Her name is synonymous with a certain former president and she made headlines when she fell for him and went on to have his son. Then there were reports about him being a “deadbeat dad” and failing to support her child – and about her being a gold-digger who only got involved with SA’s former No 1 for the money.
But Nonkanyiso Conco wants to put one thing on the table right now: there’s a lot more to her than being one of Jacob Zuma’s lovers. And people are going to get to know this now that she’s one of the stars of The Real Housewives of Durban.
She’s “living her truth as a straightforward African goddess full of passion and power”, she tells us.
“The viewer will have the opportunity to learn who LaConco really is and what impactful deeds I’ve contributed to people’s lives. I’m hilarious and fun to be around. My heart and personality are what draws everyone to me and [makes them fall] head over heels in love.”
Well, that remains to be seen, of course. Nonkanyiso shares the show – SA’s second in the Real Housewives franchise – with a pack of pretty formidable women.
There’s Sorisha Naidoo, former Miss SA, beauty business owner and wife of billionaire Durban businessman Vivian Reddy. Ayanda Ncwane, widow of gospel Sfiso Ncwane, CEO of Ncwane Communications and president of the Africa Gospel Awards, is there too. So is Kgomotso Ndungane, who owns an events and flower business and recently launched her own luxury home, body and bath product line. Rounding off the “housewives” is Annie Ludick, owner of a luxury beauty salon, an events and marketing company and a dance agency.
The show will follow their well-heeled lives and document the inevitable drama and tension that erupts. Nonkanyiso admits she was a little reluctant when the producers approached her last year about coming on the show.
“I’m a careful and private person,” she says. “There was a lot to consider.”
She eventually decided to go for it, although she admits mingling with the other strong personalities on the show had its challenges.
“Some scenes left me a bit numb, to be honest,” she says. “I had a few out-of-body experiences.”
But she can’t go into it any more now. Watch the show, she says, and see for yourself.
Although she never factored being in a reality show into her future, Nonkanyiso has always been ambitious. Her family nicknamed her “goal-getter” because all she’s ever done is work towards her goals. She was born near Pietermaritzburg and her early childhood was divided between her mom and dad’s homes after her parents split when she was just 18 months old.
When she was in Grade 7 she settled permanently with her father, Fartescue Conco, so life could be less disruptive, but it wasn’t easy.
“My living conditions weren’t sweet and I had to grow up quickly. I realise now my mom didn’t mean any harm when she agreed to let me live there and had only my best interests at heart.”
After school Nonkanyiso left home and moved to Durban to study journalism and fulfil her dream of becoming a radio presenter.
“Opportunities came my way and I grabbed them with both hands,” she says. “I started doing stage productions and corporate and entertainment events during my varsity days and saw that making money wasn’t easy but with your mind set on a vision, anything is possible.”
After graduating she started working at local radio station Umgungundlovu FM and then moved onto Vuma FM – where she was offered a job after making headlines as Zuma’s young lover in 2018. Nonkanyiso prefers to keep her relationships with the ex-president under wraps but there’s no denying it boosted her profile and helped open doors for her. It also, however, tainted her already rocky relationship with her father who’s spoken freely in the media about his daughter’s love affair.
Last year he said his child had “ignored” his side of the family and failed to pitch up when he was admitted to hospital.
“My only sin was to ask Zuma to come to me as her dad when he wanted to pay lobolo and to come and talk to me after he impregnated my daughter,” he said. “He never did. Instead, he paid lobolo to Nonka’s mother.”
Nonkanyiso doesn’t want to dwell on it now. “I’d need a night in with tea and scones to explain exactly how this affected my relationship with my father,” she says.
“My mom respects all her children’s decisions so yes, she did support me. My father, on the other hand, demanded a paycheque and all sorts of material things I won’t mention.”