Cape Town - Her previous relationship was the talk of the town. Zodwa Wabantu caused a stir when she dumped her fiancé a few months after she’d paid lobola for him – this is why she’s kept details of her new man close to her heart. Zodwa (34) is by no means ashamed of dating 23-year-old Vusi Buthelezi, she tells us.
She’s posted loved-up snaps of her bae on social media. But she’s learnt from the past and wants to protect her new relationship.
The dancer made headlines when she dumped her ex, Ntobeko Linda (24), after paying lobola for him. She’d bought their rings, picked a date and had fittings for her dress. Then, a few weeks after the engagement, she dropped the bombshell that the wedding was off.
"I was on the verge of marrying him but he became too much for me," she says.
It was a tough decision because "he was a part of me".
"I’d done things for him. When I started dating him, he wasn’t a celebrity but gradually he became one and I didn’t like that.
"I’ve always made it clear to him that I don’t like dating a celebrity because I’m a celebrity myself. This is because celebrity lifestyle is fake, and I don’t want to date a fake person. When I come back home, I need a real boyfriend not a fake one."
Now, Vusi is the man on Zodwa’s arm, and she’s ready to share that with the world.
"I am glad Vusi understands this. He grounds me, he always brings me back to normal life, he actually reminds me who Zodwa really is."
She took time to heal before starting afresh, she adds. They’d dated for four years and she’d hoped things would work out with him – they reconciled briefly – but deep down, she knew it wasn’t meant to be.
"When I met Vusi I had already healed so I’m definitely not on the rebound," she says.
"He was single, I was single. It’s important to note that I didn’t jump from one relationship to another. I waited. I mourned for Ntobeko because I loved him deeply."
Now she only has eyes for one man. When Vusi first laid eyes on Zodwa he knew he had to talk to her. He was nervous to go up to her but mustered the courage to introduce himself.
"I walked up to her at a steakhouse in Florida Road, Durban, and introduced myself," he recalls. "I had no intentions except doing business with her. I offered to brand her bus and she agreed. At that time there was no spark at all, we were simply doing business."
Vusi, a student at Durban University of Technology, runs a graphic design business and charged her about R10 000 for the job.
"She was happy and after that gave me more jobs. We started warming up to each other. We’d check up on each other on a regular basis and we started going out together.
"Whenever I was free, I’d visit her, and she’d do the same. I guess we were missing each other and we weren’t even realising it. We didn’t realise we were falling for each other."
It was only three months later that Vusi realised there was a spark between them. He trusted his instincts and asked her to be his girlfriend.
"I had a sense that she loved me too, but she was too shy to tell me. I can still remember... it was in the evening and she’d come to see me.
"We were sitting in her car and I looked her deep in the eyes, she blushed and smiled. I then took her hand and told her I love her. Since then we’ve been inseparable – every day we are falling in love," he gushes.
He can’t take his eyes off Zodwa as we catch up with the couple in their hometown, Durban, at uShaka Marine World, and Zodwa is equally smitten.
"I feel fresh and rejuvenated, I’m celebrating a new relationship. I’m celebrating my youth once again," she beams.
Vusi says they’ve been dating since May but it feels like they’ve known each other for years.
"I know people are already judging me, calling me names. I’m not her Ben 10, I’m her boyfriend," he says. "They also think I’m dating her for benefits and her celebrity status.
"But that is not the case – I’m dating Zodwa the person not Zodwa the celebrity. She is the celebrity and I’m not, I have no ambitions of becoming one. And yes, she’s a bit older than me but it’s not the first time I’m dating an older woman. My ex-girlfriend was older than me. What is more important is that I can handle her."
He’s not dating her for her money, and even though they do business together, they separate business from pleasure.
"Our principle is that we should always separate business and our relationship. Of course, there will be favours here and there but they are far apart."
He feels so strongly about Zodwa he’s already taken her to meet his family.
"I’ve introduced her to my family and those who are close to me and she has done the same. I’ve met her son and some of the people close to her. I introduced her to my family because I knew they’d find out and I didn’t want that," says Vusi, adding that for now they’re taking each day as it comes.
"I cannot say if we’ll ever have a family or not. What we know is that we are happily in love. She has made it clear she doesn’t want any more children and I respect that. It doesn’t necessarily mean I agree, it simply means she’s not ready to have kids right now."
He thinks they’re a perfect match, though.
"We have opposite personalities. She is outgoing and I’m not. She’s a people person and I’m an introvert so she knows how to lighten me up. What people don’t know is that she is very sensitive, she’s a softie at heart and she cries a lot. She is streetwise and I’m more of an academic and businessperson. We actually complement each other."
She’s head over heels in love, but Zodwa admits she isn’t sure she’ll ever tie the knot and settle down.
"I know I don’t want to get married anymore. I almost got married and I don’t want to go that route anymore. I think it’s not meant for me. But then again, we don’t know where Mother Nature will lead us. For now we’re living in the moment.
"Our ambition is to nurture our love, build each other and see where love leads us," she says, shooting a loving glance at Vusi.
"I also understand he’s still young and has a long way to go. It’s my responsibility to make sure he finishes his diploma. I’ve got to make sure he doesn’t make silly mistakes while I’m around. That doesn’t mean I’m his mother, but I’ve got to show maturity."