Polygamy exists here in Botswana, and we are fully aware of it, yet we pretend it is not there. Polygamy is in our houses or homes, yet no one wants to be affiliated with it. We all practice it at one level or the other; some say it is our nature as Africans.
In Botswana the common law states that a man can only marry one woman and a woman can only be married by one man. The last population census revealed that there are more women than men. It is ironic that all women want to be married yet they don’t want to share a man. All Batswana are fully aware of the shortage of men; even the certain organizations that combat the HIV pandemic are aware of this fact.
The common law, which was adopted from our colonizers, does not support polygamy. However one is allowed to marry divorce and marry again. This is in effect, very similar to polygamy.
This practice was fair because all women had equal chances of getting married and fulfilling their dreams, even if they had to share a man.
The current slogan in Botswana’s fight against HIV/AIDS is kgaola chaene, which means cut the chain of your sexual network. Would such slogans be relevant if there was no polygamy in Botswana? I think not. The fact is that many women are aware of the fact that their husbands or boyfriends have other partners, and yet they stick to the relationship, thereby sanctioning polygamy.
Lame a sales representative of a reputable company says that polygamy is here to stay whether we like it or not. She further explained that some people practice polygamy because they are sexually frustrated or sexually starved. She gave an example of two partners who are not sexually compatible. For example, when one has a high libido while the other has a mild or normal sexual appetite.
Oabile a final year student at the University of Botswana said, “This is our tradition and we are trying to run away from it. Polygamy will never go away.” He went on to say that Africans are still colonized even thought the colonizers have long left. Oabile said that in the past there were no arguments about whether to share a husband or not as it was culturally accepted.
He gave an example of the Zulu people, who are still practicing polygamy, as even President Jacob Zuma has more than one wife.
The same thing happens in the Kingdom of Swaziland, where the king chooses a wife every year. At the last count, he had 16 wives, but still there is room to marry more as his father had 32 wives.
Nkamo, a teller at a commercial bank in Game City mall said “This depends on your interests as an individual. What’s the point of denying ourselves all the earthly pleasures when those who are preaching against them are busy enjoying themselves?”
Nkamo confessed that she has two men in her life and she does not feel any guilty about it. She said that one man is old and married while the other is young and vibrant.
“It is a dream come true to have more than one partner, when the other one gives you a headache you go to other one to cool off. If this was legal there would not be such high rates of divorce,” said John, a security guard.
“We are Batswana, let us go back to our African roots and enjoy our lives. Polygamy is here to stay, if they come up with laws we will come up with strategies to beat the system. Plus no one knows what happens behind closed doors,” he said.