It took me so long to be this happy: Shauwn Mkhize

21 June 2020 - 00:00 By ZIMASA MATIWANE
Durban businesswoman Shauwn Mkhize is living the life most people wish they were living.
Durban businesswoman Shauwn Mkhize is living the life most people wish they were living.
Image: Gallo Images/Oupa Bopape

A quick glance at Kwa Mam'Mkhize's Instagram account, where she appears dripping in Louis Vuitton, Gucci and Fendi, can just as easily prompt an eye-roll as a rush of envy.

But Durban businesswoman and actor Shauwn Mkhize is unrepentant. "I have prayed for years for peace, it took me so long to be this happy," she said.

Last month during lockdown, Mkhize posted a video of herself leaving home in a cocktail dress, then giving a speech at what appeared to be a dinner party. The ex-wife of business tycoon Sbu Mpisane told the Sunday Times it was not a party, but she would not elaborate.

In a rare interview last week, Mkhize said her wealth — including a La Lucia mansion, a fleet of impressive cars, a walk-in fridge and a closet full of designer clothes — had been decades in the making.

This has always been my personality, but sometimes when you are in a marriage there are things that don't come out ... I became who my ex-husband wanted me to be
Shauwn Mkhize

And while money was a source of freedom and independence, Mkhize said her divorce last year paved the way for peace, one thing money could never buy her.

"This has always been my personality, but sometimes when you are in a marriage there are things that don't come out," she said. "The people who I went to school with will relate to who I am now because this is who I have always been.

"It is like when you put somebody in a cage or in jail and the feeling when they come out… the life I have now is exactly that feeling. I will never trade it for anything."

Mkhize said she married too young, when she was 21, and she and her former husband grew apart.

"Somewhere along the line I lost my identity and I became who my ex-husband wanted me to be," she said.

"When we started dating we were very compatible but things became different as we grew. We became completely different people. I ended up giving so much and getting very little in return."

She said she is now living her authentic life as the star of reality television show Kwa Mam'Mkhize, which aired on Mzansi Magic earlier this year.

"What I wanted with the show was for me to be known as who I am. My identity was lost and my journey to rediscover myself was on television because I wanted to inspire others and I was not scared of being vulnerable."

Even though she is the daughter of late struggle activist Florence Mkhize — better known as Mam Flo — Mkhize said she didn't have a political bone in her body and avoided discussions about being raised by a politically active mother. 

in numbers

• R1m - The amount Andile Mpisane sought from his mother Shauwn to shoot a music video featuring a helicopter, a yacht and an appearance by Somizi

• 712,000 - The number of people who follow KwaMamMkhize on Instagram

She took a conscious decision to pursue anything but politics and has a diploma and a degree in accounting. "I did that for my mother. She wanted us to be academics, but I did not stay in corporate for long because my life was never supposed to be a nine-to-five."

She established a company, the Zikhulise Group, and accumulated great wealth building low-cost houses in controversial deals that often raised the ire of opposition parties in the eThekwini municipality.

But a year after paying the South African Revenue Service R16m in income tax, Mkhize rejected the notion that she had benefited from government tenders because of her mother's political ties.

"I started small, renovating schools. When I went to the municipality asking for contracts, they looked at me and laughed. They were saying, 'No, go work with an established company'. What worked for me was that I was youth, black and a woman. I took on projects that enabled my company to grow in grading.

"When people say I got contracts from the government because I was politically connected, I always say, 'OK, but how many people are politically connected that are not where I am?' If only they knew how hard I worked."

Fourteen years later, the Zikhulise Group has interests in mining, construction, transport, cleaning, security and football - but Mkhize said she was still on the receiving end of sexism.

"As much as my company has done well, some men still come to see me and ask to speak to the owner. Men will always make us feel like we don't know what we are doing," she said.

Constantly having her success negated was painful, and despite the world seeing her life as glamorous, she had to "work three times as hard" to prove that her success has nothing to do with her mother.

"If you look at me, this is what they [anti-apartheid activists] fought for. I am a living example of that, but instead of being a prime example of success in the new SA, holes are always poked."

Mkhize denied spoiling her son, Andile, and his half-sister, Sbahle Mpisane. "My kids are loved, they are not spoilt. I teach them to be independent, I encourage them to create their own identity and to have their own lives."

Mkhize's immediate post-lockdown goals are to travel to Monaco, and to build a school similar to the Oprah Winfrey Academy.

"We don't have schools that nurture children to be the best human beings in society, schools that teach young boys how to treat a woman, that you can't lay a hand on a woman," she said.

"Those are things you don't get taught at school. I want to build that."