DISCOVERING-A-SKELETON-IN-THE-CLOSET‘A secret source of shame, potentially ruinous if exposed, which a person or family makes efforts to conceal,’ is the dictionary definition of the phrase to have a ‘skeleton in the closet.’

It is appropriate to this week’s column for life often teaches us that no matter how long the skeleton bones may seem to be safely locked away and the key securely kept, the day of exposure cannot be permanently dodged, often with disastrous consequences.

What exactly came out of the closet one winter’s day at the customary court almost a year ago, you will soon find out as I share Zami and Rantsho’s situation.


Rantsho and Zami appeared at the customary court on a cold and grey Ghetto day one July morning,each carrying a toddler in their arms.

My initial reaction was worry that they were exposing the children to the biting wind unnecessarily, but as it later unfolded it was the toddlers that were the subjects of their visit.

Rantsho spoke very briefly that he wanted the Customary Court to assist them to settle a paternity dispute through a DNA test.

My initial reaction was to say he was wasting his time since one had only to look at the kids to tell they were little replicas of him.

But he simply waived me away and told me that even though everyone said so, he would like to confirm.

It was a few weeks before I was to see him again, this time in the company of Zami, the children’s mother,and an aunt from his family.

He washolding a white envelope that contained the results of the test.

I could tell that something had gone terribly wrong as soon as he asked me to read the results for all present to hear.

When I saw what was written there I understood what had disturbed his mind.

The DNA test confirmed that of the two toddlers, who were about 15months apart, only the youngest was his – the eldest was not.

The children had been living with Rantsho’s mother in the village and she must have imagined, as grandmothers do, that the parents would get married and take over the raising of their children.

Her sonhad borne all financial responsibility for both children until one day when Zamiconfided in a friend that although Rantsho had accepted responsibility for her first pregnancy, he was actually not the father.

It was when the so-called ‘friend’ went to spill the beans to Rantsho that he expressed his intention to have the DNA test done.

Zami had a tough time dealing coming to terms with the fact that her long cherished secret has been exposed, and even accused Rantsho of bribing the laboratory technician as a means of getting out of paying maintenance for the child.

As the Setswana saying goes “ga eke eeswaesa raga”- meaning that a horse must kick before it dies.

Zami cut a pitiful sight as she got down on her knees and begged for forgiveness, her hands unable to hold back the tears that flowed from her face.

But Rantsho’s wound was too deep for him to be swayed by the repentant Zami, and he angrily barked:“Yes what next?” – a question he addressed to both Zami and the Court.

Rantsho cleared his throat, pulled at the restriction of his tie, and asked one more time: “ Zami what next, tell me where do we go with these results” –adding “o ne o re o clever gakere” – meaning ‘you thought you were smart.’

After a long pause Rantsho answered his own question, suggesting that the children need not be disturbed for now as his mother had become used to taking care of them.

Zami on the other hand felt that now that the skeleton bones had been exposed, she must be allowed to collect both her children since she was not married to Rantsho.


There were emotional and financial issues that emerged in this case.

The toddlers had bonded under the care of Rantsho’s mother, and both knew one thing – that Rantsho was there papa.

At some stage Rantsho thought it would be practical for him to keep his child and let Zami take the other, but that decision was open to heartbreak as the older child would want to know why he could not be with Papa and grandmother.

In the end Rantsho requested that he be allowed to go home and gather his relatives so that they could consult with Zami’s relatives.

The suggestion came as a relief as this was one of those cases that would need more than the Wisdom of Solomon to solve.

For whilst the court could have pointed out the legal options, no amount of legislation, nor the truth of the DNA test, could account for the emotional truths the couple had to face.

Was the love that Rantsho previously felt for both children to be compromised by the shock of his discovery, or could he find it in his heart to ignore the evidence and the blow to his ego?

There is need for the younger generation to learn a line in the music of the 60’s – “Now that we found love what are we gonna’ do with it?”

Parenthood needs a clear plan just like a small business to help individuals deal with possible accidents.

So many things will change around us but there is one thing that will never change, that is the ability to fine-tune our choices so that their outcome does not bring disharmony.

This is true in the words of the poet Kahil Gibran: “And your body is the harp of your soul, and it is yours to bring forth sweet music from it or confused sounds.”

Rantsho and Zami will need healing and to rediscover harmony in their lives before they can move on, as will the grandma who has dearly offered the labour of love to the toddlers that may be snatched from her.

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