Apologies for missing last week’s column as I was away attending the Gender Justice Summit in Johannesburg.
Today I would like to tackle motherhood in modern day Botswana as my topic of the week. On Saturday 13May global communities will commemorate Mothers Day, and whatever the origins of the celebration, I know it in my heart that mothers are worth celebrating in a big way.
If nothing else the reward they can look forward to for raising nations, despite having to put up with the Biblical punishment of Eve in experiencing the pain of childbirth, is a big hug.
Historically a mother raised children to be her extension and her first support group. When a mother encountered major challenges in raising her children, neighbours were always quick to remark that “batsoga ba godile obo o lebala mathata” (they will soon grow and you will forget all the problems).
But let me take you to the case study that illustrates how painful motherhood can be.
One winter morning Misenya showed up at the Kgotla. Even before she could open her mouth her troubled face announced her story as she choked back the tears.
Misenya had come to seek reconciliation with her son Mothusi who had bluntly told her that he would not assist her financially to raise her younger children. As she related her story and circumstances, she did not seem so hurt by the denial of financial support. The greater hurt came from the blunt words that sprung from her son.
Misenya told me that Mothusi was her eldest son whose pregnancy had made her a school drop out at the age of 16. She revealed that she had three other children who were in school and she was employed on the Ipelegeng programme.
She had pinned her hopes on Mothusi to assist her raise the other children since he had a good job at the mine and earned decent money. But to her shock and dismay she discovered her son was a fun lover who preferred to travel far and near with his well to do friends.
Mothusi was invited to appear for reconciliation and when he came, he was such a sharp contrast to the mother who was simply dressed in blue FTC overalls. The young man was dressed in designer jeans and shirts from Jeep and trendy eyewear. His body language could not hide his anger at being dragged to the Kgotla when as a matter of fact he was supposed to fly out on a business commitment that day.
I asked Misenya to relate her story to her son. She had barely begun to introduce the subject before her emotions overcame her and she wept bitterly. Through the sobs I could pick out some few words like (kana ebile mpa ya gago e batlile go mpolaya) meaning I nearly died of childbirth complications.
In the end I had to finish the story myself, by which time Misenya was calm enough to remind her son of how she had risked her life at Nata to cut grass and put him through his education. But Mothusi seemed unmoved by his mother’s distress or sacrifice.
When the young man was given an opportunity to respond he spoke very briefly, mainly in question form. What amazed me was that he spoke as if the figure he was sitting next to was a complete stranger rather than his mum.
- Did you have many children with me in mind to raise them?
- It is not enough that I have moved out of the small house you live in?
- Is there any law kgosi that compels sons to look after their parents?
As Mothusi callously shot these questions out at the kgotla, his mother went into another fit of sorrow as more tears, coughing and sneezing filled the cramped porta cabin that was my office.
What would you do if you were the Judge?
The facts I had to consider were:-
- Traditionally we take for granted that individuals who were blessed with a good job would make sure that they supported the family. Misenya had a cultural right and legitimate expectation from Mothusi.
- Modern trends and freethinking teach independent values at the expense of group values.
Misenya got the shock of her life when Mothusi said he had no obligation to help her, and her son was equally shocked that his mother produced a big family with him in mind as support. He even said he was preparing to get married and it was impossible to support his brothers.
In judgement I referred Misenya to the social welfare officers who considered her a suitable candidate to qualify for support.
As we celebrate Mother’s Day I would ask you to reflect on these issues and remember that love and generosity are values that transcend time.
The tragedy and irony of this whole story is that in the event of Mothusi’s life taking a down turn, it will be the poor mother who visits him in hospital or in prison to shed more tears for her boy. The spring of a mother’s love never dries up.
Happy Mothers Day…Mothers remain strong no matter what.