Let me take this unique opportunity to say Goledzwa to all the readers of Traditional Wisdom.
There is magic about the new year that we cannot shake off.
We all feel renewed and refreshed by the new season such that we imagine that we have the energy to make a long list of resolutions that will transform us.
Of course transformation is within easy reach if we try hard enough to be who we are supposed to be in truth.
The beginning of a new year at the customary court is always characterized by noisy crowds waiting to tell their painful stories of how things did not go well with this and that.
This financial thing called “motshelo” or “stokfel”as it is known in some quarters always leaves some individuals badly bruised.
Other complaints usually include frustrated landlords as tenants outwitted them by leaving huge unpaid bills for water and electricity and tearful single mothers whose partners have been gone for weeks under the pretext of going to sell cattle for school fees and had their mobile phones conveniently turned off to dodge the nagging mother of the child who expects financial support.
SINGLE FATHERHOOD BLUES
Join me at the Kgotla to see how poor Jocky was hit below the belt by a situation he had assumed was normal until on the first day of school for his 12- year -old son.
Some 12 years ago Jocky had an affair with Iye which resulted in the birth of a baby boy. Iye abandoned the baby with Jocky exactly 24 hours after it was born.
Jocky had a choice to take the bundle of joy to the police and demand justice but he chose to be brave and named the boy Same (meaning mine).
With the help of his mother and sisters Jocky was able to give the boy love and attention until the end of his primary school education.
Same’s hospital cards reflected his mother’s surname and there was no problem until the day when Same had to go and register for Form I.
The school authorities demanded a Birth Certificate which only the mother could collect from the relevant office.Sadly Iye had never seen the urgency to collect the Birth certificate as she spent most of the time at a drinking spot.
Although Jocky gave his son all the love and support the absence of a birth certificate made him half a dad and also reduced the rights that children should enjoy for poor Same.
The school door would not open for Same until the piece of paper confirming his birth was seen and Jocky ‘s knock on the relevant doors could not get him the paper without Iye or her relatives.
Same discovered for the first time that his father was not so strong after all because he could not get the teachers to open doors for him.
He watched with envy as his peers held by their mothers were led into classrooms while his father moved from one officer to the other .
Jocky in desperation thought the customary court could pull some magic strings and bring to an end to his problem.
Unfortunately upon calling the relevant office to enquire as to why the birth certificate could not be released to the father of the abandoned child, the response had more to do with fear to give citizenship to a foreigner and had nothing to do with the plight of an innocent child.
Efforts to get Same’s mother to attend a reconciliation process drew a blank as she was under the influence of some home made brew half the time and would not be able to conduct sensible communication.
This made Jocky a very sad and incapable father and poor Same became an unequal child in the land flowing with unlimited rights for children.
WHAT WOULD YOU DO IF YOU WERE THE JUDGE?
Points to Consider
Jocky is just a tribesman whose confidence is impaired by his inability to read and right and he carries the traditional attitude of shying away from confronting issues that boldly stand before him.
He knew he presented the baby to his Kgosi the day it was dumped and the Kgosi and other senior tribesmen had simply said “godisa ngwana wa gago otswe mo dilong” meaning just be man enough and raise your child.
Naturally nobody saw the need for demanding or ensuring that the process of formal adoption was done so as to given Jocky custody which would have definitely led to the changing of surnames.
On the other hand Iye is trapped in the disease called alcoholism which has rendered her dysfunctional as a mother .
Modern day Botswana still defines parenthood in terms of mother involvement and there is very little known or understood concerning single parenthood concerning fathers hence many gaps in the provisions of the legal frame work.
Not all problems can be solved by the Customary Court. This is one problem for which the Kgotla ran in circles to try and find solution but there was none except to write a letter to the school to temporarily be compassionate towards Same and social welfare officers to study the case and make appropriate recommendations…..
LESSONS TO LEARN
This case is an eye opener. One wonders whether indeed and in reality men and women are equal before the law?
In modern day Botswana, we see a growing number of single fathers who are left holding children whose rights are tightly tied around the finger of a mother who is emotionally absent and this makes the unsuspecting child a victim.
As we redefine parenthood in new and modern terms, let us also have the courage to balance the role that mums and dads have to play without prejudice before the law.
Be renewed in 2013 for whatever challenges ahead…stay strong..Goledzwa..