Nam­bitha Mpuml­wana isn’t down and out

It’s been a while since Nam­bitha Mpuml­wana has been on our screens but the ac­tress de­nies she’s broke and says her two new ven­tures are keep­ing her quite busy


GO BIG or don’t go at all – that’s al­ways been her motto. She doesn’t like do­ing any­thing by half mea­sures and if some­thing is worth do­ing she’ll give it ev­ery­thing she’s got. There’s plenty she wants to take on this year and if peo­ple want to con­tinue to bad­mouth her, well, that’s their prob­lem.

Nam­bitha Mpuml­wana is in good spir­its af­ter ar­riv­ing 30 min­utes late for our ap­point­ment at her cho­sen meet­ing spot: the Stan­dard Bank Gallery in down­town Joburg.

It’s one of her favourite places, she says, and peo­ple clearly know her here. Se­cu­rity guards and wait­resses greet her warmly and she’s handed a glass of wine as she makes her way to the main gallery.

“This is the sort of thing I usu­ally do with my son, Vangile, but he’s away in Canada vis­it­ing his grand­mother,” she tells us as we fol­low her around the ex­hibits.

Her eyes well up a lit­tle. “I’m learn­ing to wean my­self off him and ac­cept he’s grow­ing up.”

Life is chang­ing in all sorts of ways for Nam­bitha. There was a time when the 51-year-old was one of the SA’s lead­ing TV stars, fea­tur­ing in small-screen sta­ples such as Gen­er­a­tions, Isidingo and Yizo Yizo.

She also ap­peared in films with Hol­ly­wood leg­ends such as Mor­gan Free­man (In­vic­tus), An­gelina Jolie (Be­yond Bor­ders) and Den­zel Washington ( Safe House).

But we haven’t seen her since she left te­len­ov­ela Ashes to Ashes two years ago – and re­cent ru­mours paint a pic­ture of a down-on-her-luck for­mer ac­tress who’s bat­tling to make ends meet.

Not true, she says. She’s work­ing on two projects at the mo­ment and is de­vot­ing her­self to them 100%.

First there’s her com­pany, which trains young up-and-com­ing ac­tors in the fields of per­for­mance, scriptwrit­ing and

me­dia eti­quette. Then there’s Diva Nexus, em­pow­er­ment ses­sions she runs where women coach one an­other and share their suc­cess sto­ries.

“These two projects are my pride and joy and I have many peo­ple who wish for me to take them all over the coun­try,” she says. “And I will.”

She’s been off the radar while she gets her ven­tures off the ground, she says – but sources close to Nam­bitha tell a dif­fer­ent story.

She’s been lay­ing low due to hard times, they say. Not be­ing on TV has been tough on her fi­nan­cially.

“Shame, man,” one says. “She doesn’t have a car since her cars broke down. As her friends, we drive her around to events and par­ties and she uses Uber to get to work.”

Nam­bitha has a rep­u­ta­tion for be­ing some­thing of a diva. She was one of the so-called Gen­er­a­tions 16 fired by ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor and pro­ducer Mfundi Vundla for go­ing on strike and de­mand­ing a salary in­crease back in 2014.

She was la­belled by some of her col­leagues as “de­mand­ing”, “ar­ro­gant” and “rude” but Nam­bitha re­mained un­fazed.

“I know what I want and I will not set­tle for less to please any­one,” she de­clared. “If that makes me a diva, so be it.”

THE Nam­bitha we speak to to­day seems a lot more hum­ble as she tries to dis­pel the per­cep­tion of her be­ing in fi­nan­cial trou­ble. “I am not broke, I am not down and out and I sure as hell hate de­fend­ing my­self,” she says.

Af­ter she’s done at the art gallery we drive her back to her home in Rand­burg. Her helper opens the rick­ety wooden gates and we park in the drive­way.

Nam­bitha doesn’t in­vite us in but from the looks of the house and gar­den there’s some work to be done here. The walls of the sin­gle-storey home are a dusty pink in need of a coat of paint and the gar­den is un­kempt.

Two cars are in the car­port: a Volk­swa­gen Golf cov­ered in dust and a blue sedan that’s seen bet­ter days.

Ac­cord­ing to our source, Nam­bitha is too broke to paint her house and fix the gate. “Oh, honey, peo­ple can talk but I don’t lis­ten,” she says. “This home is a sanc­tu­ary I have cre­ated for my son and my­self.

“I just haven’t both­ered to fix my gate be­cause I’ve been lazy and I haven’t got­ten around to do­ing it – not be­cause I’m broke,” she says, laugh­ing at the thought.

“Just be­cause I’m not on TV doesn’t mean I don’t have an in­come.”

She quickly pulls out her phone and shows us text mes­sages re­lat­ing to a new act­ing ven­ture.

“I can’t say much right now but I am work­ing on an in­ter­na­tional film deal and all will be re­vealed soon. As long as I have a pas­sion, I will never be broke.”

Ac­cord­ing to an­other source, Nam­bitha has also been hit­ting the bot­tle hard due to work frus­tra­tions. “She’s been binge- drink­ing and at­tends al­most ev­ery in­dus­try event un­der the sun,” the in­sider says.

Nam­bitha ad­mits she loves her wine and works with wine brands at some of her events.

“I am a pub­lic fig­ure and when peo­ple see you dressed in a cer­tain way or hold­ing a glass of wine, they are quick to make as­sump­tions.

“I’ve been work­ing on Umhlobo Wenene FM, I have an in­ter­na­tional film com­ing out soon and I have been fo­cus­ing on my events. Life is good. I am con­tent.”

NAM­BITHA has learnt to be more fam­ily ori­en­tated and spent the fes­tive sea­son with her loved ones in Mthatha in the East­ern Cape. But she be­came ill and was bedrid­den for a month af­ter she caught louse-borne re­laps­ing fever, a con­di­tion car­ried by lice or ticks that causes fever, nau­sea, headaches and joint pain.

“I never even knew there was such a thing,” she says. “I picked up the fever while look­ing for herbs in my mom’s gar­den and I be­came re­ally ill. I’m only start­ing to feel more like my­self now.”

She lost a lot of weight and had to “keep a low pro­file while I re­cov­ered”.

“This is a se­ri­ous bug and I needed to fo­cus on my health. I am well on the road to re­cov­ery now though.”

Nam­bitha says nega­tive sto­ries don’t af­fect her or her 21-year-old son any­more. “My son is my best friend – he is my world.”

In the be­gin­ning she tried to pro­tect him from the nega­tive pub­lic­ity. “He would read some­thing about me or see it on so­cial me­dia but he un­der­stands he is be­ing raised by a queen,” she says.

A few set­backs in life don’t de­ter­mine one’s fu­ture, she adds, and 2018 has started on a good note for her.

In ad­di­tion to her two busi­ness ven­tures and her hush-hush new movie she’s also been in­vited to be a judge at this year’s South African Film and Tele­vi­sion Awards and things are look­ing bright, she says.

“We don’t know what the fu­ture holds yet but I am open to work­ing on a soapie again. But most of all, I want to con­tinue to in­spire women.”

‘I am not broke . . . and I sure as hell hate de­fend­ing my­self’

LEFT: Atress Nam­bitha Mpuml­wana and her son, Vangile, share a strong bond. RIGHT: She starred as Mand­lakazi Na­mane op­po­site Pa­trick Shai in Ashes to Ashes. FAR RIGHT: Nam­bitha as Mawande in Gen­er­a­tions, be­fore be­ing fired in 2014.

Nam­bitha worked with Os­car-win­ning ac­tress Hi­lary Swank on the 2004 movie Red Dust.

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