Almost in every kingdom the most ancient families have been at first princes’ bastards. English Philosopher, Robert Burton.
Father’s day! I think we all agree that when you put aside the commercial aspect of this day, you instantly realise its value. While it pales in comparison to mother’s day, it remains one of the key days in Pope Gregory’s (bless his heart) calendar. Last year I dedicated it to all the fathers who are denied access to their children solely based on the idea and a culture that penalises a man for not marrying the mother. This year I wish to dedicate this Father’s Day to those children who are caught in that situation. The bastards! The unholy ones! The emotional rejects! The outcasts without a totem! This day belongs to them. They, just like their parents, are victims. Bullied by a set of norms, that wish to disparage their existence. Their so self-evident existence! I can only imagine how sacrilegious this might be in another world. In ours unfortunately, we have mastered the art of making another being feel like they do not belong in this world. Just like we are making children who are born outside wedlock ÔÇô as it is called – feel. Only heaven knows what their future has in store for them. I wonder what the future has in store for anyone who is being discriminated upon by their own kind. How do you heal a soul that has been broken by rejection?
This is why this day belongs to the bastards. We must today, for the sake of the bastard, reflect on the impact of our self-defeating norms. For instance, just as a man can never make a woman honest just by marrying her; two people cannot both bring a child into this world, and only one is charged for tlhagela/tshenyo. This does not make sense if you apply non-linear/spiral thinking to this concept. If anything, the demand for tlhagela/tshenyo is a criminal undertaking. Here is how. If the man is guilty of impregnating a woman ÔÇô which is why he has to pay tlhagela/tshenyo ÔÇô it is implied that, that man raped the woman in question. It implies that she did not wish to partake and the man forced himself onto her. This is a crime and instead of charging this man ‘cattle/money,’ he must be reported to the police, as rape is essentially a crime against the state. Denying this fact makes the demand and collection of the tlhagela/tshenyo fine a fraud. This is why I previously said it was a criminal undertaking. If you deny that it is so and reject this perspective, but you continue to agitate for tlhagela/tshenyo, then it must follow that you are suggesting yet another criminal offence. This time, that of collusion. The implication/application here being that, the family of the woman, in cahoots with her, had sent her to trap the man ÔÇô a mo tshoare a kaname jaaka selaga ÔÇô so that the family gains monetarily. How else can tlhagela/tshenyo be justifiable? It has to be justified or else we are incubating a torturous form of emotional and psychological victimisation. How?
When a child is born ‘out of wedlock’ they automatically assume their mother’s family name. Culturally and by extension, the child then ‘belongs’ to their maternal grandfather. To a point where a man can be told straight to his face that ‘ga o na ngoana koana.’ This position simply defeats the laws of nature and offends the Roman-Dutch law that we have imposed upon ourselves in this country. You can already see how volatile this situation is. Culturally the man has no child but legally he does. And when he absconds from maintaining a child that is culturally not his, he is taken to court. The court is only interested in extracting money from this man. This is clear the moment the man receives the subpoena to appear at court. The first thing is that the subpoena tells him to bring his pay-slip with. The man has not been tried and no truth has been established about his case, but he is already being told to bring his pay-slip. Guilty until he proves his innocence! If you think that is odd, the next part is odder. At court, the woman is asked to state her facts and at the end she is asked to give; from the top of her head, a round figure of how much she thinks the child’s needs (will) cost. Once that is done, it is the man’s turn. His job is to corroborate the woman’s story. ‘Do you know this woman?’ ‘Yes!’ ‘Do you have a child with her?’ ‘Yes!’ ‘Is the child so and so?’ ‘Yes!’ ‘Are you maintaining the child in question?’ ‘Your worship, the thing is, culturally the child does not belong to me, therefore, technically…’ ‘This court will not engage in that. How much do you earn, did you bring your pay-slip?’ In the interest of the child of course! Now you have a man who, under the threat of jail, pays for a child who culturally belongs to another man. For him to engage with his child he must ask to ‘borrow’ his own child all the while risking abuse, both emotional and verbal. O Tinto! Sekopa ke oena, re go tlhokomelela bana.
If you think this is bad for the man, it is worse for the bastard. Culturally the bastard is never really accepted at their mother’s family. Uncles and Aunts together with their children will always make sure that the bastard knows that ha ga se koa gaeno, especially where bosoa is concerned. Yet they will not release the poor bastard from their grip and let him/her to have a chance at enjoying the fruits of go nna le sereto just like the one born ‘in wedlock.’ This systematic discrimination between these two children is a gross violation of a human right. A right to belong and be accepted as whole. If taking the name of a mother is good for the bastard it must also apply for the one born ‘in wedlock.’ The same is true for the man. And if the maternal family cannot bear the cost of their mark on the bastard, they must relinquish letshoao loa bone on that child. Therefore, this Father’s Day, the hope is that, as the Ministry of Local Government and Rural Development reviews the Children’s act as reported recently, they will consider giving the bastard a chance to have a sereto and a chance for the bastard to proudly say ‘Happy Father’s Day’ and it is so. Unless it is true that to rule over a people, you must subjugate their men.
*K. Gabriel Rasengwatshe is a multi-dimensional speaker, author and presenter of Gabzfm’s Breakfast Show, weekdays, 6am-10am.