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I am not a slay queen, call me ‘Mumpreneur’ – Zari

On December 16, Crystal Angela Newman hosted Zarina Hassan on her Sanyu FM show, Celeb Select. The 37-year-old businesswoman and socialite talked about love, parenting and yes, Hamisa Mobeto’s affair with Diamond Platinumz. The Observer transcribed parts of the lengthy interview:

The beautiful Zari…Welcome!
Thank you!

You always look so stunning, but what was little Zari like?

I have always been this person. I haven’t changed… I come from a family of six girls and two brothers.

And what were your parents like?

My mum passed on. It is about four months. That was just seven weeks after Ivan [Ssemwanga, her ex-husband and father of her three older sons] died. My mum raised us when our dad left. She was that person you could run to whatever the problem was.

Losing a parent is…

…is so hard!

Have you thought about counselling?

I haven’t really been for counselling. I did take the kids for counselling when their dad passed on. I have learnt to pick myself up from my falls.

You were born in Jinja…?

Yes. Then we moved to Kampala. Jinja used to be the ‘it’ town. We moved here in 1997, then I moved to the UK, then to South Africa.

Which schools did you go to?

I went to Main Street primary school, Muljibhai Madhvani girls school. I did cosmetology in the UK and mastered my HR skills in South Africa.

Were you that child who wore mummy’s dresses?

I was a makeup type of girl. I used to have a lot of dolls and play mummy… and it is what I have turned out to be. I am so mummy. I love being mummy more than anything else.

How did you decide to do cosmetology?

I love beauty. My aunt used to be an air hostess… everything about her used to make me think, wow, this woman! She inspired me. Rest her soul in peace.
[Crystal plays Zari’s request, Despacito by Luis Fonsi and Daddy Yankee.]

Did you ever work in the UK?

I did, but I know what I want in my life and the work in the UK was not what I wanted for my life. I worked at a QuickSave, at a Sainsbury, then a sandwich factory…then I said hold on, this isn’t my life. I’m going back to Africa. [Zari was in the UK for two years and tells Crystal she eventually got a residence permit. She has lived in South Africa for 17 years.]

How do you do the balancing game between South Africa, Tanzania, Uganda?

I travel a lot, but you also need to prioritise. Number one is time management.

So, South Africa…

I worked in South Africa about two years, then I met Ivan. He was doing his own thing. I told Ivan, you have your thing going, but it’s a bit shady. Now we are going to start a family and I don’t think I want to be on the run all the time.

I gave him the example of a Ugandan guy who owned a primary school. He drove the latest cars… I wanted that life. He was like, ‘no, I’m not so educated to go there’… I said, we do not need to be educated to do this.

We need to know how the system works. I started doing my research and contacting people, going to the department of education… I told him, we don’t need to be the principals of our schools, we just need to hire people we can pay.

We put in our applications. It was rough in the beginning… Eventually we started with one floor, two floors. Now we own branches nationwide in South Africa. It has been one rollercoaster, but I am proud I pushed for it…being CEO of these companies. I’m still here and it was worth it.

Well done! Back in Uganda you were like, boom! Who are this couple?

What made our life so big in Uganda is we were the flashy couple.

Were you flashy in SA as well?

I don’t know. For me these things have become a lifestyle. I don’t even know when it is flashy [or not]. When I pop champagne in my home, I’ll probably post it on Instagram or Twitter. It’s just my lifestyle!

I don’t like being called a socialite. I am a mum, a businesswoman.  There is a difference between me and slay queens, slay cartoons… They pop champagne for social media while living under waragi circumstances. [She requests for Dance, by Timaya.]

Have you always been like this? Tell it as it is?

Yeah. It is what it is. You take it or leave it.

You and Ivan were together a long time…

Almost 11 years.

What made you decide finally, that I’m done?

Ivan wasn’t really a bad guy. He was just really obsessed with me. When an obsession grows, it becomes a bad thing. It got to a point where it became really nasty-physical. I really tried to work on it… We had his family and my family coming together a couple of times and we would leave this week and fly back to SA and bang, we were back to square one.

You don’t stay with someone this long, build an empire, have children… and just walk away. People say she is a prostitute, malaaya, biki… They are very quick to judge. I was the one keeping this relationship together. I stayed in a very abusive relationship. He would say, you want to leave me? You will have to go through the balcony… people don’t get it.

But with time comes healing and forgiving. When he passed on, we were really good friends. I would joke about the girls he was dating, he would joke about Diamond…

Then you had that drama when a very intimate video of you surfaced.

People like making drama… ‘oh, she has a sex video’… I am not ashamed of my past. I was dating someone when I left Ivan. Because of the long distance we would get on the phone and do whatever we had to do. We were adults.

I think this person had recorded a session. When I wanted to leave him…it was just a rebound thing…this person blackmailed me. He wanted me to pay him. I told him go ahead. Now it is out. It’s done.

Then you met Diamond. What do you call him at home?

Dee, or Baba T. He calls me Zee or Mama T [their daughter is called Tiffah].

You have been so open to love [despite the heartbreaks]…

…I’m such a girly-girl. I want to be loved. It is so beautiful for someone to call you at the end of the day… Even if I left Diamond today, I would still fall in love probably 20,000 times.

Speaking of Diamond, was it hard to date him?

When two famous people date, people will always scrutinise. But when we get home, I am not Zari the boss lady. He is not Diamond Platinumz. We don’t bring [that world] into our home.

At home, he is my man, I’m his woman. He’s such a humble guy. He cooks, he is good with the kids, plans all our vacations. [She clarifies she has never moved to Tanzania.]

How do you feel about him cheating on you?

Cheating and having a baby with another person. It was betrayal at its best. I could not talk about these things, but because I have made peace with them, I can talk about them and not feel anything. People cheat, but why are you cheating in our bed?

Why are you cheating with some low-life things out there? Why are you not wearing a condom when you know you have kids involved and you could catch HIV? I had like 20 million questions… The baby is innocent. I will not refuse him to see his child. We’ve had a discussion…but you never know with musicians…there will always be groupies; you never know when the next scandal is going to hit you.

So, who is Zari?

I love being mummy. The ‘Mumpreneur’. I’m a businesswoman, I’m very humble and I like having fun.

Do you feel you’re on the right track?

No! I’m not on the right track until I fly private jets. I’m still in business class until I sit in a private jet, then I’m like, ‘yeah! Mama I made it!’

Are you a strict mum?

We have a relationship with my kids; we talk. I don’t beat my kids, but when you fail to do your homework, when your grades drop…things are not going to be sweet. You will be grounded, you’ll not get the new video game, you will not go to the soccer tournament…[As she leaves, she requests for Eneka by Diamond Platinumz].

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