Interview: South African polyamory activist Muvumbi Ndzalama

5 December 2022

Interview: South African polyamory activist Muvumbi Ndzalama

In Planet Sex With Cara Delevingne, award-winning actress, model and LGBTQ+ icon Cara Delevingne puts her mind and body on the line to find answers about some of our biggest questions regarding human sexuality, its joys, mysteries, and constantly changing nature.

Cara’s globe-crossing journey to speak to scientists, artists and activists includes a visit to Johannesburg polyamory activist and “self-love sangoma”, Muvumbi Ndzalama, who features in episode 5 of the six-part series, entitled “Monogamish”.

Although polygamy is an accepted practice in South Africa, it still mostly only extends to polygyny, where a man has several wives. In contrast, polyandry, where a woman has multiple husbands, remains the subject of much heated debate, making female polyamorist Muvumbi a unique voice in the conversation.

Tell us your story and why you decided to take part in Planet Sex With Cara Delevingne?

I think I’m one of the few African women that’s polyamorous and open to sharing my story with the world. I’m a pleasure activist, so it’s important to me that people see how other people are living so that they can reimagine their own lives. I’m very open and willing to talk about the relationship dynamics in my life.

Growing up, did you assume that you were going to get married to a man and have children?

Definitely. That’s the narrative we’ve all been fed, no matter where in the world you are. But as we grow, and we see what the world really is, we realise that’s not all it’s cracked up to be.

At what point did you realise that narrative was not for you and there were other options?

I think that’s when I first had a child. My first child opened my eyes to how much more love was expanding within me. During that time I felt not just the love of my child, but also the love of my community. During a very difficult relationship, people really pulled in and loved me in a way that I didn’t think was possible, in a way that I thought was only reserved for certain kinds of people in your life.

There are different sorts of love, aren’t there?

Yes, and I felt those different sorts of love, whether that be from the community around me, the love from my mother, love from friends. But I guess I also realised that I can love people in the same way I love my intimate partner, just adding more people to that kind of love that’s meant to be reserved for one person, those kinds of “I’m in love with you” relationships.

So what’s your situation now: do you have more than one partner?

Yes, they have different roles, different hats, but they also fall under the same category of people who make me happy and people I can trust. I’ve got my nesting partner and fiancé, who’s the father of my two youngest children; he’s also co-parenting my oldest child with me. He’s somebody that I spend most of my time with and that’s the longest relationship that I’ve been in. He’s also polyamorous.

My other partner is more like having a high school love affair, that sort of relationship where the expectations on each other are very light. Unlike my nesting partner, we’re not talking about our children, and we’re not doing finances together. We just see each other once every so often and talk. My other partner is in Sweden and has been in my life for quite a while. We don’t see each other very often but I’m seeing him soon and it’ll be a week of passion and romance. All my partners know about each other.

Do they get jealous of each other?

Not really. There might be a bit of envy here and there but, actually, I’m usually the one that experiences jealousy around the partners. When you’ve been polyamorous for eleven years, you learn to deal with the jealousy monster. We get excited for each other and each other’s partners and each other’s happiness, even if that’s not something that we are causing or contributing to.

If you’re happy, no matter who’s making you happy, how can you be mad about that? I’m not saying jealousy doesn’t exist; there are definitely moments, especially around insecurities and boundaries that have been crossed. But I’m starting to really get the hang of it, even though I still have my trigger moments.

What sort of reaction do you get from people?

We live in a world of duality. There’s definitely a lot of “slut-shaming” and a lot of confusion. There’s a lot of making fun, but I also get a lot of people that resonate with me, a lot of people that say they’re grateful that I’m out here telling and sharing my story, and other people who say they want to experiment with creating polyamorous lives for themselves.

What is your hope for the future?

My hope is that people catch up to change collectively. If we can all just be a bit more tolerant and accepting of each other’s differences, there would be more peace.

All episodes of Planet Sex With Cara Delevingne are on Showmax.

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