And whilst the first President’s actual words referred to a ‘people without a past,’ the issue of preserving culture has taken on the desperation of a war cry as we attempt to come to terms with the often confusing realities of the present.
We are emerging from communities that upheld very powerful values of loving and sharing.
Forexample families would adopt a child or two for the compelling reason of opening opportunities by providing education, or would help a neighbour by donating an animal to pull a plough.
It was a simple matter of lending a helping hand.
I would ask you to think about these concepts as I take you to this week’s customary court scenario where we meet Sega – a woman struggling to come to terms with a troubled past.
Words and tears poured out in equal measure as Sega related her painful story.
The woman she called mother, MmaTsogo had raised her since birth after her own mum had disappeared.
When Sega was 17 she eloped with a man 13 years older to a small town on the other side of Botswana -abandoning her schooling along the way.
That same year she became a mother to a lovely daughter Medi.
Sadly her relationship with Medi’s father soured, and three years after leaving she had no choice but to retrace her steps to the home she had abandoned.
She was desperate to go home and organize her national identity document in order to job hunt.
In her innocence she had not imagined the fury that would confront her.
When Sega knocked on the door of the house she had grown up in, the woman she called “mme” responded by screaming obscenities, rebuking her for daring to bringher ‘good for nothing’ self and her ‘fatherless’ babyback to burden her life.
Mma Tsogo had not forgiven the girl for running away; abandoning the opportunities she had been given, just to return with nothing apart for another mouth to feed.
When her thunderous anger was too much to handleSega tried to go next door with her daughter, but MmaTsogo read her mind and screamed across the fence that their neighbour should not dare interfere by giving her accommodation.
Sega then thought of her formerpastor and sought his help in her bid to seek healing and reconciliation.
The man of the cloth now sat opposite me in the company of Sega and MmaTsogo as together we faced the thorny issues brought before the court.
Sega related her story with courage and respect, but when she referred to MmaTsogo as ‘mme,’the embittered lady could only spit out the angry reaction, “Gakemmago”– meaning, ‘I am not your mother.’
The retortbringing more tears to the disowned ‘daughter.’
MmaTsogothen requested that she be given a chance to question Sega.
Question:If I am your mother why did you leave home only to come back with a child?
Answer: I was tempted just like any other child might.
Question:Do you know that you have dragged our ‘respectable’ name through the mud?
Answer:I do not understand “mme”– how have I disrespected ‘our’ name?
In response Mma Tsogo’s agitation was plainlyvisible, her jabbered words falling like punches on the distraught youngster. S
he told the court that she had taken Sega from a neighbour at the cattle-postand brought the child into her family to be educated.
Now Sega had thrown all that away and returned only with an extra mouth to be fed.
Her closing words were that Sega had to stop using the surname ‘Tsogo’ forthwith and find her true identity.
Sega had much that she wanted to say, but the words remained stuck in her throat.
In her despair she clutched tightly to her baby as if it was the only thing that justified her existence.
Thankfully we had involved not only the pastor but the social welfare officer was also present to lend support.
With much effort Sega resumed the conversation with the following questions:
Question: Do you mean you are not my mother?
Answer: Yes – you heard me.
Question: Where is my mother and all my family members?
Answer: I do not know. Do not even ask me.
Question: Do you mean you won’t help me get an Omang?
Answer: Gankake (I will not)
What would you do if youwere the Judge?
These are the points to consider.
- Sega’s waywardness is not unique – many parents have welcomed their prodigal sons/daughters back.
- On top of everything else, Sego now has to deal with the shock that she was picked up from some cattle post.
- MmaTsogo’s anger completely eradicates her original well-intentioned plan to assist a needy person.
- MmaTsogo does not appreciate that she is the person who disconnected Sega from her roots and that she has a moral duty to reconnect her.
- Sega has a great challenge ahead of her to re-establish a new identity with a previously unknown family.
In conclusion the pastor offered to work hand in hand with the social welfare officer to search for Sega’s roots, with the help, grudgingly offered, of MmaTsogo.
There are several lessons to learn from Sega and MmaTsogo.
There are many people out there whose lives have been destroyed by a love that has turned to rejection.
Society must revisit cultural adoption, which is called “go tsalelwangwana,” and ensure that should love of the foster parent dry out, the fostered individual will not be left in limbo.
Exploring such issues will help us connect the traditions of the past with the realities of the present.
The state of our soul may well depend on the outcome.