Obed Bapela due to marry into royalty

Obed Bapela and Palesa Ngomane./ Mandla Khoza
Obed Bapela and Palesa Ngomane./ Mandla Khoza

Deputy minister of cooperative governance and traditional affairs Obed Bapela has found new love - in royalty!

Her name is Palesa Ngomane, a princess with the Ngomane royal family at KaHhoyi village in Mpumalanga.

Bapela surprised the Mpumalanga traditional leaders, including the Ngomanes, when he arrived at KaHhoyi during a briefing of the Hhoyi tribal council ummemo on Saturday. He knelt, asking Ngomane, a woman whose origins are rooted in the Lugedlane tribal council, to marry him.

An emotional Ngomane, 39, who works for the Gauteng government, accepted Bapela's proposal.

Bapela, whose wife Constance died two years ago and was the speaker of City of Johannesburg, said he was ready to start a new life with his fiancé.

Bapela was married for 25 years and has three children.

He told Sowetan he met Ngomane early last year in Johannesburg after the death of his wife.

"One thing led to the other; we fell in love...

"It's almost two years since my wife died and I decided to pop the question if she would marry me.

"Because men cannot stay longer without a woman, and for me it's worse because I've been with my wife for 31 years, and we were married for 25 years.

"So, I've never lived any life except a married life."

Bapela said lobolo negotiations would start around November, and formal celebrations of their engagement would be held in May.

"I don't know how much, but I heard there are three of the elders [chiefs], and each one is going to need cows.

"So, negotiations can be a difficult process but the celebration ceremony will be in May next year if all goes well and by then I will have done my two years of mourning for my wife."

Bapela said he always had a problem to introduce Ngomane as her girlfriend.

"I couldn't claim anything, as she was my girlfriend.

"Now it's official she's my fiancé," he added.

Bapela said he had sent his family to alert his late wife's family and the three children about his plans to re-marry.

Ngomane told Sowetan she was taken by surprise when Bapela asked for her hand in marriage. "I thought I would catch up when he was about to propose and would know, but this surprised me," she said.

Her elder brother, Sandile Hhoyi Ngomane, who is also the chairperson of the house of Mpumalanga traditional leaders, said Bapela's actions made them happy.

"We welcome our brother- in-law; he really surprised us because everyone was focused on planning the ummemo [ceremony]," he said.

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