Inside Menzi Ngubane and Sikelwa Sishuba’s breathtaking traditional wedding

He dances gleefully to the gate to welcome his bride.  The  day  he’s  been praying for has finally  arrived  and  he  can’t   wait to open the gates  of his home in Nazaretha village in Ladysmith to her and her  family. And the fact she’s three hours late does nothing to damper his enthusiasm.

“I said one day I will marry you and I kept my promise,” actor Menzi Ngubane says to his bride, smiling from ear to ear. Today there’s no sign of the hardcore TV villains he often plays – he’s just a man in love fulfilling a promise to the woman who captured his heart.  Menzi, 54, and Sikelelwa Sishuba, 39, held their umembeso and traditional wedding just in time for the holidays.

Menzi Ngubane and Sikelelwa Sishuba (PHOTO: Drum)

Decked out in ibheshu , a traditional  Zulu garment consisting of cowhide,  Menzi wanted to make this day perfect  for his queen – and there’s little doubt he  achieved his goal. Family, friends and neighbours ululate as Sikelelwa stands in front of the Ngubanes’ steel gate, watching Menzi and his entourage singing traditional Zulu songs as they make their way to the gate from the main house. 

Menzi’s eyes meet his bride’s as they share a private smile before she looks down again as is customary.  She’s wearing traditional Zulu regalia decked with beads and an isidwaba, a leather skirt made from the hide of ani- mals.  Her face is partly covered with an isi­ cholo (a flared hat) and beads.  Sikelelwa keeps her gaze downcast as a sign of respect for her in-laws as both families stand on opposite sides of the gate. 

Menzi Ngubane and Sikelelwa Sishuba (PHOTO: Drum)

Although the couple have been together for years, this is the first time Sikelelwa has set foot in the Ngubanes’ household “I told him I will not go to his family house until I am officially welcomed as his wife,” she tells us when she has a moment to chat. “I also explained this to his father.” The bride and her family are fined   R200 for being three hours late, but once the money has been paid the two families officially merge when the gates open and a sheep is handed over to her by the Ngubanes. 

This ritual is called imvuma – where the in-laws give the new bride permission to eat food inside the groom’s home. Sikelelwa changes into a beautiful beaded red dress designed by Sanette of Shifting Sands African Couture. “I am speechless. She’s too beautiful,” a beaming Menzi says of his beautiful bride.

Menzi Ngubane and Sikelelwa Sishuba (PHOTO: Drum)

The bride showers her new in-laws with gifts, including blankets, doeks, aprons and expensive whisky after which the couple make their way to a big marquee erected in the yard, tastefully decorated in shades of gold and bright red by a Joburg woman, Doreen Pedi, and hundreds of guests erupt in ululation again. Although the festivities started hours ago, guests still trickle in to see their idol getting married. 

“I’ve never seen so many beautiful cars in one place. Today I will also get a wife who is on TV,” one neighbour jokes. Saving the best gift for her husband, Sikelelwa presents him with a red bed- room suite. “I love red. Even my car is red,” she says, pointing towards her gleaming Mercedes Benz. Then it’s time for the feast.  On the menu is traditional fare – samosas with  green salad, beef stew, umleqwa  ( freshly  slaughtered chicken) and lamb chops, along with amadombolo (dumplings), umngqusho (samp and beans), rice and  spinach and pumpkin.

Guests could add coleslaw, chakalaka and beetroot and macaroni salad to their plates. The couple said “I do” in front of family  and friends, business people and many  famous faces from the entertainment in - dustry, including Thato Molamu, Menzi’s  work wife Thuli Thabethe, Charles Phasha, Sayitsheni Mdakhi, Mzwakhe Mbuli and Nhlanhla Mdlalose who was the  MC.

After their rings are blessed by Pastor Paul Akujo, Menzi tells us he’s happy he’s kept his promise to Sikelelwa.  “I got my diamond and no one will take her from me,” Menzi tells us. They call each other “dali”, an isiZulu term of endearment. “I know the kind of woman I’m marrying,” he says.  “I’m very grateful to God.

I remember when things were not going well for me, I prayed asking for unkosikazi (a good wife). I didn’t say I want umfazi (just a wife) but unkosikazi. ”

They’ve been through a lot together after meeting in 2004 at the SABC where Sikelelwa worked as a receptionist. It was love at first sight. “I  stood up to go to the ladies   and I didn’t see him.  He said, ‘Aw nkosazana! Intombi enyathela ngabantwana (Wow, princess! The lady with beautiful legs)’. I was blown away.”  But they broke up shortly after Menzi married Lerato Sedibe.

Menzi Ngubane and Sikelelwa Sishuba (PHOTO: Drum)

“I read in the newspapers that he got married,” Sikelelwa says. “I did hear rumours he was dating this girl but he denied it.” When she heard he’d married she tried   to call him but he didn’t pick up. “It was   clear I was a fool.”  She was hurt by the deceit, she says. “When he was building his house, I was there. I was the one doing the curtaining. It was all me but some people came with overnight bags.” 

She had to move on. Sikelelwa has two   daughters, Siya, 20, and Ziyanda, 9, from a previous relationship and although life was hard, they managed.  Sikelelwa, who now works as a scheduling executive at the SABC, says she had to stop thinking of Menzi. Meanwhile, his marriage was crumbling. “Even when I wasn’t working I would still go to work because I preferred   to be at the office than being at home,”   he tells us.

“When I did go home I would   pray to God and ask Him to help me.”  Lerato and Menzi divorced in 2013. “When the magistrate said, ‘Your divorce   decree has been granted’, it was a new day.” He knew who he wanted, he says. “I also knew it wasn’t going to be easy.”  It wasn’t easy for Sikelelwa to take  him back. In fact, it took a year of pleading before Menzi broke through the wall of ice she’d put up.  

“I wasn’t sure if he was coming back because he was hurt and lonely or because he loved me,” Sikelelwa says. But Menzi was persistent. “She said I disappointed her and she felt naked after what I did to her. I kept saying, ‘Baby, I am sorry’.” When Sikelelwa finally agreed to give him a second chance, Menzi assured her he wasn’t going anywhere.  “I told her only a fool makes the same mistake twice. Even if she wanted to be with someone else, I was willing to follow her to him. I wasn’t going to give up on her,” he says. 

Eventually Sikelelwa gave in. “I thought better the devil you know than the angel you don’t.”  A year and eight months later Menzi proposed and in August 2015 he went to pay lobola. Sikelelwa’s mother had doubts about her daughter marrying a famous actor but she convinced her mom he was the one for her.  “I told my mother I loved him for who he is, not what he has. Menzi is the love of my life. Sometimes ngathi ngiyachoma (it’s like I am bragging) but I am happy. I deserve this.”

Menzi Ngubane and Sikelelwa Sishuba (PHOTO: Drum)

Menzi says he regrets ever leaving Sikelelwa. “I left Siki when I was still at my peak. If I hadn’t we would have come far – we would be living in a triple-storey house and driving a Mustang.” But he’s doing everything to keep his wife happy. “I had flat-out hit rock bottom and I had accepted I was down and out.

But she was there. I love her and sometimes it’s like I am not doing enough.” He loves the kind of woman she is, he adds. “Siki is respectful. I remember when I first introduced myself, I told her I was Menzi, but after we started dating I was never Menzi. She would call me Mbomvu or  Somahhashi (his clan names).

That really touched me because   none of the women I dated have called   me that. It was really special.”   One of the worst challenges Menzi faced was kidney failure in 2011, back when he and Sikelelwa had parted ways. “I’d hear rumours he was dying or he’d died,” she recalls. “He called me one time saying he was cold and hungry. I took him clothes and food but it wasn’t pleasant, so I said, ‘Stay with your wife. It’s your bed, lie in it’.”  

But when they got back together she helped him with his treatment as he waited for a donor kidney. “I gave him his confidence back. I’m not someone who is patient, but God gave me so much patience   – patience I didn’t know I had.”  In October 2014, two months after proposing, Menzi received a call that a donor had been found.

“They said they had a match – the person died in a car accident. We had to rush to Charlotte Maxeke Hospital at 2am.”Doctors gave strict orders for Menzi to remain indoors for four months. “I had to wake up and make porridge for him every day before I went to work,” Sikelelwa recalls. Menzi had just been fired from Generations together with 15 other actors following a highly publicized pay dispute.  

“It was difficult. He was jobless for six months. You know men like being independent and for someone who was doing everything for himself to be dependent on my small salary wasn’t easy.”  Shortly after Menzi recovered, Sikelelwa was admitted to hospital to have her   gall bladder removed. “I wasn’t eating, I started losing weight. I had blood clots in my chest and gallstones and they had to remove my gall bladder.”  Sikelelwa says Menzi and her daughters helped her pull through.

“I was like, ‘God, you brought us together now you want to take me?’ I was sure I was going to die.” Menzi says his wife’s illness changed things. “She started reading the Bible and going to church,” he says. “She would wake up at 12am or 3am to pray. One day I joined her. When we were done we didn’t say anything to each other, we went back to sleep. But when she was at work, she sent me a text saying thank you.”   

Menzi Ngubane and Sikelelwa Sishuba (PHOTO: Drum)

From there on the couple became praying buddies. “I know God because of her.”  Menzi, who now plays the dubious Judas Ngwenya on Isibaya, loves to spoil Sikelelwa. He bought her a Mercedes-Benz CLA and a C180 Coupe and splashes on expensive shoes and bags.  “People say she put a love potion in my food but I tell them, ‘No, she didn’t. I was  the one who asked her to throw away the  Aromat and put a love potion inside the  container, then put it on the table so I can pour it over myself ’,” he says, laughing. 

He wants to give his wife all the love his parents had. “My dad loved my mom and she died in his arms [in 2000]. It’s what I wish for myself because it shows how close they were. I never saw them fight in front of me.”  Menzi’s father, Ndodeni Ngubane, 88, says he’s found a daughter in Sikelelwa.  “This is not umakoti – she is a daughter to me. I hope they continue to love each other.

Menzi Ngubane and Sikelelwa Sishuba (PHOTO: Drum)

They should not fight. His mother was the one who was stubborn and temperamental, but we didn’t fight.  And looking at her [Sikelelwa] she is just like my wife,” he says, smiling.  Sikelelwa’s mom, Sindiswa Sishuba, tells us the couple have taught her what true love means. “I really wish them a happy marriage. I hope they continue treating each other with love and respect so the Lord can continue showering   them with blessings.”