Polygamy may get a bad rap in other parts of the world but it’s largely accepted in South Africa because the concept and practice has been commonplace for centuries.
If you want to get the lowdown on polygamy, there are no better “instructors” than the Mseleku family from Uthando Nes’thembu (new episodes of Season 3 air weekly on DStv Now and Seasons 1 and 2 are on Showmax).
There’s businessman head of the family Musa and his four wives: MaYeni, MaKhumalo, MaNgwabe and MaCele… plus their children.
“My wives were sceptical at first when I spoke to them about this show,” explains Musa.
“A polygamous lifestyle is still controversial and they feared public scrutiny. That was one of the conditions when we first started planning the show: that we’re going to break stereotypes and teach people what they don’t know about polygamy, that it is fairly straightforward to have a successful marriage with multiple wives.”
Drama times four
Musa jokes that inviting the cameras into his home was like taking a fifth wife (spoiler alert: do not miss the Season 2 finale…).
“It’s not all sunshine and roses in any marriage – there are disagreements and negotiations that go on. My wives and I don’t always agree on everything.”
“It was intimidating but we are just being ourselves… with a stranger watching. We are going about our lives like normal – there is no holding back here. That was something I think was important, to keep our authenticity and not put on a spectacle. It’s not all sunshine and roses in any marriage – there are disagreements and negotiations that go on. My wives and I don’t always agree on everything.”
He adds that being flexible has often resulted in quick-and-easy solutions to any stumbling blocks.
“I have never told my wives to change, to not be themselves. My wives are intelligent. They can make up their own minds. We often have differing ideas and opinions, but there is nothing we can’t sit down and talk about.”
That has helped him be a better husband and father, says Musa, joking that “whenever something goes wrong, I accept blame and apologise. Then I find out what I’ve done wrong. No, but we have become a closer group with the show. It has helped us grow and learnt to be more open with one another than before”.
Being polygamous isn’t something that you can just hop on for a quick ride and then pull out when you’ve had your fill. It’s a lifestyle that demands 100% of your dedication.
“You can’t do it half-hearted. If you try that, you will be found wanting,” admits the husband of four.
“You need to value your marriage, especially when you are opening yourself to reality TV. I never thought I would be on TV but this show is something we have come to love because we are teaching people and helping them. I love my wives and nothing will change that.”