My First house Yvonne Chaka Chaka

Yvonne Chaka Chaka’s music career spans 22 years, during which she has recorded 20 albums. Dubbed the ‘Princess of Africa’ by her fans, Yvonne’s music strikes a chord in dwellings all over Mzansi, and she makes others’ lives melodious not only through her famous voice, but also by giving generously of herself to the various charities with which she’s involved.

It makes sense that this concordant style of being flows into Yvonne’s home life as well. Hearing that the first house she bought was not for her, but for her mother, Sophia Machaka, is no surprise. ‘My mother meant everything to me,’ Yvonne says. ‘As a child, I lived with her and my sisters in a room at the back of “the madam’s house”. I admired the house and always knew I wanted to buy one myself, so as soon as I got my first big paycheque in the mid-80s, I thought about getting my mother a new home. We were living in Dobsonville, Soweto, and being the proud and noble woman she was, Mama told me she wouldn’t move because the land meant too much to her – she owned the title deed, her husband had passed away there, and she had borne her children there.’

Of course, that didn’t dissuade the entrepreneurial Yvonne, who says: ‘I decided that if my mother wouldn’t leave the land, then I would build her a new house on the same spot.’ And that is exactly what she did. ‘All-in-all, it took about seven months and cost me around R90 000,’ she says. That was in 1986. In 1989, Yvonne married her husband, Dr Mandlalela ‘Tiny’ Mhinga, and it was time for this songbird to leave the nest. She says: ‘He already had a place in Kelvin and we could’ve just stayed there, but I wanted to start a new home.

‘I remember the day we found our house so clearly. We’d been driving around Kelvin looking at properties and weren’t happy with anything we saw. One must remember that in those days, being the late 80s, non-whites weren’t allowed in certain suburbs. We knew freedom was coming, though, because areas like Kelvin and Bryanston had opened up. It was five to five [4.55pm] and we were driving through Bryanston, when I noticed an open gate leading to a showhouse. Tiny and I drove in, and I just knew straightaway that I wanted the property.’

The property in question was a five-bedroom, five-bathroom home that sat on one-and-a-half acres of land. ‘[It] had an amazing skyline. I told Tiny, “I want this house right now!”’ She adds that to this day, the estate agent still laughs at how determined Yvonne was about getting her way with the property. She continues: ‘It was in excellent condition. We could have moved straight in, but there were a few things that I thought had to go.’ These included ‘really horrible green tiles in the kitchen, which we first replaced with white tiles and, more recently, with marble.’ They also added new red paving around the house and terracotta tiles at the pool. They built a tennis court on the grounds, although Yvonne admits that the family haven’t used it in years. ‘My husband used to be out with his racquet regularly and I used it to ride my bicycle on it,’ she says. ‘Now my boys have put up a basketball hoop and they play every once in a while. (Yvonne and Tiny have four sons: Ningi, Themba, Mfumu and Mandla.)

She says the house, which cost them around R690 000 in 1990, has ‘the most wonderful garden. I love colourful flowers – especially red ones and yellow ones – so it’s usually bursting with blooms. Walking amongst the trees is so calming. It’s a marvellous space for my three dogs and, of course, for my children. Although,’ she adds with a laugh, ‘when I notice things I don’t like I ask the gardener to sort them out for me – I’m more of an “in-doors” lady.’ Yvonne’s busy schedule includes travelling, so when she’s in Jo’burg she prefers to be home. ‘My space is lived in and is by no means a showhouse. There are always people milling about, and I am mad about entertaining. Tiny and I are both keen on flowers, so the house is always over flowing with colour and fragrance.’ Because of the large space, Yvonne built a threebedroom cottage for her helpers, and a cottage that doubles as her studio. ‘My children laugh at me when I get dressed and tell them I’m off to the office,’ she says.

Yvonne says she’s happy to still be living in the same home after 18 years, although she does sometimes have an urge to develop the land because ‘it’s the thing to do’. She adds, laughing: ‘Tiny and the children are having none of it, though. It must be because they’re all male!’ As for her immediate plans, Yvonne says: ‘Winter is coming and it’s a quiet season for performers. I think I’m going to head off to London this July. I like to get away – it always makes me realise how wonderful home really is.’

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Words: Angela Boshoff Photograph: Marc Shoul -