story by JASMINE ADAMS photos by SIPHO MCHUNU
The happy couple… Jack van Rooyen (left) and Wiseman Mndaweni have been together for 10 years.
True love conquers prejudice
Gay marriages remain controversial, but this couple seized the chance to cement their commitment to each other…
THE SA government giving gay – or “same sex” – marriages the thumbs up last December came as good news for Wiseman Mndaweni (33) and Jack van Rooyen (29) of Tokoza, Ekurhuleni.
At last they could “tie the knot” and cement their 10-year relationship. “When they fi rst told me about their wedding plans, I thought it was a joke,” says Van Rooyen’s aunt, Gumisile Magagula. “I drove down all the way from Nelspruit in Mpumalanga to come and see for myself.”
“We couldn’t wait for the day to come,” says Wiseman. An “official” marriage was important for the couple, as it was a way of showing the world how committed they were to each other. “We would’ve waited another 30 years for the government to give us the go ahead if we had to,” adds Wiseman.
The ceremony took place at the Alberton Court. “Taking our vows was easy – we’ve been practising them for a long time,” says Jack. “Now all we want is to spend the rest of our lives together.”
The wedding celebration was attended by hundreds of people including family, friends and even curious members of the public! But that was not the end of it. The dreadlocked Mndaweni had bigger plans for his partner. A few weeks later, in a second ceremony lasting three days, he paid part of the lobola for Van Rooyen. A sheep was slaughtered, halved and split between the homes of Mndaweni and Van Rooyen. There was traditional beer and the receiving of blankets – all of which came as a surprise to the families involved, who never expected such a traditional event for a gay couple.
The blushing Van Rooyen was later taken from his family’s home, just a few blocks from Mndaweni’s, and brought into his in-laws’ house for acceptance to the accompaniment of “welcoming the bride” songs. Leading lobola negotiations was Van Rooyen’s 64-year-old uncle, William Majika. “I’ve always been involved with lobola negotiations for family and close neighbours,” he says, adding he was surprised when approached by his nephew. “I’m a very cultural man, an African to the core, and I don’t approve of gay marriages, but I was caught up in the situation,” he admits.
Love and support
The mothers, Smangele Mndaweni and Johanna Poppy van Rooyen, said they gave their full support after their sons broke the news to them. “I’ve known Jacky for a long time,” says Wiseman’s mother, Smangele, who’s originally from Nqutu in Kwazulu-Natal. “When my son told me of their plans I gave him the love and support he expected.” “They chose to make a serious commitment and we had to be there for them,” agrees Johanna, Jack van Rooyen’s mother.
Mndaweni’s half brother, Mandla Dludlu, says he’s straight but had no problem seeing Wiseman getting married. “He wanted to go this route and it’s his choice,” he notes. “They love each other and have been through thick and thin, and I’m very excited they’ve finally done this,” says the couple’s best friend, Miriam Silabela. And just who takes the other name? Van Rooyen says he’s happy to become “Mrs Mndaweni.” [e]