Who is Wilbur Smith's wife? Legendary author dies 'unexpectedly' at 88
Mokhiniso Smith, the author's fourth wife, was by his side when he died. A cause of death is yet to be established
Legendary author Wilbur Smith died at his South Africa home on Saturday, November 13, after a decorated career in writing at age 88.
Smith became a household name with a staggering 49 titles to his name as his valorous adventure stories gripped readers and took them on a journey to the jungles of Africa, Ancient Egypt and World War II. Mokhiniso Smith, his fourth wife, was by his side when he died. A cause of death is yet to be established, The Guardian reported.
“Global bestselling author Wilbur Smith died unexpectedly this afternoon at his Cape Town home after a morning of reading and writing with his wife Niso by his side,” read a statement released by the Wilbur Smith Books website and his publishers Bonnier Books UK. “The undisputed and inimitable master of adventure writing, Wilbur Smith’s novels have gripped readers for over half a century, selling over 140 million copies worldwide in more than thirty languages.” Smith's 1964 debut novel 'When the Lion Feeds' became an instant bestseller and inspired 15 sequels as it traced an ambitious family's fortunes for more than two centuries.
Who is Wilbur Smith's wife?
As mentioned, Smith's fourth wife Mokhiniso Smith, originally Mokhiniso Rakhimova, was by his side when he passed away. The couple had met in a WHSmith bookstore in London on January 18, 2000. They subsequently fell in love and married in Cape Town in May of 2000. Mokhiniso, who hails from Tajikistan, was a law student at Moscow University at the time, 39 years younger than the celebrated author.
Wilbur first married Anne Rennie, a secretary at a Presbyterian Church in Salisbury Rhodesia, on July 5, 1957, and the couple had two children together before divorcing in 1962. Smith married his Jewel Slabbart on August 28, 1964, after being introduced at a party in Salisbury. The couple had a child together but the marriage eventually ended in a divorce. He then met and married Danielle Thomas, who was also a divorcee, in 1971. Tragically, she would succumb to cancer in 1999, after battling the disease for six years.
A man of many hats
Smith was born in Zambia in 1933 to a British family. He was known to be an avid big game hunter, having grown up experiencing the rich forests and savannah of Africa on his parents' ranch. Meanwhile, he also held a pilot's license and was a scuba driver. The future author soon built a reputation as a conservationist, managing his own game reserve as he owned a tropical island in Seychelles. According to Smith, his mother taught him to love nature and reading, while his father, whom he described as a strict disciplinarian, handed him a rifle at the tender age of eight. He acknowledged that it was the start of his lifelong love affair with firearms and hunting.
Smith contract cerebral malaria when he was just one year and a half. The severity of his ailment sparked fears he would be brain-damaged if he survived, but the author thought otherwise. “It probably helped me because I think you have to be slightly crazy to try to earn a living from writing,” he later reflected.
That said, Smith's bestselling Courtney series was the longest-running in publishing history, spanning generations and three centuries, “through critical periods from the dawn of colonial Africa to the American Civil War, and to the apartheid era in South Africa”, his publisher stated. However, the hero of his Egyptian series Taita was one he “most strongly identified, and River God remains one of his best-loved novels to this day”, the publisher added.
Smith recounted in his 2018 memoir On Leopard Rock how there were “tough times, bad marriages … burnt the midnight oil getting nowhere, but it has, all in the end, added up to a phenomenally fulfilled and wonderful life." He added, “I want to be remembered as somebody who gave pleasure to millions."