‘Long ago’ it was unheard of that ‘daddy’ (ntate) could get beaten.
If anybody was going to do the beating it would be the head of the household who had the authority to chastise his wives, children and pets as he saw fit. Children believed that even talking back to your dad could evoke the ancestral spirits into cutting your life short.
Nowadays things are different – a dad also gets punished if he is found in the wrong. I may be sounding like a broken record with my repeated reference to transitional issues, but that’s the way it is, we have emerging issues that drive individuals to creatively seek responses that are not so acceptable to the older folks – it’s all about survival.
This week’s case is a classic illustration of what I am talking about.
MR KGETSI’S STORY
Mr Kgetsi arrived at the kgotla in the company of his wife who had obviously been dragged there in the belief that we would rubberstamp a guilty ruling on the wife and sons. Dispensing with the courtesy of ‘dumela kgosi’ and the niceties of exchanging enquiries over our children’s health, the agitated man got straight to the point.
“O kile wa go bona kae Kgosi,” he challenged, meaning “Where on earth have you seen this kind of thing?” He continued in an accusing tone, “This woman made her children to assault me.”
He told me that he was found at his ‘hiding place,’ as he put it, when his wife and sons knocked at the door unexpectedly. When he inquired who was there she replied politely: “ Ke Mma Phenyo.” He got up to meet his wife believing that there must be some crisis in the village for her to arrive unannounced, but to his utter dismay Mma-Penyo was at the door with Phenyo and Koketso, his first two sons and they were holding sticks.
Mr Kgetsi said he tried to reason first, then to negotiate, accusing his wife of just appearing like lightning out of the blue. None of his tactics worked however as his sons entered the house to drive out the equally shocked and scared female visitor. The poor woman was stranded in the dark but peacefully left the family to deal with their issues.
Koketso was the first to hit his dad on his exposed back as he had come to answer the knock at the door with only with his pants on. Mr Kgetsi said the wife just looked on as his sons beat him up declaring that their mum’s suffering must come to an end. A neighbour who heard the commotion eventually came to assist the beleaguered man, who now demanded that the kgotla should summon his sons and teach them manners. As for the poor wife, her eyes were searching mine to detect my approval or otherwise of the husband’s unforgiving tone.
When Mr Kgetsi was done I politely asked him what he wanted me to do for him.
He seemed shocked that I should even be asking such a question – to him it was obvious that the boys must be brought in for corporal punishment. For her part the mother would be dealt with at a family meeting.
In response I had to fake sympathy and persuaded him that we deal with them as a couple first -this he perceived as a waste of time, but reluctantly agreed.
I then turned to Ma Kgetsi whose physical strength contrasted with the timidity she displayed. She regretted that things had come to this because all her life she had never thought she would have to appear before the kgotla.
She confirmed every word her husband said and regretted taking her sons to catch him in his ‘hiding’ place. Between rubbing her palms and actually clapping as if to appease a king she repeatedly said: “Phoso e dirwa ke motho, ebile e baakangwa ke motho” (meaning to err is human but forgive divine).
WHAT WOULD YOU DO IF YOU WERE THE JUDGE
These were the issues I had to consider.
Mr Kgetsi is locked into the belief that the practice of ‘go ikutswa’ (taking on a second partner) should not attract his children’s anger as it has always been there as a cultural practice.
He does not feel the slightest remorse – if anything he carries this entitlement mentality that “go ikutswa ke ngwao, ga go kake ga ema” (meaning that the right for men to be in extra marital relationships is here to stay).
On top of that he completely discounts any emotions that his sons should have about his moral conduct, considering it to be, ‘all men’s conduct.’ He is obsessed with a simplistic view that his sons can just be dragged to the kgotla and flogged, even though he does not have the courage to criminalise their act by reporting to the police.
Mrs Kgetsi for her part is remorseful, but carries within her an assertive spirit. Although she does not vocalize her sense of victory she is clearly without remorse over the flogging of her husband.
She says her man had stopped visiting her at the village, an action that prompted her into ambushing him at his ‘hiding place’ following a tip off. She further says a number of family projects they were involved had to suffer because of his evident distraction by ‘something in town.’
She is not so sorry that her sons punished their father since she perceives his actions as a threat to the emotional and financial investment she has put into their 40-year-marriage.
In judgement I got Mr Kgetsi to weigh up the pain that ‘go i kutswa’ brings to the wife and grown up children. I sugar coated my words of advice and was relieved to see him nod in approval. In return I undertook to caution the boys about the possibility of attracting a curse by beating their dad.
In my argument I dragged in Vision 2016 and said that Botswana society needs to reinvent the relationship dynamics if the promises of 2016 is to become a reality.
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