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Real Housewives of Johannesburg's Brinnette on her abusive ex-husband: 'It was as if he was fighting another man'

2019-10-29 18:37
Brinnette Seopela. (Photo: Fani Mahuntsi)
Brinnette Seopela. (Photo: Fani Mahuntsi)

It was a whirlwind romance – when her businessman boyfriend proposed after 100 days of dating, Brinnette Seopela didn’t hesitate to say yes. After all, Themba Gezane treated her like a queen, lavishing her with grand gifts and romantic getaways.

The couple’s traditional wedding was an elaborate affair that saw Kelly Khumalo serenading their 300 guests. Their white wedding – aired on the reality show Brinnette stars in – was equally extravagant, and the bride wore two designer dresses. But it wasn’t long before her happiness turned to horror.

Brinnette says behind closed doors her marriage was far from a picture-perfect fairytale. Speaking exclusively to DRUM, the reality TV star alleges she suffered abuse at the hands of her husband. We meet Brinnette (39) at De Hoek Country Hotel just outside Johannesburg, where she and the rest of the cast of The Real Housewives of Johannesburg (RHOJ) are filming the second season of the hit show.

She’s happier now that she’s split from Themba, she says. Brinnette claims he abused her days into their marriage. “We had just come back from our honeymoon in New York, and we had an argument,” she says. “I went to work but because I was still stressed, I called two of my friends and we had lunch. At around 7pm, my one friend said he was making dinner so I decided to go with him.

“Themba knew him and knew I was with him because I video-called him earlier, showing him where I was and who I was with.”

She kept her husband informed of her whereabouts, but Brinnette says there was hell to pay when she got home. “When I got home, he wasn’t himself. When I got into bed, he started a fight with me and shoved me out of bed,” she says, her eyes filling with tears.

“He screamed hurtful things at me and told me to get out of his house and that he wants a divorce. It was as if he was fighting with another man. “He continued to punch and kick me. Eventually he got on top of me and strangled me. I remember thinking, in my tipsy state, ‘This guy is going to kill me if I don’t do something’. So, I kicked his private part to stop him.

“But it didn’t stop there – at some point he poured fruit cocktail juice all over my head and I had to sleep in that sticky mess. To this day, I don’t drink fruit cocktail juice.”

She didn’t immediately feel the pain, she says, but once the adrenaline wore off, Brinnette was in agony. “At around 4am, I woke him up because I was in so much pain I couldn’t move. “He told me he was still sleeping, and he’d take me to the hospital when he wakes up at around 7am,” she says, tears now streaming.

“The nurses kept asking what happened to me. I had to lie because he was standing right there. I was scared. The nurses and the doctor could tell I was lying and when we finally had some privacy, they urged me to open a case.”

Brinnette says she didn’t open a case because she was scared and hoped he would never hit her again. Eventually she confided in friends because she didn’t want to worry her mother, Junia Senne (56).

“My one friend told my mom, and that was the beginning of the end. I remember hearing my mom’s voice on the phone and just bursting into tears.”

In the five months they’d been married, she claims, Themba beat her three times. Later, he would apologise and buy her gifts. The situation carried on until Brinnette’s mother, her stepfather, Simon Dube (65), who had helped raise her, and her grandmother, Abigail Seopela, urged her to come back home.

“I suggested to Themba that we separate, and attend counselling to try and work on ourselves and our marriage. But while I was doing that, he kept bringing in girls to our house, into our bed.”

Brinnette stayed with Themba despite the alleged affairs and abuse. The entrepreneur, who owns a wellknown spa in Rivonia, Johannesburg, says she reached her breaking point in October. “I was preparing to write a test that would usher me into a marketing course I wanted to study. I told him I was going home to study for it and would come back after writing it.

“Themba responded by telling me not to bother going back to the house if I go home. I left that marriage with nothing but my handbag and school backpack, wearing the dress and sneakers I was wearing that day.”

She met Themba through social media six years ago when he sent her a direct message on Instagram. Her friends warned her they weren’t suited to each other, but Themba was relentless and she struck up a friendship with him. They met face to face on his birthday in May 2015 and started dating in May 2017.

“After 100 days of dating, he proposed to me with 100 roses and a candlelit dinner. Themba was very romantic, I’ll give him that,” she says. “I also liked the fact that he did things the right way – he first asked my mother’s blessing before proposing to me. Everyone loved him. Even my friends changed their minds once they saw how he treated me.

“He was so romantic in the beginning. He treated me like a queen, so sweet and loving. It was easy to fall for him, so when he proposed, I said yes.

“There was a little voice inside that said, ‘Maybe you’re rushing things’, but I chose to ignore it because not marrying him wouldn’t make sense.”

Now Brinnette believes the gifts and trips were all part of a ploy to manipulate her and the people around them.

“The first time I suspected he might not be the person he portrays himself as, was at a party we were hosting,” she says. “One guest came with their friend and he gave him a hard time. Eventually, he jumped on the guy, tried to beat him up.

“He thought that guy wanted me. He shouted things like, ‘You’re undressing my woman with your eyes, I’m going to “there was no interest”, he says. They struck up a friendship two years later through a mutual friend, Sonia Mbele, who is also the executive producer of RHOJ. In September he proposed to Brinnette, and when her lease ended in October, she moved in with him. That’s when the trouble started, according to him.

“Before we got married, we had some major disagreements over the cost of the wedding,” Themba says.

“I spent over a million rand for the traditional wedding – she had so many demands for her dress and erecting marquees that would be dismantled the next day. All of this was for the show, to place herself in a certain light. “It was no longer about us and our union, so I stood my ground on several things. When I told her, ‘I didn’t marry you for TV, I wanted a wife’, she’d accuse me of not being supportive,” he says.

 The couple also argued about their white wedding.

 “She wore two dresses, one cost over R100 000, and the other was R40 000. The flowers alone cost R400 000. I mean, how can you spend over R400 000 just for flowers? “That’s not how I was raised. I wasn’t staying true to who I was.”

Themba rejects Brinnette’s claims he beat her after their honeymoon.

“I postponed our honeymoon for a week because she had had a miscarriage and I wanted to mourn. “On our way back we weren’t talking. She was upset about the amount of money I gave her to spend on herself there. “We landed in the morning and by the afternoon she was gone, only to come back in the early hours of the next morning. Even before we got married, she’d go out and come back at ungodly hours. Sometimes I’d complain about it and she’d tell me her mother didn’t give her such curfews, so I’d let it go,” he says.

After their wedding Themba put his foot down.

“I told her we’re married now, we must spend time with each other. That night she Facetimed me to show she was out with her gay friends. “I’m not discriminating, she wanted to show who she was with and that it was harmless. But a married woman at nightclubs on a Sunday night? Come on.” Brinnette confirms she had suffered a miscarriage. “Yes, I did have a miscarriage just before our honeymoon. It’s still very difficult to talk abou f**k you up’, things like that. And that’s a pattern I noticed – he was very violent and rude to other people.

“When I confronted him about these things, he’d always use the excuse that he was drunk.”

His explanations did little to ease the gnawing feeling in her gut. “You know that sixth sense? There was something in me that didn’t sit well with everything.”

Things came to a head when she realized she didn’t want to stay in an unhappy marriage for fear of what people would say. “I chose myself – I chose to love me enough to leave because I was going to leave in a coffin if I didn’t.”

In February, Brinnette filed for an official end to their marriage. She says Themba didn’t contest it or appear in court for the finalisation in May. “I’ve been free since, and I’m enjoying my freedom. Now I can focus on myself, my businesses, as well as the charity work I do.”

She partnered with two other businesswomen in an eyelash business that recently got off the ground. She’s also filming scenes for the highly anticipated second season of the RHOJ, where viewers will be taken on her journey of heartbreak.

Brinnette believes she’ll find her Mr Right one day. “I’m a hopeless romantic and forever will be,” she says. “I still believe in love.”

We meet Themba at a café in Kyalami to hear his side of the story. Themba says he’s never laid a hand on Brinnette, and maintains they are still married. The pair met at his birthday party but “there was no interest”, he says. They struck up a friendship two years later through a mutual friend, Sonia Mbele, who is also the executive producer of RHOJ.

In September he proposed to Brinnette, and when her lease ended in October, she moved in with him. That’s when the trouble started, according to him.

“Before we got married, we had some major disagreements over the cost of the wedding,” Themba says.

“I spent over a million rand for the traditional wedding – she had so many demands for her dress and erecting marquees that would be dismantled the next day. All of this was for the show, to place herself in a certain light.

“It was no longer about us and our union, so I stood my ground on several things. When I told her, ‘I didn’t marry you for TV, I wanted a wife’, she’d accuse me of not being supportive,” he says. The couple also argued about their white wedding.

“She wore two dresses, one cost over R100 000, and the other was R40 000. The flowers alone cost R400 000. I mean, how can you spend over R400 000 just for flowers? “That’s not how I was raised. I wasn’t staying true to who I was.”

Themba rejects Brinnette’s claims he beat her after their honeymoon. “I postponed our honeymoon for a week because she had had a miscarriage and I wanted to mourn. “On our way back we weren’t talking. She was upset about the amount of money I gave her to spend on herself there. “We landed in the morning and by the afternoon she was gone, only to come back in the early hours of the next morning. Even before we got married, she’d go out and come back at ungodly hours. Sometimes I’d complain about it and she’d tell me her mother didn’t give her such curfews, so I’d let it go,” he says. After their wedding Themba put his foot down.

“I told her we’re married now, we must spend time with each other. That night she Facetimed me to show she was out with her gay friends. “I’m not discriminating, she wanted to show who she was with and that it was harmless. But a married woman at nightclubs on a Sunday night? Come on.”

Brinnette confirms she had suffered a miscarriage. “Yes, I did have a miscarriage just before our honeymoon. It’s still very difficult to talk about.

They argued frequently, Themba says, often about money. “She’d max out the card I gave her for emergencies. I refused to give her more money to just splurge because we needed to watch how we used our money, especially after the weddings.

“She threatened to get money from other people, and I saw other men sending her money on her phone.” He didn’t abuse her, he insists, but Themba admits one of their heated rows became physical.

“One morning she came back at 3am when she said she’d be back by 11pm. I was tired of this behaviour and told her to go back where she came from. She refused and we had a scuffle – that’s when I pushed her and told her to leave,” he says.

“She claims she injured her knee when I pushed her, but I don’t remember seeing her fall. In the morning I took her to the hospital, and she was taking pictures of her knee, telling people I abused her.”

Brinnette went to stay with her parents for a week until her mother and cousin sat down with them both. “They told us to love and respect each other, and to live within our means. She returned home after that. But things didn’t get better,” Themba says.

“I kept trying to show her how much I love her, taking her out to beautiful spots for her birthday and buying her random gifts and flowers, but she kept secrets from me.

“When I found out about some of the secrets, I’d confront her, and she’d get upset and throw tantrums.”

“In the short time we were married, Brinnette accused me of a lot of things. She forgets that I know so much about her and could easily destroy this image she’s trying to portray.

“All that I ask of her is to leave me alone – she must stop lying to the world, making me out to be a monster, because I’m not. Even the cheating she accuses me of, I know nothing about. “I’m the one who suggested we see a therapist. I wanted us to address the things she was hiding from me, that directly affected me. I wanted us to rebuild trust, but she refused.”

 Themba says he’s never been served any divorce papers. Brinnette declined to show DRUM the documents.

“That’s a private matter,” is all she’ll say. It remains to be seen if they’re legally separated, but according to Themba their relationship has run its course. “Now, it’s over, I don’t want her back,” he says. “I just want us to move on and for her to stop lying about me.”