A famous writer and philosopher said, in times of universal deceit, telling the truth is a revolutionary act. The topic of polygamy in our society in Botswana is ever in the secret corners of our individual minds. Like all topics of truth, this topic inevitably provokes much anxiety and negative reaction from most people confronted with it. People are generally afraid to speak freely about it out of fear of attracting ridicule upon themselves. Usually the first battalion of ridicule is supplied by the HIV=AIDS=ARV propagandists, flanked by the mainstream media and populist politicians. The attack can be atrocious at times and even worse if the opinion holder is a prominent member of the society capable of influencing public opinion. The Swati and Zulu royals, as well as president Zuma are living testimony. In the crucifixion of an opinion holder, very little attention is given to the raw facts of life. The debate, if ever initiated, never takes off the ground beyond vilification. The vilification on its own ensures that the opposite opinion is never voiced and consequently the subject of polygamy, though gravely important, is just never discussed, except in the context of ridicule, when we see it in practice elsewhere. Thus it has become essential in every discussion of controversy, to introduce it by highlighting these impediments to free thought and free speech , which in my view, serve to stifle knowledge on fundamental social issues, and as such keep society locked in perceptions which are not necessarily correct about a subject nor good for society. The basic facts of life which are ever overlooked when polygamy is discussed are the following:
1. Every living species owes its survival on MOTHER EARTH as a species, to its ability to procreate that species in perpetuity. The species must of necessity strike a balance with nature through procreation. I think we can all agree on this one.
2. The natural pattern of procreation for the mammal’s species is to have one male servicing several females. I think this one also may attract unanimity in agreement. We see it with most if not all mammals.
3. The human species is a mammal. The idea of one male servicing several females is not foreign to the human race. That was the state of affairs in pre colonial times in many African states including Botswana. That state of affairs had its origin in African culture. It was and is still part of our Law in Botswana. The Botswana marriage Act recognises customary marriages which are polygamous in nature. The same obtains in South Africa and many other African countries. Polygamy is part of their laws. It is not only African, the Muslim community sanctions polygamy. I think this fact also we can agree on. We should also be able to agree on the Law as it is clear and open for everyone to verify for themselves.
4. There are more women than men in Botswana of reproductive age. Yes, we should agree here as we can all see it for ourselves. Many of such women feel a natural instinct to procreate but are frustrated for not finding partners to serve that purpose. I will leave this one to the women to back me up. The natural instinct arises from a far deeply spiritual yearning to fulfil that Godly task to bring at least one human life to earth. Only the women can do that, obviously after mating with a man.
The carrying out of this Godly task is profoundly fulfilling for a woman. You have to experience it to know the full extent of the fulfilment of bringing a life to earth. Again I leave this to the women to back me up.
5. Every woman deserves an opportunity to fulfil this Godly task, and importantly, they deserve love and attention for themselves and the child they bring to earth, by the father of that child. The degree of love and attention is another matter altogether, but the point here is that they do not deserve to be hidden in the background as if they have committed sin by performing a Godly task but rather should be embraced and cared for. “I WANT TO ENJOY MY FERMINITY” Mpule Kwelagobe couldn’t have said it better and indeed it had a bearing winning her and Batswana at large the Miss Universe tittle.
6. The majority of men married in “monogamous” marriages are in actual fact living polygamous lifestyles, albeit not in the public eye. They hide and lie and are made to endure this indignity by a perception that has dictated and defined the core of our basic lives, that polygamy is wrong and a bad thing. Indeed we live a lie every day. I challenge any man in their numbers to refute this basic fact of truth. Let him who thinks he is righteous speak out to proclaim monogamous faith in his entire marriage and let him be judged by God for his truth or lies. 7. The Botswana population of Tswana blood line is not increasing in number but is dwindling down. We Batswana men are not procreating. On the other hand the death rate is not declining. This scenario extrapolated into the future spells disaster and imminent extinction of Tswana bloodlines. There are numerous reasons for this situation. These will be discussed in part II of this debate.
Perhaps there are more facts of life that can be highlighted, but for now I wish to proceed with the discussion on the basis of these facts which I believe should attract unanimity or at least majority agreement, despite our differing opinions about the subject. The question that come next to mind then is: why do we in Botswana continue to shun upon a cultural practice (polygamy) when our population growth, the very survival of our species desperately needs the practice and when in fact we live the practice in our secret lives and when in law, most of us Batswana have contracted customary marriages (which are polygamous by nature), without realising it. A friend of mine who is schooled in law once told me this that the customary procedure of patlo,which we Batswana go through, before signing at Church or the district commissioners office, in law actually defines the legal status of our marriages. Once the patlo is completed and bogadi is given, you are married; finished. What follows thereafter is ceremonial because you cannot marry the same person twice. By the time you attend at the DC office or at church you are a married man and woman. As usual, the colonial master has deceived us so well over the years with his culture to believe that our cultural procedures mean nothing and have no legal consequences. For those critical of polygamy but have undergone the procedure of patlo, it is time to wake up to this reality and perhaps relook at the legal status of your marriages before you go on the rampage in attack of polygamy.
“A people without the knowledge of their past history, origin and culture is like a tree without roots”Marcus Mosiah Garvey, Jr