Sunday 4 September 2022


FRANK Lucas, the Harlem drug dealer whose heroin operations used to rake in US$1 million per day at its peak, believes that the coat he wore to a Mohammed Ali/Joe Frazier fight in 1971 was the cause of his downfall.

Before that night, Lucas had been a low key figure, running a multimillion-dollar drug empire from the shadows of the criminal underworld.

After seeing lesser “hustlers” don expensive fur coats to another Ali fight in 1970, Lucas felt that he had to outshine them, and on that fateful night, he walked out of his home with a $100 000 chinchilla coat draped over his shoulders. To crown his majestic look, he wore a $25 000 fur hat.

It was an expensive costume that cost him more than money, something that meant very little at a time when his operation was at its financial zenith. It would cost him his wealth, peace and ultimately his freedom, as he began attracting the wrong kind of attention.

Everyone, from the paparazzi to law enforcement officers wanted to know who Frank Lucas was after that night at Madison Square Garden.

Leroy Sidambe, a businessman in South Africa, might not have donned a fancy chinchilla coat to a fight but he might find himself under the same kind of scrutiny.

A few weeks ago, few knew who Leeroy Sidambe was and, in a country prone to bouts of sometimes violent xenophobia, fewer still questioned his identity as a South African.

However, when news started filtering in that Leeroy, who is thought to be married to Mary Jane Sidambe, is now allegedly involved with Mihlali Ndamase, all hell broke loose. While Lucas had an attention-grabbing fur coat, Sidambe had a trophy girlfriend equally loved by the camera.

An influencer with an unparalleled social media presence, Mihlali has been the apple of Mzansi’s collective eye over the last few years, with her strikingly beautiful looks making one of South Africa’s most sought-after celebrities.

While Ndamase was previously untouchable, things have taken a turn for the worst since her alleged romance with Sidambe became public knowledge.

On social media, the girl who could do no wrong previously has now been commonly labelled as a husband snatcher, as Sidambe is thought to be still married to Mary Jane Sidambe.

While Mihlali battles slut-shaming and allegations of destroying another woman’s marriage on social media, for Sidambe, the consequences have just been as dire.

Since revelations that he is involved with Ndamase became public knowledge, Sidambe has been the subject of many attacks from those that claim that he corruptly got tender deals although he is a foreigner. This is despite the fact that some say Sidambe is a naturalised South African because of his marriage.

Sidambe is the chairman and Group CEO of the Sakhile Ezweni Group, a business that he describes as “a multidisciplinary group of entities, security, cleaning, events management, construction, bakery and project management.”

He is thought to have won some high-profile tenders, having been a part of events like the 2010 Fifa World Cup which took place in South Africa and the Nelson Mandela Memorial service at the FNB Stadium, nine years ago.

As if to prove that he is a Zimbabwean in hiding, some have dug into his biography, claiming that there are significant gaps that prove he is not originally from South Africa. Such gaps are thought to be associated with people who bought their identity.

A few weeks ago, the xenophobia-tinged online campaign against the businessman kicked into higher gear as some claimed that he is a foreigner that is ill-treating his South African workers. This was after a notice that salaries for workers would be delayed began circulating on social media.

While Leeroy has decided to deactivate his Twitter account and remain mum in the face of allegations that he is not a South African, he recently moved to protect his newfound sweetheart, revealing that he was now separated from his wife.

“Before everything else, I am a father, whose sole aim is to protect and provide for my two beautiful children. I have consistently shielded them from this period of change in our lives. They are the only reason I sought to have a quiet separation from my estranged wife,” read part of his statement.

“According to my understanding and that conveyed by my lawyers, this meant that my estranged wife and I were free to live our lives as we saw fit. Free to move on in whatever manner we chose as single individuals.”

Sidambe claimed that the cyberbullying was being instigated by his estranged wife and her friends.

“I met a woman I fell in love with. It has been heartbreaking to see her name dragged daily on social media for loving me loudly and boldly. The constant harassment she receives, instigated by my estranged wife’s associates, is unbearable and quite frankly not safe for anyone’s mental wellbeing.

“Mihlali Ndamase, like us all, is human and has a right to follow her heart on who she loves. She is a self-sufficient woman, who has astutely run her business, which does not deserve this kind of hateful intrusion upon her life and work.

“I can no longer turn a blind eye to the effect cyberbullying has had on her. The constant defaming of those who work in the public space has to stop.” Sunday News


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