Unconditional love and respect was a creed the older generation lived by, which has kept communities bound by unbreakable cords to this day. Lately there have been many cases of family feuds reported by individuals seeking reconciliation, and at the heart of this social ill lies petty jealousy and malice driven by the desire to pull others down. I am almost certain the spirit of Cain has not found peace and it still remains a curse to the human race.
This week’s case study at the kgotla is an example of what I am talking about.
Banyana reported at the kgotla to seek healing and reconciliation on an issue concerning her siblings who had risen against her. Not only that but they were tarnishing her character even to the folks of their high-density township.
Banyana was the oldest of eight siblings and had been the economic pillar of her family. She had demolished her mother’s round huts and replaced them with a big mansion that made her mother the envy of her peers. What seemed to be success to those around her apparently became a curse that ignited anger, envy and hatred in the heart’s of her siblings. They ganged up together with their children and called her names like “kwete” meaning “Big shot.”
To make matters worse they began to send her sms messages that discredited all her good intentions, telling her to uproot her mansion and plant it where other rich people lived. They even called her a witch for being different from them.
Tensions were further raised when they vandalised her car by removing the wheels at night and in the morning giggled as she struggled to put them back to drive to work. Hurt and demoralised Banyana found it difficult to believe that their home had become a battle ground in a war where she stood alone.
A family meeting was convened at the kgotla with all concerned parties. Upon arrival it was obvious that some family members were under the influence of intoxicating drinks on sale in their township. Banyana’s mother sat tearfully as her children took turns to accuse “kwete” of being a control freak.
With difficulty Banyana related her story for the benefit of her siblings, visibly shaken and distressed by the whole thing. When she had given an outline of her complaints, producing the rude sms messages as evidence, a spokesperson for the siblings asked with hate evident in her voice:
Why did you break our old mud houses and build your mansion in our yard?
Do you think you are the head prefect because of your money?
To both these question Banyana demonstrated maturity and inner strength that only fuelled the anger of her siblings. An elderly uncle sitting in the meeting tried to give guidance and words of wisdom. He had just started quoting a Setswana idiom that says Bana ba tshipa ‘Children of a…….’ when one of the siblings who had visibly taken more than she could handle, ridiculed the uncle by saying, “We are not children of that tshipa….”
I calmly requested one of the siblings to justify why they were treating Banyana in that way, and she rumbled on in a verbal attack that merely exposed her bitterness, anger, jealousy and prejudice towards her elder sister.
When Banyana gently asked them to explain the problem, they all chorused, “o rata dilo misis ke wena (You like things). When one of the sisters who had been quiet for some time opened her mouth to remind the others how Banyana had been the star in the family, she never got to finish as they all yelled back, “Ke lolope” (sell out).
WHAT WOULD YOU DO IF YOU WERE THE JUDGE?
Banyana did what was traditionally and socially correct, and normal practice not so long ago, by improving the living standard of others. The least she could expect was gratitude and love.
The unfortunate woman had not expected to suffer so much pain at the hands of her kith and kin. What seemed to matter to Banyana was not so much the insults, but rather the bonds she had enjoyed from birth that were now being destroyed.
In the end it was Banyana’s mother who brought proceedings to a close. She told her spiteful children in no uncertain terms that if they could not live with Banyana, then they should find alternative accommodation and leave her with a daughter who had made her proud.
In recent years sibling rivalry has reared its ugly head in many families where individuals gang up and throw stones in judgement of their kith and kin. This goes a long way to say the human race still carries that unrelenting spirit of Cain who failed to be his brother’s keeper.