A conflict of interests?
This week I would like to reflect on another thorny topic that is most often discussed in hushed tones and one that many people openly despise and yet secretly practice. That is the subject of traditional healing or traditional ‘insurance’ as some call it nowadays.
Traditional medicine is about protection of individuals, security for their homes and property, and general healing of difficult cases. It is generally believed to have the power to undo the works of darkness. Sadly when the early missionaries came to preach the gospel of Jesus, their preaching did not necessarily bring total conversation and this has created a dichotomy. The fact is many individuals go to church but still come back home to indulge in unchristian ways.
Let me take you to a matter where Wame desperately needed reconciliation with Koketso, her husband of 12 years. She came to see me at a point where she was so depressed by the circumstances that had ambushed her otherwise happy marriage.
Wame told me that she and her husband had married in church and were seriously involved with the work of the church. Then one night Koketso told her that he had secretly consulted a traditional healer who threw bones, and told him that their lives were not secure. He told his wife that to overcome the problem they had to sacrifice a black cow to idols /gods (badimo) and have a day of family cleansing where all members would be washed with herbs for protection.
Wame was very unhappy about this but she thought she would gently talk her usually understanding husband out of the whole thing. But Koketso’s mind was made up and there was no going back. As they were still negotiating Wame realized that her mother-in-law and Koketso’s sisters had begun to pass remarks to the effect that people who hate traditional healers are actually witches, and they are scared to be suffer the consequences of being found out.
Apart from the shock such thinking caused Wame, she now was faced with a feeling of rejection and isolation, which she could not handle alone. The distressed woman told me that she was a committed Christian who believed that only God through His son Jesus could help her.
Listening to Wame I even feared for my own safety because over the years customary court work had brought about its own conflicts with threats by individuals who felt bigger than the arm of justice and correction. Wame’s case was one of those issues that needed careful handling because Koketso was a respected ‘big man’ in the community and one that you have to think twice before summoning to the shabby offices of the customary court.
I whistled for courage and phoned Koketso on his mobile phone. I greeted him warmly and asked how the family was before I took a deep breath and told him that I needed to have meeting with him and Wame. He sharply replied: “Oh I can guess why you want me. I will come with my mother and sisters and I will also bring my mother-in-law.”
THE DAY OF RECONCILIATION
The day of came faster than I had wanted because of the apprehension I felt about this, “don’t touch family matter.”
Wame related her story carefully but assertively making it clear that whilst she was ‘one’ with her husband, she did not want to become part of his traditional healing practices.
As Wame was talking her mother murmured and shifted uneasily in her chair adjusting her traditional blanket of respect (Tjale) unnecessarily. When Wame was done Koketso simply said: “Yes Kgosi this is true. But I am an African and cannot allow other boys to play with me when I can actually secure my life.”
Wame’s mother then composed herself and started firing questions.
Mma Wame: Ngwanaka ontlhabisetsang ditlhong. Wena o gaisitse mang ka bokeresete jo jwa gago
(My daughter why do you drag me into shame. Are you better than all the Christians?)
Wame: Ke rata go itlhophela se ke se ratang
(I want to choose as I please.)
Mma Wame: Ke eng o itira lekgowa botshelo bole thata Jaana
(Why do you behave like a white man when life is so tough?)
Wame: Nna Mama ke pholositswe.
(Mama I have been saved)
Mma Wame: Ngwanaka batho botlhe baba mo dikerekeng le baruti tota ba thaile malapa ka setsol
(All the people you see in churches including pastors they have security through traditional healing.)
In the midst of all this there was an uncle Dithupa, who asked to be allowed to speak. When he did I was grateful for his presence. He pointed out that both husband and wife must approach traditional doctors after consulting each other. He concluded that Koketso was wrong to drag Wame to his chosen traditional healer.
These remarks however only added fuel to the fire that had been burning within Koketso’s mother. Furious, she asserted that the reason why Wame did not want traditional healers was because she intended killing Koketso.
Koketso also argued that paying tithes to the church was daylight robbery, to which Wame pointed out that tithing was nothing, compared to the P15 000 paid to the traditional healer.
WHAT WOULD YOU DO IF YOU WERE THE JUDGE?
This was one of the most difficult and controversial issues I had had to deal with during my time at the Kgotla.
On the one hand I had to consider that Wame was adamant and would not shift on the subject of traditional healing and security.
Koketso and almost all members of the family on the other hand felt that Wame was not just being petty, but that she could be a witch who was afraid of being found out by the traditional healer.
Then Koketso had stated in no uncertain terms that as head of his family he had the right to protect the family the way other Batswana did, and nobody should hide behind the church.
In the end I handed it over to the parents to go and discuss further. Sadly three years later I met Wame who confirmed that divorce became the only way out as Koketso’s family were up in arms and had made her life hell over the issue.
The point to bear in mind is that our belief systems can contribute to domestic violence and it is not only men who abuse women, there are women out there who are victims of abuse from the tongues of other women.
It takes a lot of wisdom, discernment and perceptive thinking to achieve peace in our families, especially when there is a perceived conflict of interests.