Cape Town - He’s regarded as a legend by his scores of fans – a township boy who made good and blazed a trail in entertainment.
Back in the day Bonginkosi Dlamini was lauded for empowering the youth with his music and hit TV show Zola 7. Now he’s bringing hope to the nation with a new series, Hope with Zola.
The series, which focuses on building Mzansi’s communities, particularly townships and rural areas, has been a hit with fans since its launch in October last year.
But while his professional life is on the rise, behind the scenes the TV star’s personal life is less than rosy.
The entertainer is being accused of berating his baby mama and repeatedly denying paternity of the two kids he shares with her.
In an exclusive interview with DRUM, Garnett Maseko says she’s exhausted by the running battle she has with her famous ex. She’s been at it with him before, but this time Zola is claiming that Garnett’s two children are not his.
According to texts that DRUM has seen, Zola questions the paternity of the kids. The single mom tells us she’s drained by his accusations, which she claims have been dogging her since before she gave birth to their first child.
"I’m tired of this," Garnett (32) says.
"Every year Bonginkosi tells me: 'I know what you did.' He claims the children aren’t his but I’ve never denied him a paternity test. I’ve told him to do it but he’s failed to do it."
Four years ago Garnett dragged the kwaito star to court to settle the issue of child maintenance once and for all.
There he was ordered to pay school fees and transport for the boy and girl he fathered with Garnett.
Despite complying with the court order to cough up maintenance money for the kids, and an allowance for her, she says Zola continues to deny he’s their children’s father.
When the two went to court to review their maintenance agreement last year, Zola reportedly told the maintenance officer the kids were not his.
"I told him to do a paternity test right there and then," Garnett says, "but he doesn’t want to because he enjoys insulting me."
Zola has disputed paternity but hasn’t requested a DNA test from the court, Garnett tells DRUM. Now she’s at her wits end. "This abuse has been going on for too long," she says.
She shows us another text Zola sent.
"Even if you f**k a guy today, know that in his mind he’s not f**king you but he’s f**king Zola’s baby mamma. For some fools that’s a high bar,' part of the message reads.
His texts are taking a toll on Garnett.
"It’s affecting me emotionally," she says. "I want him to do a paternity test. I’m tired of being accused of something that’s not true."
The two have a long and chequered history. Garnett met Zola through a mutual friend in 2002 when he was still a budding musician.
"It was way before the fame. He didn’t have many girlfriends then," she says.
For a while the couple were happy together but cracks started to show when she discovered she was pregnant three years into their relationship.
"I was sick and didn’t know what was wrong with me," recalls Garnett, who was 19 at the time. "My mother took me to the doctor and that’s when I found out I was pregnant."
She was shocked when the doctor told her she was 16 weeks into her pregnancy. Eager to share the baby news, she struggled to reach Zola.
"He was on some tour and I didn’t have his contacts," she explains.
Garnett says she reached out to one of Zola’s close friends. "I told him I was sick and needed to see Zola. When Zola finally came I was starting to show."
"I told him I was pregnant and he became angry. He said since he was gone for so long he couldn’t be the father. Even when I told him I was far along in my pregnancy, he still denied the paternity."
She was hurt by the rejection. "I cried the whole night. He called me to say I shouldn’t ruin his career. He said he can still support the child even though it’s not his. I told him to wait until the child was born. I was really hurt because I knew he was the father."
The pair later patched up their relationship and Garnett says Zola even named the child.
"How do you give a name to a child that’s not yours?"
The single mom has tried to shield her children from the situation but she says her daughter recently overheard her discussing Zola’s latest allegations.
"She asked me why her father says those things and if he doesn’t want them. How do I answer my child without sounding bitter?" she asks.
Garnett, who has full custody of both kids, says they don’t see their father as much as they should.
However, the TV star made time for his daughter when he fetched her for the December holidays, while their son stayed at home with his mom in Soweto where Garnett lives with her mother, Busisiwe.
She’s grateful the pair spent the holidays together but all Garnett wants is for Zola to accept his children.
"I know he’s the father of my kids. He’s been paying maintenance for these kids for years but still won’t accept them."
Despite the drama, she doesn’t regret having kids with him. "It was God’s plan and it was written before we were even born that we will have kids," she says.
"Who am I to question God’s plans?"
When DRUM contacted Zola for comment, he posted our correspondence on Twitter but declined to comment officially, replying to us only with: "I’ll say nothing."