed a sight to behold as she arrives in a boat at Umtamvuna River Lodge in Port Edward. She’s breathtaking in a champagne satin gown adorned with elegant flower motifs. Her hair is swept up into a trendy side bun and a pair of nude Jimmy Choos completes the look.
After wedding vows are exchanged they’re swept away to take photos while the 150 guests are treated to bread, crackers, cheeseboards and fruit canapés.
The reception kicks off with calamari rings, creamy mussels and chicken kebabs for starters.
Then it’s on to speeches where Musa pays tribute to his wife.
“I thank MaYeni for not giving up on me. She’s been a good wife and she also deserves a crown.
“I just hope she’ll stop threatening to leave me after today,” he says, to much laughter from guests. “That scares the hell out of me! Besides, it’d be a huge embarrassment.”
After the speeches, the couple’s family and friends are spoilt for choice with dinner options of butter chicken, mild Durban lamb curry, kingklip with tomato and olive, lemon and herb roasted chicken and Greek lamb. Side dishes include steamed vegetables, creamy spinach, broccoli-bacon bake, vegetable couscous, basmati rice and baby potatoes.
The four-course meal ends with a dessert spread of carrot cake, mixed berry pavlova and a chocolate cake. Once everyone is fed, the couple have time for a quick chat.
“When I saw her walking down the aisle I couldn’t contain myself. I realised I loved her more,” Musa says.
“When I said my vows, my eyes suddenly filled with tears because I was thinking about all the sacrifices she’s made for me and the family.”
They’ve been through a lot, that much is clear. MaYeni has been with Musa longer than MaCele and reveals he cheated on her with MaCele while they were dating.
“When I found out he was seeing somebody else I confronted him,” she says.
“He didn’t deny it, but he also assured me he still loved me. I gradually accepted he was seeing somebody else and there was nothing I could do about it.”
Her acceptance did little to ease the betrayal she felt when she discovered Musa was marrying MaCele.
“I found out on the day of his wedding,” she says.
MaYeni was doing her weekly shopping in town when a friend stopped her and asked why she wasn’t at her wedding. She also found it odd that her phone was abuzz with messages congratulating her on her marriage.
“I called Musa. Again, he didn’t deny it,” she recalls. “I was shattered. I felt disrespected and humiliated.”
Musa begged for forgiveness and MaYeni eventually relented, but she says their marriage nearly crumbled because she wasn’t ready for the third and fourth wives.
He had told her he was courting Thobile (29), yet MaYeni was still shocked when her husband later told her they had wed at home affairs. When Musa brought home MaKhumalo in 2009 “it nearly broke our marriage”, MaYeni says.
“I prayed hard for strength and wisdom.”
Later that year he told her of his intention to marry Mbali Ngwabe (36).
“On both occasions I wasn’t ready, but I refused to throw away my marriage.”
Over time she’s come to accept Musa’s choices.
“We’ve been married for over 10 years. I still love him and I know he loves me deeply. I know I’m the queen of his heart and I’ve never felt threatened by other wives. I don’t have to feel jealous because I’m married to Musa and not his wives.”
Yet she won’t stand for another wife.
“If he dares bring a fifth wife I’ll leave him,” MaYeni says. “I’ve already reconciled in my mind that should he introduce another wife I’ll divorce him. I’m ready to take my children and start a new life without him.”
Musa has made no secret he wants to father 20 children. He has three kids – Lwandle (16), Abongwe (14) and Owami (7) – with MaCele.
Mpumelelo (17), Mnini (5) and Obanzi (23 months) are his kids with MaYeni, and he’s fathered Mawande (7) and Zenande (2) with MaNgwabe.
He had two relationships outside his marriage that didn’t work and two daughters from those relationships.
Snenhlanhla (23) lives with first wife MaCele and youngest wife MaKhumalo looks after Mpiloenhle (16).
Musa wants to add another wife to have more kids but MaYeni is having none of it. “It’s not my problem he can’t get five children from each of us. It’s also not my problem not all of us can give him children,” she says.
MaYeni doesn’t want more children and “I also don’t expect him to have children outside marriage”.
But Musa brushes aside MaYeni’s threat. “Unfortunately not all my wives support the idea but it’s going to happen. I want another wife.
“MaKhumalo and MaCele have no problem with it,” he adds. “They’ll probably search and find that special someone for me. I’m not so worried about MaYeni – we’ve been on this path before so I know how to deal with her.”
It’s MaYeni’s wedding day so he’s reluctant to reveal if he has someone in mind.
“I can’t say if there’s someone. What I can say is I must finish what I’ve started, and that’s focusing on Thobile and Mbali’s weddings.”
The weddings of his remaining wives are already being planned and will likely be shared with the public when the family’s reality show returns later this year.
And perhaps then Uthando Nes’Thembu viewers will get a peek into the making of Musa’s new makoti.