Johannesburg - "There I was, my life was perfect in the eyes of everyone, but inside I was dying. How was I going to deal with this; is there a cure for it? There is no cure for it. Do I take treatment and survive it or am I going to die within six months?” writes socialite Somizi Mhlongo in his memoir, Dominoes: Unbreakable Spirit.
He went on an emotional roller coaster after a doctor, giving him the results of medical tests, told him that all was clear, except for one terminal disease.
"To this day I haven’t had the courage or the need to say which one it is between cancer, HIV and diabetes," Mhlongo (44) says.
Everyone around him said he only had a month to live, but God had other plans for him, he says.
Even though he has been living with the terminal disease for some time, Mhlongo is still positive about life and hasn’t allowed it to dampen his spirits. He says writing the emotional book didn’t weigh heavily on him, but he wonders whether someone not as strong as he is would manage.
“I can’t believe that to this day I’ve pulled through. Everybody had given up. Everyone was saying ‘lona [this one] he’s got a month to live’,” Mhlongo told City Press this week ahead of the launch of his memoir on Wednesday. His book will also be available at Exclusive Books stores on Wednesday.
“If I managed to survive this, nothing is going to be hard for me anymore in this world,” he says.
He first thought about writing a tell-all book about six years ago when everything around him came crashing down. That, along with musician and actor Brian Temba’s hit single, Dominoes, inspired the book’s title. Mhlongo says he felt it was the perfect title to sum up his life’s journey.
“Since I was born I’ve been breaking down walls, hurdles and obstacles ... they fall like dominoes. My story is that of walls falling like dominoes,” he says.
Not looking to be pitied
Mhlongo recalls feeling very ill a few years ago and deciding to go for a medical check-up “just to be aware of what was going on” with his health.
Six months after he was diagnosed, he decided to cultivate a positive mind-set and did some research on the disease.
He also decided to strive to balance his life as an entertainer and the reality of his medical condition. “Showbiz life was great but inside I was dying,” he says.
Mhlongo says he put on a brave face in public spaces to mask what he was going through in private. Later, he decided to reveal his status to fellow dancer Mapule Sesedinyane who encouraged him to get treatment. The second person he told was his partner at the time, Tom, who became a great support system.
Mhlongo told City Press that he did not write the book to get pity from the public or for fame.
“I am 150% sure that [many people] are going through the same [experience] somewhere, but I can be the voice that brings in some light into somebody’s life.”
He says in the process of adjusting and understanding the implications of the disease, there were good and bad days.
“The were days I did not want the sun to rise. I was only looking forward to the evening because at night we are all the same. It’s the end of the day for everyone. But during the day, people that are doing well are visible,” he reckons.
Sexual assault accusations
As if his life was not complicated enough, Mhlongo reveals in the book that his world crumbled further when he was accused of sexually assaulting a man. He maintains his innocence, arguing to this day that he wouldn’t do such a thing.
“I struggled so much [to handle the matter] that I became depressed and I decided to take antidepressants. However, I took them for one day and I didn’t like the after-effects.
“They made me feel like everything was okay when the reality was contrary. I had to face my problems head on. I stopped drinking and having casual sex. It was tough. I needed some spiritual guidance and upliftment. The only way was prayer,” he writes.
He found peace when he started going to Rhema Bible Church, where he met kwaito group TKZee member Kabelo Mabalane, who was a recovering drug addict.
He says the alleged sexual assault accusations almost ruined his career. Entertainment jobs dried up and life got increasingly tough.
“I had a BMW Z4, which was also in arrears and the bank had called so many times I couldn’t take it anymore. The next thing, a knock on my door, they’d come to repossess the car. I took everything out of the car, and they took it and left,” he writes.
“I was driving the big [Land Rover] Discovery and I couldn’t afford it. I was late with payments, my bond was in arrears, the banks were calling left, right and centre.
“I didn’t have a cent to my name. I could have easily gone back to my mother’s house, but I was like, ‘no Somizi, soldier on, soldier on’, so I soldiered on,” he recalls.
A life with Brenda Fassie
The book also shares details of his experiences and friendship with the late Brenda Fassie, who he says offered him drugs.
“Everyone knew that Brenda smoked dagga and was into drugs. At some point, she offered me drugs.
“I don’t know where I got it from, but I’ve always had a backbone,” he states.
He is adamant that he has never touched drugs in his life, even though he has always been surrounded by users.
He also spoke about how Mandoza and Bricks did cocaine in his presence. “I remember them fixing a portion for me to smoke. I took it and I threw it on the floor of the car without them seeing me. Then suddenly there were cops behind us.”
Asked how he feels about the book, Mhlongo said he was afraid to read it because he felt it would take him back to the troubled episodes of his past life.
He maintains that he doesn’t have any regrets about his life’s journey.
“I know who my target market is, if anyone feels otherwise about this, they are entitled to do so.
“This book is about hope, faith and seeing the light in the darkest moments. I believe we are all destined to succeed in life and to be happy. It’s how we handle the tough times that separate us from the rest,” he said.
TALK TO US
Have you gone through tough times in your life and faced your challenges courageously?
SMS us on 35697 using the keyword ENERGY and tell us what you think. Please include your name and province. SMSes cost R1.50.