Zulu Dreams is the remarkable true tale of Richman Mahlangu.

This is the memoir of a man born during Apartheid in South Africa who makes it out of the country on the merits of his tennis game-----and his fierce determination to hold on to his dreams. His Zulu family is subjected to harsh government-sanctioned discrimination, his father dies under the voodoo spell, and his mother does the best she can to raise her five children on her own.

Richman Bongani Mahlangu is drawn to the game of tennis as a young boy, even though it is a white man’s sport in South Africa. He hangs out around the local tennis club and serves as ball boy for pros who teach there. After members leave for the day, a young Richman relieves his grief and frustration by hitting worn tennis balls against a wall. With a discarded racket with broken strings and the support of a kindly white woman he meets at the grocery store where he works as a cart boy, Richman practices every day on his tennis game and on his English.

After much hard work and with a great deal of discipline, Richman catches the eye of a white tennis pro (Mr. Tim Gray) who becomes the first in a series of mentors, some of whom are kind and well-meaning, while there are others who will use his naïveté and talent to their advantage.

Richman eventually gets recruited as a tennis instructor by a shady businessman who owns a tennis school resort in St. Wolfgang (Austria). Richman escapes the ravages of apartheid, only to find himself in a very different world of racism.
Though he is in awe of his luxurious surroundings, Richman misses his family in South Africa and suffers a severe case of culture shock. His boss treats him differently than the other (white) instructors and pays the young immigrant very little for the long hours he puts in both on and off the court. He expects Richman to be grateful- and he is in the beginning. But after some time Richman realizes that he is all too often the butt of the joke, he is not paid as well as the other instructors, and he is not protected by any kind of contract. Richman feels as though he is constantly at the mercy of boss. He works diligently on his game, becomes friends with some of the staff, makes enemies of others, and gets to know many of the wealthy guests who stay at the resort.
He realizes that in order to become more knowledgeable about the ways of the world and those who hold the power, he needs an education.

Richman dreams of going to America to attend a university where he can study history, politics, and theater, and perhaps even to play tennis. With his warm and outgoing personality, Richman builds connections and friendships with other trainers. He eventually receives offers to work in other clubs and play in tournaments throughout Europe.

He travels to Germany, Austria, Portugal, Spain, England and Switzerland. He is forced to navigate a maelstrom of passport and visa troubles. The color of his skin and his South African passport prove to be a constant obstacle. Richman’s dream becomes a reality, however, when he heads to America on a tennis scholarship from the University of Nevada Las Vegas.

Richman studies hard, he learns all he can about his new home, in the summer, he returns to work at the tennis resort in Austria. He meets an Austrian woman who becomes his wife. Though there is no love in the relationship, the two of them take on the problems inherent in a multi-cultural relationship, including racist reactions from others (including Richman’s in-laws); the challenges of finding work in a foreign country, and the constant risk of deportation. Ultimately, there is the heartbreaking act of raising children in a family split apart by infidelity.

Richman coaches his two sons the game of tennis as a means of accessing the highest levels of American education. In the end, his sons reap the benefit of Richman’s devotion, both become scholar-tennis athletes on full scholarship at Harvard University and Georgetown University. 
This is really the heart of Richman’s story—a father’s love for his two sons and an unfailing desire to provide them with the opportunity for a better life. Throughout financial and immigration struggles, Richman remained unwavering in his dedication to be the best father possible. By becoming an American citizen, he assured his sons a brighter future.
The sport of tennis is more than a metaphor in Richman Mahlangu’s life. It is the means to an end; the promise of opportunity for a poor South African man and his sons, whose lives are full of possibilities because of their father’s determination and dedication in the face of seemingly insurmountable hardships and challenges.  

By never giving up on his dreams, Richman succeeds in providing his sons a brighter future—the one he had only imagined possible.