Nomsa Nene’s riv­et­ing TV come­back

Vet­eran ac­tress Nomsa Nene goes over to the dark side in The Herd. Here she talks about the sin­is­ter role and rem­i­nisces about her first big break

DRUM - - Contents -

EVERYONE en­joys a good game show, and for years the colour­ful TV host was loved by au­di­ences all over the coun­try as she gave away heaps of money on Zama Zama. Now she’s evok­ing strong emo­tions again – but this time Nomsa Nene has be­come the woman everyone loves to hate.

The vet­eran TV star re­cently joined the cast of The Herd and it’s Nomsa like you’ve never seen her be­fore. She plays MaMthembu, the mother of MaMn­gadi – and if you thought MaMn­gadi (Winnie Nt­shaba) was pure evil, you haven’t seen any­thing yet.

In the dra­matic sea­son fi­nale of the Mzansi Magic show, MaMthembu evades capture af­ter killing her son. And now au­di­ences will get to know the woman who taught MaMn­gadi ev­ery­thing she knows about sorcery.

As one re­viewer writes, “MaMn­gadi’s mama is the mother you end up with when the uni­verse wants to spite you.”

Play­ing the wicked witch is a far cry from what she’s used to, Nomsa tells DRUM. “I’d never played a dark char­ac­ter. I had to do re­search and find peo­ple who know about these tra­di­tions and are aware of witchcraft,” she says.

Her hard work has paid off – Nomsa (62) is stir­ring things up and charm­ing a new gen­er­a­tion of fans.

Kutl­wano Dit­sele, pro­ducer of The Herd, says Nomsa “brought a re­gal power to the role and mixed that with all the evil the char­ac­ter has – it re­ally worked out well’’.


She hosted Zama Zama for five years, un­til the Lotto draw took over in 2000. Nomsa is still sad at how it all ended. “We were in­vited to a ho­tel in Sand­ton for din­ner,” she re­calls. “We were un­der the im­pres­sion we’d be given good news about Zama Zama, but in­stead we were given a week to find other jobs.”

The abrupt end­ing left her feel­ing dis­re­spected and un­ap­pre­ci­ated, but she picked her­self up and kept on mov­ing. She left show­biz and started work­ing as an es­tate agent be­fore start­ing her own busi­ness, Nomsa Nene Prop­er­ties.

Her com­pany sells prop­erty in Gaut­eng and the West­ern

Cape but get­ting it off the ground was tough. “For the first year I bat­tled be­cause I didn’t know any­one,” she says. Soon she found her feet and was not only sell­ing homes, but also win­ning awards for her work. “Eish, I love prop­erty so much. I grew up wish­ing I had my own room,” Nomsa says. “Seven of us lived in a two-room house. I loved the idea of sell­ing houses with sep­a­rate rooms. “Nowa­days I live and work in [ Joburg’s] north­ern sub­urbs, but I still have my own room at the back of our Or­lando East fam­ily home. That’s where I go ev­ery week­end for the en­ergy, the beat, the soul which is found only in Soweto.”


Born and raised in Soweto, Nomsa was the el­dest of three chil­dren. Her younger brothers, Les­ley and Themba, have both passed on. She was raised by her late mom, Rina Nene, and grand­mother, Le­nah Nene, af­ter her fa­ther, Nor­ris Nkosi, and her mom sep­a­rated when she was a girl. Nomsa says she gets her per­form­ing ta­lent and love of show­biz from her dad. “My fa­ther is well-known in Soweto and he was in the arts too. He used to sing and tap dance in his day. He also worked at the SABC, where he over­saw props for TV shows, long ago.”

It was her dad who en­cour­aged Nomsa to fol­low her dream. At the age of six she landed her first TV ap­pear­ance in an advert af­ter Nor­ris and his then-part­ner, leg­endary singer and ac­tress Abi­gail Kubeka, took her to an au­di­tion. “I was young and wasn’t re­ally aware of what was go­ing on. There were lights and cam­eras and I was just so ex­cited.”

That was the start of a ca­reer span­ning decades.

Af­ter ma­tric­u­lat­ing, Nomsa joined play­wright Gib­son Kente’s theatre com­pany and was the first black lead ac­tress to per­form at The Mar­ket Theatre in Joburg. She made her mark in theatre in the 1970s adap­ta­tion of Die Sw­er­f­jare van Pop­pie Non­gena (The Long Jour­ney of Pop­pie Non­gena), where she played a young woman whose world is torn apart by apartheid laws.

The play was one of the few at the time in which black and white ac­tors were per­mit­ted to be on stage to­gether, she re­calls.

“White ac­tors used to be painted black in or­der to por­tray black peo­ple be­cause we weren’t al­lowed to per­form on the same stages. That’s why there was town­ship theatre and town theatre.”

But the play broke boundaries and be­came such a hit the cast toured the world with Nomsa star­ring on stages across South Africa and in New York City, earn­ing her the first of many act­ing awards.

Based on the novel by Elsa Jou­bert, it will soon be turned into a film and Nomsa will be play­ing Pop­pie’s mom.


Hav­ing made a name for her­self in the prop­erty busi­ness, Nomsa was in no hurry to re­turn to act­ing.

“I kept ig­nor­ing the emails I got to be in shows be­cause my soul wasn’t ready at the time. Even the Lock­down team con­tacted me, but I wasn’t ready then.

“Even­tu­ally Bro­ken Vows asked me to join their cast in 2016 and some­thing in me said, ‘ Yes. Go for it’,” she says.

Nomsa hired an act­ing coach to brush up on her skills. She wanted to make sure she’d be ready to hit the ground run­ning and keep up with her co-stars when she ar­rived on set.

In April this year she joined the cast of The Herd for its sec­ond sea­son.


She’s been mar­ried twice – first to ac­tor Peter Se­phuma and later busi­ness­man Roberto Abega-Ayissi, but both mar­riages ended in divorce. Nomsa didn’t have kids with ei­ther of her exes but in a pre­vi­ous in­ter­view with DRUM she told us she’d made peace with not hav­ing chil­dren ( A new start, 6 April 2017). “I learnt to ac­cept it was God’s will for me.

“I was meant to raise my nieces and neph­ews.”

Hav­ing seen how her mom and gogo bat­tled to raise three kids, Nomsa was “in no rush” to have her own.

“I didn’t want my chil­dren to grow up the same way we did, with too lit­tle to go around and in poverty,” she says.

But the busi­ness­woman and en­ter­tainer says she’s learnt a lot from her mar­riages. “Our par­ents would tell us to bekezela

ku­zol­unga (hold on, it will work out) even when things are spi­ralling out of con­trol. But some men want to boss you and want you to be un­der their con­trol. You need both part­ners to have a com­mon goal for a mar­riage to work.”

‘I ig­nored emails to be on shows be­cause my soul wasn’t ready’


FAR LEFT: Nomsa as MaMthembu on The Herd. LEFT: The cast of Bro­ken Vows, in which she played Ly­dia. BE­LOW: Norma was an es­tate agent for 10 years and started her own busi­ness, Nomsa Nene Prop­er­ties.

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