As I recount this week’s case from the kgotla I am reminded of the story of a girl who fell in love with a snake to the disapproval of everyone around her.
The moral behind the story is to warn young people to develop a powerful sense of discernment when they deal with matters of the heart.
It was a lesson Mercy had to learn the hard way.
Mercy had been with her boyfriend Rex for over 9 years and the couple had an 8-year-old son.
She came to the kgotla describing how she felt trapped in a web of financial exploitation, deceit and verbal abuse from her long time boyfriend.
The couple had been seeing each other for many years, they had lived apart and visited each other whenever the need arose.
Marriage had been discussed at various points throughout their relationship, but Rex had always found reasons to avoid making the final commitment to holy wedlock.
Apart from that their relationship had continued without much ado until Rex asked Mercy to accommodate him for ashort period while he organized himself financially.
Mercy had tried to resist this arrangement but Rex used every tool at his disposal to ensure that he pushed his way under Mercy’s roof.
He got Mercy’s mother to talk to her, and suggested that sharing accommodation would speed up their marriage.
Rex got his own mother to say words like “kana totalosetselolemonna le mosadi, aonako e kanakana”– meaning: ‘You are now really husband and wife after such a long time.’
Eventually Mercy succumbed to the pressure and reluctantly allowed Rex to move in with her with the belief that it would only be temporary.
But sharing her home with Rex proved suffocating right from the word go.
Her man did not just enjoy what was offered but assumed the position of head of the house and dictated terms as to when and how Mercy could come and go.
He literally re-wrote the script of Mercy’s life to a point where he complained that Mercy’s mobile phone was always ringing and he needed some peace in the house.
Mercy was disturbed that although she had to dance to the tune that Rex played, he would come and go as he chose, and would be on the phone for a long time at the far end of their garden.
During their first month together, Mercy and Rex had become regular visitors at the police station.
To add insult to Mercy’s injuries, Rex did not financially contribute to the payment of rent, bills or any of the living expenses.
Accommodating Rex brought untold pain and misery and she desperately needed help to evict him.
Sadly their parents felt that for the length of time they had been dating, living together was a good idea for the sake of their child.
After listening to Mercy’s story I called Rex on his mobile phone to request for a meeting to reconcile them.
As I introduced the subject matter, I was shocked by his rudeness and carefree attitude.
Rex responded by saying “Ngwanyanayo o batla go ntwaela o kankisalekgotleng” – meaning: ‘This girl is just taking me for granted – how dare she drag me to the kgotla.’
Mercy stated her case with the detailed accuracy of one whose list of concerns was well rehearsed.
She made it clear that it was her mother and some of Rex’s relatives who prevailed upon her to accommodate him.
Rex listened with wide-eyed disbelief when Mercy told the kgotla that he was taking a free ride upon her by not even contributing for his upkeep and that his patterns of control were something she had not bargained for.
When Mercy was done, Rex seemed frozen on his seat in utter disbelief that Mercy had revealed that a man of his stature was that irresponsible.
Clearly embarrassed he began his side of the story by admitting that Mercy was telling the truth about many things, even making reference to the Setswana expression, “Kana kgosi matlo ana otlhe” which literally means that there is a leak in every roof and therefore Mercy must just be strong.
His concluding statement was that he had moved in with Mercy in order to finalise his plans to marry.
With a shrug of his shoulders he added that if Mercy evicted him she might as well forget about this grand thing they had invested over 9 years of their life in. His last word was: “Bona Mercy, you are my baby and you are blowing it – even my mother is shocked that we are here, you have really blown it.”
Mercy simply chipped in to say “keimelwakelenosi” meaning ‘I am carrying the burden alone.’
WHAT WOULD YOU DO IF YOU WERE THE JUDGE?
Points to consider
Rex, like many young fathers feels having a child together gives them some entitlement and the parents are also trapped into automatically treating the young man who “damages” their daughter like a son in law in waiting who must enjoy a number of privileges.
This blinds the girl who might desire to move on after the baby.
Most young ladies also buy into this concept and lose focus on objectively evaluating the relationship. The involvement of the parents and their wishes also tends to confuse them.
Sharing accommodation has far-reaching consequences especially if the parties do not sit down to map out mutual expectations from each and other and agree to draw boundaries.
It seems Rex by moving into Mercy’s house began to see her as not only the mother of their child but she had to be a cook, provider and cleaner as well as performing other matrimonial ‘duties.’
Rex does not appear remorseful for not helping with rent and other expenses – infact he mentioned that maintaining his expensive car was a big challenge.
Mercy is deeply conscious of the fact that their long courtship has not been pleasant at all she feels that her stay with him has put a stamp of “TAKEN” on her and it will destroy any chances of other men seeing her as available for courtship.
After dragging the parents of both parties to the kgotla, it became clear that Mercy with the support of her parents wanted Rex out of Mercy’s house, but Rex’s parents believed that their son deserved to live with Mercy so that they could prepare for marriage (they still assumed that Rex would marry Mercy).
As we struggle to achieve gender equity, the women folk must realize that not only laws of the land will help them – if there was no agreement amongst the family Mercy could legally evict Rex from her home -but there is desperate need for assertiveness skills.
Such skills develop a powerful sense of discernment that will help them get rid of the ‘unwanted snake’ that some men turn out to be.
Success in relationships lies not on external forces but internal forces driven by the desire to defy all odds in search of inner peace and personal fulfilment.