'Blood & Water': Zephany Nurse's real-life story must have inspired Fikile and Puleng's on-screen life
Miché Solomon learned she was Zephany after she became friends with another student who looked like her
In the first episode of Netflix's second South African original series, 'Blood & Water', 16-year-old Puleng Khumalo (Ama Qamata) goes for a party on the rich side of town with her friend Zama Bolton (Cindy Mahlangu). She soon comes across Wade Daniels (Dillon Windvogel), who tells her she looks like his schoolmate, Fikile Bhele (Khosi Ngema). Fikile’s birthday happens to be the same day as Puleng’s 17-year old sister, Phumelele, who was abducted by a woman from the hospital soon after she was born.
This is how Puleng's search for her sister starts — the coincidence might be minimal at the beginning, but as she goes on with Wade's help after joining Parkhurst Academy, she is certain that Fikile is indeed her sister, Phumelele Khumalo.
Of course, Fikile Bhele/Phumelele Khumalo's story could very well be inspired by the real-life story of Miché Solomon, born Zephany Nurse. Like in 'Blood & Water', Miché was told by others at school that another student — a girl three years younger — Cassidy Nurse, looked just like her. This happened when Miché began her final year at school in 2015 and though she initially brushed away what her friends told her when she came across Cassidy, Miché felt that she shared an instant connection with the younger girl.
Because of the connection they felt, the two girls began spending more time with each other. When Cassidy showed her parents Celeste and Morne Nurse a picture of the two girls, her parents asked her to ask Miché whether she was born on April 30, 1997. Though confused, Miché confirmed that it was, and thus began the unfurling of the tumultuous history behind her.
In 1997, three days after her birth, Zephany Nurse was kidnapped from her sleeping mother's hospital room in Cape Town by a woman dressed as a nurse. Cassidy's parents would celebrate their missing daughter’s birthday every year for the next 17 years, hoping for her return. They had three more children.
A few weeks after the Nurses saw Miché's photo, she was summoned to the headmaster's office, where two social workers told her about Zephany Nurse. Miché could not believe the story but agreed to a DNA test anyway. The results proved that Miché was Zephany.
The woman who kidnapped her and whom she knew as her mother, Lavona Solomon, was arrested. "That broke me," Miché told BBC. "I needed her. I needed to ask her, 'Why? What's going on?' I was so overwhelmed that I belonged to someone else."
Lavona's husband Michael was questioned and the police concluded that he did not have any part in the kidnapping plot. It's thought that Lavona concealed a miscarriage and then faked the remainder of her pregnancy, before stealing Zephany Nurse, bringing her home and pretending she had given birth to the baby herself.
During her trial, Lavona said she had been offered a baby by a woman called Sylvia who had been giving her fertility treatment. Sylvia had told Lavona that the baby belonged to a young girl who was not interested in keeping it and wanted the baby to be adopted. But there was no evidence that Sylvia existed.
In 2016, Lavona Solomon was sentenced to 10 years in jail for kidnapping, fraud, and violating the Children's Act. The judge criticized her for showing no remorse during the trial. Miché hated having found out that she was Zephany at first, sometimes resenting her biological parents for what happened to Lavona but she has since come to peace with both her identities.
She told BBC, "She came with such force, such an uninvited invitation, so much suffering, and so much pain. But Zephany is the truth and Miché, the 17-year-old girl that I was, she was a lie. So I've managed to balance both names. You can call me Zephany or Miché, it's fine."
Miché's story was published in a book published last year, 'Zephany: Two mothers. One daughter', written by Joanne Jowell. Miché had chosen to live with Michael and shares a strained relationship with her biological father. In the book, Miché says, "For me, Morne simply fails as a father. He’s not there for his other kids either. I honestly, deeply wish that they could have had a father and a mother like my parents."
Knowing Miché's story, it's hard to imagine that the creators of 'Blood & Water' were not inspired by the story. There are much too many similarities between the real-life people and their counterparts on the Netflix teen drama. There are of course differences — with a major scandal involving a few characters — for the sake of drama, but it's hard to look past what's common.
All episodes of Season 1 of 'Blood & Water' are now streaming on Netflix.