There is a Setswana expression, “Ngwana o itsiwe sereto ke mmaagwe” meaning that only the mother knows who the father of her child is.
In recent years there has been a growing number of false accusations concerning paternity.
In some cases the courts have had to order DNA tests and individuals have had to sacrifice their hard earned money to clear the mist.
The older generation who had never even heard of ‘DNA’ believed what the mothers said, and had their own very powerful ‘visual’ DNA examination.
Quite often they would gossip at beer drinking parties called “ndale” in Ikalanga identifying physical features that linked the child to the father, which in itself would be enough to ensure that there was no need to drag the father to the courts for damages (tshenyo).
The issue of paternity is the theme for this week’s visit to the customary court in a case where two men claimed to be the father of a little girl.
Tshupo had lived with Busi for nearly 7 years and they were blessed with a little girl Luba of 5 years at the time of registering a case.
Tshupo had fulfilled all the cultural demands of paying damages and even declared that he intended to marry Busi in the future.
All the parties had a wonderful relationship until one evening when Tshupo decided to snoop into the ‘inbox’ of Busi’s telephone where he discovered Busi’s most treasured secrets.
To Tshupo’s great shock he found communication between Busi and a guy called Dud.
The messages left him in no doubt that his beloved little girl was also the apple of another man’s eye who spoke very fondly of her in the SMS communication that he had mischievously stumbled upon.
He produced the evidence a few days later when he appeared at the customary court.
Tears stood in his eyes as he related his painful ordeal, explaining that his sorrow was not for being cheated but for the fear and insecurity of loosing the one object of his love – Luba, whom he had nurtured, loved and bonded with from pre-birth till now.
I usually ask my clients what their expectations are before we work on the issues, and Tshupo’s answer was least expected as he wiped the tears away and adjusted in his chair.
He said “Rayang monna yo a tlogele ngwanake” meaning tell this man to leave my daughter alone.
The SMS’s were explicit enough in confirming that ‘Dud’ was not just claiming to be the child’s father, but was applying pressure on Busi to disclose the truth of Luba’s paternity.
One message from Dud clearly stated that he could not just ‘donate’ his treasure to another man.
Busi was invited to attend the court and she tearfully explained that she had really thought Tshupo was the father to her child until Luba was about a year old.
At that time she met her old boyfriend Dud, who got exited to see the little girl and told Busi that Luba was the splitting image of his other daughter.
He applied pressure on Busi to confess that she had been seeing both of them and to tell Tshupo that Luba was not his daughter.
Busi could not bring herself to hurt Tshupo and although she had refused to confront the issue head on, she had entertained communication from Dud concerning the little girl.
Busi did not want to loose Tshupo, the man who paid damages to her parents, the man who had maintained the child and cherished her as his own, the man she would like to marry.
For his part Tshupo refused to blame Busi but rather pointed his anger towards Dud whom he perceived as a selfish and unfeeling man who was trying to destroy his happiness to protect nothing else but his ego.
What would you do if you were the Judge?
THE POINTS TO BE CONSIDERED:
Tshupo has bonded with Luba and the child’s face lights up when ‘daddy’ appears.
Tshupo is not angry with Busi but with Dud. He has made it clear that he will not loose his daughter, but if Busi chooses Dud she should do so without taking Luba with her.
Tshupo says in the event that Busi chooses Dud, he would drag them before the courts and claim financial damages and emotional pain that he has suffered at their hands.
Busi admitted seeing two men and then identifying Tshupo as the father of her little girl. She meant well until she foolishly opened a dialogue between herself and Dud, which led to the confrontation.
Busi’s family stood by Tshupo and were angry with their sister for being so foolish.
This matter had come for reconciliation and healing and in conclusion I gave Tshupo that which he desired most, that is to keep his relationship with Busi and the child.
This was done with a lot of caution because it was not easy to imagine what Dud would do next.
Tshupo was referred for professional counselling and healing of his bruised emotions and Busi promised to shut the door between herself and Dud.
It was also pointed out that if Busi did not keep her promise there would be more shocks affecting the poor and innocent little girl who would be made to know another ‘dad.’
These human errors existed in the past but were not ussually made public since there were no cell phones or face book exposures.
The worst that could happen would be some gossip, but beyond that the older generation respected family bonds.