Tuesday, August 9, 2022

I mourn the death of a Motswana man

I was raised during a period when men were men; when manhood was celebrated and not seen as something barbaric, oppressive and something to fear. Being tough was virtuous and greatly admired.

Yes I am referring to being physically strong. Slothfulness and laziness were greatly despised. Men were supposed to be tough and not weaklings. A man’s honour was his labour. A man’s strength was revealed by the structural strength of his compounds in the village, the cattlepost and masimo. The size of his compound and houses communicated his strength and his sphere of influence. A man’s tshimo was his honour. It was debushed and fenced by him, his sons and his relatives.

A man was also supposed to be emotionally strong. A man was an emotional cornerstone of his own compound. He was not to display affections public. He was not to cry in public. He was to be strong and not be a girl. He was the one who contacted a ngaka to strengthen not only his homestead, but his marriage. The ngaka strengthen him, his yard, his tshimo and his moraka. The ngaka ensured that the compound was protected from witchcraft and the jealousy of those who wished to bring him harm. The children were also treated with charms which made them strong and healthy. They were protected from harm and death. It was the responsibility of the man to do these things. He was to ensure that everything was protected. His children had to be healthy. They must have shiny cheeks and full bellies. They must be well fed. His wife was to be seen by swinging buttocks; an excellent sign that she was well taken care of by her husband. His house was to be a house of plenty and satiation.

The man had to also ensure that his livestock was well protected. He had to build a solid and impregnable kraal which will protect his livestock by night from the marauding beasts of the forest. The animals had to be protected from the crushing jaw of the hyena and the jackal. By day the animals had to be provided with sufficient place to graze and water to drink. The goats and sheep had to be defended against the sly fox and the killer blows of the cantankerous and vicious baboon.

It was the job of the man. He had to be solid. He had to be a man. If his livestock was not reproducing well he had to return to the ngaka and ask for a pheko ÔÇô a charm ÔÇô which would help the animals reproduce very well. One of the things which defined him as a man was the acquisition of a good wife: one married from a good family that does not deal in witchcraft; a wife who is well behaved and is not known for excessive gossip and laziness; one who is industrious and gives birth to many healthy children; one who cooks for her husband and children, keeps the yard clean and ensures that visitors are well taken care of. Such a woman was a crown on the head of her husband and attracted much praise to her husband and family.

In the midst of all this, a man had to be a man. He had to remain strong, solid and firm. He had to instil discipline in his own compound. His children had to display the best manners. They had to show respect not only to him, but to their mother, each other and strangers. In the event that for a while some deviated from established mannerisms of the home and the morafe, corporal punishment ÔÇô the use of a stick on a bare back restored honour and sensibility to a wayward soul, a prodigal son with prodigious mannerisms. A man who could not discipline his own children and a man who could not control his own wife was a failure. He lacked strength and could not be given village or kgotla responsibilities. He was a bad example of how to raise a family. He could not dispense the law in the kgotla for he had no moral authority to do so ÔÇô since his own castle was in shambles, totally dilapidated. And therefore discipline was important for without it, one’s position in the morafe was significantly undermined. A man and a woman whose children were well behaved were a marvel of the morafe.

And so the man would return to his castle after work in masimo. He would find food prepared by his wife ready. He didn’t have to wait around for food. He would sit in his setilo sa dikgole. He didn’t share his chair with anybody. Nobody, except him, sat on this chair. This was his throne. So he would sit on this chair ready to receive his meal. The children would bring him water to wash his hands. His wife would bring him food to eat. His dish was different from all. It was his and his alone. He did not share it with anybody. Only he ate from this dish.

The food portion in the dish was also different. He got the juiciest meat portion and got the largest food portion than everybody else ÔÇô even if he didn’t eat much. He would rather give his leftovers to his children rather than be insulted with a small food portion. It was not done to dish out more food for anyone in the home more than the man of the house. It was considered disrespect. It was to demean the man of the house. No, it was to insult him. And there was no greater crime in the home than to insult the man of the house.

So I think about this Motswana man. He is missing. He is lost. All that is left is a lost bunch that like girls wears earings and mourns in public. This bunch doesn’t have a special chair. It has no special dish. It is weak. It has no kraal and lacks a yard of its own. I mourn the loss of a Motswana man.


Read this week's paper