Johannesburg - Songbird Zahara feels Somizi Mhlongo betrayed her when he made “reckless comments” about her alleged drinking problem at the SA Music Awards (Samas).
“Somizi is like a brother to me, I used to confide in him when I was going through tough times. I trusted him and for him to make such comments ... I was really hurt and disappointed. He is a big star. I look up to him, he should have known better,” said an emotional Zahara, whose full name is Bulelwa Mkutukana.
Mhlongo was a co-host at the Samas, held at the Sun City Superbowl in North West on 27 May.
He joked, saying: “We are almost at the end of the show. There is an amazing after-party, where is Zahara? Is she already at the bar?”
This week, Zahara threatened to sue Mhlongo for the hurtful stab in the back, but Mhlongo quickly apologised: “I only mentioned the bar and her name, not alcohol. But if that offended her, I am sorry. I did not mean to hurt or harm her. It was just a joke.
“Askies, Zahara, I was just having fun. I joked about a lot of people, including Khanyi Mbau that she was white. I made a joke about Babes Wodumo and she was laughing.”
However, Zahara said Mhlongo’s apology was weak and her legal team would soon be serving him with a “letter of demand”.
'It was not scripted'
City Press caught up with Zahara at her home in a West Rand suburb. In her spacious lounge, filled with picturesque displays of her several awards, she boldly declared: “This is my home – the same house the media says I’ve lost.”
Zahara said the reason she wanted to take the legal route was that previous negative comments had played a huge role in damaging her image.
She believes that bad publicity robbed her of lucrative contracts, resulting in a negative effect on her music career.
“My contract of five years with Nedbank was never renewed because of bad publicity. I’ll be suing everyone who says bad things about me without facts,” she resolved.
“Both of us [me and Mhlongo] know that it was not a joke. It was not scripted ... it was his own words. It hurt me,” she said with tears rolling down her cheeks.
She pauses to catch her breath. “We should have ironed things out, but I feel he doesn’t care because he isn’t answering my calls.”
She said the media was oblivious of her public development activities.
“I am helping young people in my village using my own money. I fly SA’s flag high internationally ... How do I go back to the village and inspire the same young girls?” she asks.
Zahara runs a foundation called Zahara Army, which promotes young stars playing indigenous games.
Damage to her brand
Thebe Ikalafeng, branding expert and head of strategy at Brand Leadership, said it was doubtful that Zahara could prove that Mhlongo’s “reckless comments” damaged her image or brand.
“She would have to prove correlation and causality, and that such comments indeed harmed her financially or [damaged] her reputation.”
Ikalafeng argued that he didn’t think Mhlongo had been “malicious”, but rather “mischievous”.
He added that the case might be valid, but only if Zahara could prove that Mhlongo had affected the value of her brand – possibly in terms of [loss of] bookings, endorsements and [a negative] perception by the broader public.
“It is not a new revelation; in various publications, Zahara has been dispelling allegations that she is an alcoholic. Unfortunately, she is invariably keeping the rumours alive,” said Ikalafeng.
“People are not going to think any less or more of Zahara than they already [do] ... it’s in the public domain.
"It is important that celebrities understand the contract they have with the public,” Ikalafeng said.
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