Sadly none of this may mean much to perpetrators and victims of violence and the onward march of HIV infection, for whom it may be ‘business as usual’ whilst thousands of organizations across the globe are demanding an end to violence and marking World Aids Day in their communities.
This week I would like to share how the ‘Rraagwe ngwana´ (father of the child syndrome) can disempower womenfolk and put the human spirit to test.
At the kgotla I met with a young mother of two young children who shyly related this heart-breaking story that left her permanently scarred by the children’s father.
Moepi had dropped out of school at the age of 16 at form III level. After the little mishap of her pregnancy, her parents kept the child and gave her yet another chance to try and push her education. But her boyfriend Motswere shot at her again breaking her leg the second time as the Setswana idiomatic expression goes. This made Moepi’s parents very angry and they decided that she must job hunt and take her children to town with her.
Moepi was fortunate to find a good job with one of the factories around town and settled down to her fate. Motswere like a bee had flown to find other flowers that would match his style of insemination. Naturally he had numbed his conscience concerning the two children he had brought into the world, although Moepi reported him for child support and he was ordered to pay P400 per child per month.
One evening Motswere made what appeared to be a casual stop at Moepi’s rented one room where he found her and her new man celebrating a birthday for one of the children. He looked obviously embarrassed since he not even realized it was their birthday. After exchanging greetings he asked to speak to Moepi privately. He simply said that he had thought very carefully about his children and could not allow another man to raise them, and so he was asking to be allowed back. Moepi was overjoyed but she knew they would have to discuss the HIV issues because she and her current lover were testing every three months.
She gently told her boyfriend who the children had enjoyed calling ‘papa,’ that “kana rraagwe bana are oa boa” (by the way the father of my children wants to come back and raise his children). To this the poor man simply yielded since it appeared the natural thing to do.
Within a few days of this encounter, Motswere was back into Moepi’s life as if he had always been there. Moepi was smart enough to declare her negative HIV status supported by an up to date Tebelopele card, but Motswere arrogantly declared that he did not carry a Tebelopele card because his employer conducted regular checks and his results were in his file.
After a few weeks of protected sex Moepi succumbed to the pressure of an educated, older and more assertive man in her life. Their relationship seemed to be so good that Motswere kept on saying he was embarrassed by the fact that his children were using Moepi’s surname and he would soon take steps to correct that.
Obviously it could only be corrected by marriage and Moepi told her friends and parents, “Rraagwe bana are oa nyala.” Motswere reasoned with Moepi to cancel the maintenance order as it took a lot of their money and it would delay his plan to marry. Moepi obediently did as she was told and this seemed to bring a smile to Motswere.
It was two months after their getting back together that Moepi decided to go and check her status and was crushed to discover that she was HIV positive. In her mind she could only blame her the father of the children. Moepi returned home to share the news with Motswere whose answer was not only brief but also brutal. “Jaanong maduo a, nna ankama jang” meaning what has your HIV status got to do with me? And on that note he once again slipped out of Moepi’s life without even saying goodbye.
Even as Moepi reported the matter only Motswere’s expensive clothes were in her wardrobe and the children could not stop asking what had happened to their newfound dad.
Motswere was invited to the kgotla and arrived promptly on the appointed date.
Moepi tearfully but confidently once more related the painful circumstances of her dealings with the father of her children. I was amazed that Motswere seemed to nod in agreement to every word that Moepi uttered except that he was visibly shocked that she was uninhibited enough to expose the HIV aspect of their dealings. She also wanted to know whether she could still return to the magistrate and restore the maintenance case she had cancelled.
WHAT WOULD YOU DO IF YOU WERE THE JUDGE?
These were the points I had to consider:
- Moepi allowed the “rraagwe ngwana” trap to ensnare her otherwise organized life.
- Moepi trusted the father of her children who was older and more education to be vague about his HIV status.
- Moepi did not have the assertiveness to insist that for the sake of their getting together they should visit a testing centre together
- Moepi had let go the man who was transparent and used to accompany her for testing.
- Motswere’s main plan in searching for Moepi seemed to be to evade maintenance.
- Motswere was one of those people whose conscience was dead – he would not be remorseful about messing up Moepi’s education or ignoring children he alone brought to this world
In settling the matter Moepi was advised to go and re- open up the maintenance case. Moepi was referred to BONELA who would professionally look into the circumstances surrounding her HIV infection.
This story brings out how young ladies can be trapped into emotional and financial abuse by men who do not want to look back after planting the seed.
All the social ills like gender based violence and domestic violence cannot be waived away or addressed through the provision of law.
Yes the law must be in place, but what is more important is the ability to negotiate for a relationship that gives all parties power.