There are times when I feel that African Culture holds us as back in a lot of things as Africans. Some of the rules that we have in culture are obviously very outdated, sexist, oppressive and basically designed to serve or enrich men. No am not talking about the lobola debate because that one has been over discussed and clearly no solutions have come forth to it. I am talking about something like a man not being allowed to his child because he has not paid damages for the woman that bore that child. Some families would go above and beyond to punish that man for not marrying their daughter even if the daughter moves on before they even reach that agreement. What they were saying was utter bullshit? They were saying that 20 years after this child was not only born but dead as well last time I checked, he must pay damages for her! This was definitely a way of getting money out of him and creating a rift in his other life. Sizwe was a married man and has been married for 17 years in November; any money he would be taking out to pay damages would be coming out of his marital family meaning I too was paying damages!
“You are joking right?”
I asked him waiting for him to say no he was just pulling my leg but he was not. He was very disturbed and I could see distraught.
“I am not joking. Last night they called me back there to talk. We spoke until 3am in the morning. They are saying that they will not bury her until I pay damages!”
“I feel like they are just trying to humiliate me because of how things turned out!”
I looked at this man and could not help but remark at what a pushover he was. I have been called a bully for trying to make him stand up for himself but as a wife your man must have a back bone. This rubbish is not on at all.
“Sizwe, why did you not refuse to do this? Knowing you I know you are contemplating convincing me on this! Does this mean you will pay damages too for Nelisa’s mother because it’s the very same situation only difference being she is married?”
I asked him. I don’t think his thoughts had gone that far because it had not occurred to him that he “damaged” both women the same way.
“Now they would be pushing it!”
“No Sizwe they are pushing it now! You are a married man for God’s sake come on! How do you get uncles of another woman to gather so you can pay damages for another woman? You need my consent!”
I said defiantly. I don’t think if push comes to shove I would stop him from paying but the disrespect in that for me was profound. He must get money from our joint account and go and pay for another woman? That’s wrong on every level.
“Should they not bury her then? I mean I have already done wrong by her in life, something you made very clear when we drove here, can’t I do this one thing right!”
I felt a bit bad now. He was under so much pressure and no matter who you are losing a child is hard. I can put all our issues in front of us but at the end of the day, the loss was more personal to him than it was me. Most men can’t express their emotions the way we do, we can cry out our pain but most men hold it in. His eyes were red I could see but if he had cried he had not done this in front of me.
“Ok we are going together to this meeting I am having with your two baby mamas. Maybe when we are there we will speak sense to one another as adults!”
I told him.
“Would you please drive so I can take a bit of a nap? I am so tired and I did not sleep at all!”
He said. He got out of the car and I noticed he was wearing the same clothes he had been wearing yesterday. He really had not slept.
“Ok its fine but I hope you know you need to rest before you meet them again because you can’t hope to discuss anything sensible with the uncles if you are falling asleep like this!”
I warned him. Lintle said she was not coming and she would stay indoors. I asked her if she did not want to see Nelisa but she said she was fine. That’s a sudden change of heart but we were late anyway and we had to go.
“This is awkward!”
Sizwe said dryly as we entered. They were sitting in Spur and looking right at us. All three of us here in person. I am not too proud to acknowledge that Nelisa’s mother was the prettiest amongst us hands down. How did that old man manage to marry her though?
“We are all here because of you! Three daughters, three women!”
Nozipho’s mother said as we sat down. I wanted to snap at her for some reason but she is the one who was mourning.
“I know and it took this to make us all sit down!”
He said. How had it gone so wrong though? I could see now we had handled the raising of our kids wrong all of us. They were allowed to see their father but never had we all three sat to discuss what was needed amongst to make right of such a situation.
“There is a lot of tension amongst us. The reason why I wanted us to all meet is because we hate each other for absolutely no reason!”
Nozipho’s mother said. I can’t blame her for hating her little sister though. She had slept with her baby daddy and given her a baby too.
“But what should we do about it now? I am sorry to say this but Nozi, I mean we have lost one of our daughters and now only two are left…”
I said and as I said those words I just felt a new bout of pain seeing the look on her mother’s face.
“I don’t know what can be done. I know I am in the middle of most of the problems we have shared amongst the three of us and for my part I am sorry.”
Nelisa’s mother apologized. To me it felt like crocodile tears and disingenuous but I was not going to play the devil’s advocate at an occasion like this.
“I have been asked to pay damages for you by your uncles otherwise they are refusing to bury Nozipho. I have already paid for the entire funeral and now they ask me this…”
Sizwe pleaded his case.
“Where am I supposed to get the money? I want to do but what happens when they ask me for an amount I can’t afford? What then?”
He asked no one in particular as both of the sisters shared the same uncles obviously.
“How do you use her body as a bargaining tool like this just so they can make money off me? It’s wrong. Is this the way she must be remembered!”
He asked them.
“No, it’s wrong and I think a little unfair as well. It’s not like they were part of her growing up as well. I am certain that if this had been someone paying lobola for her they would not have wanted you there so now why do they want this? I don’t want you paying damages for me, I was never yours!”
Nozipho’s mother said defiantly. Now the ball was rolling. At least she was seeing sense.
“Who came out with this damages nonsense thing though? These people are petty! What are they trying to achieve except punish you further in an even impossible situation? I am with my sister on this one. This would mean you should pay for me too and I don’t think that’s appropriate!”
Nelisa’s mother also chipped in drinking the coolade. With that out of the year we started talking about our daughters. It was Nozipho’s mother who thought it was a good idea to remember them and see what they shared. There was so much to know about these girls which frankly I had never cared for before. We found ourselves laughing and crying at the same time. Having a girl child is lots of work! I thought Lintle was a problem but when you here the stories other women have to share you realize everyone has problems. By the time we left Spur we not friends but rather closer and more civil. The only glum person in this was my husband because it was clear he had missed out a lot on the development of these girls and the regret on his face was there for all to see.
“We have to go!”
He finally said reminding us that there were people at the house waiting for us as it was a funeral after all. I also got a call saying my brother had arrived and they had checked into a hotel. We offered the two moms a lift but they said they were sorted. On the way back,
“Are you happier now?”
I asked Sizwe. He looked deep in thought when I said this meaning I had to ask it twice before he responded.
“I don’t think there is anything to be happy about. I learned so much about them it just felt odd that I was looking in from the inside!”
We had to go pick up Lintle as she had called saying she wanted to see Nelisa. With the conversation we had shared just now it was only good that I oblige. We took longer than I thought and only an hour later did we arrive back at the house with the funeral. Sizwe immediately left and Lintle spotted Nelisa in and amongst the few people there.
“Sorry, can I have your help in something!”
Someone said to me from behind. It was the stubborn uncle who had tried to fight with my husband the other night. What did he want?
“Malume, what can I help you with?”
I asked him politely. Much as I wanted to be mean I decided that this would be rude.
“I have been having pains…”
He went on to explain what was wrong with him. Most people don’t go for check-ups and only when they are really sick do they realize that they should. He was a diabetic that hardly took his medicines because he said where he lived he did not have access to them. I put on my doctor voice and told him that he had many years to live but if he continued like this at any moment he could fall. I could see he was grateful especially when I told him I will write him a prescription to take to the hospital.
“Thank you so much. I am sorry about issues with your husband. We thought we had solved everything until mama ka Nelisa came and insisted that damages must be paid last night. Some argued against it but you know where there is money involved people change their minds quickly!”
“So it was not your idea but Nelisa’s mother?”
I asked him very confused.
“Yes it was! She insisted that we can’t bury her daughter if things had not been made right. Even now when she arrived she asked us when this will be done!”
He explained to us.
I was confused, stunned and angry.
What a snake?
Michael Nkululeko Maphoto (fb)
Hi Mike and fabulous readers
Thank you so much Mike for the amazing read, I never miss a day. You are greatly talented and I have learnt so much about life from your work.
I hope your readers can assist me with my drama.
I am 24 years old and my boyfriend is 28 years old. We have been together for 6 years now and the past year has been a long distance relationship. We both have jobs but it seems my career growth is brighter than his in the current companies we both work for. Recently he asked for a break up saying I deserve better and he is not where he thought he would be at his age as well as that he needs to deal with himself and I well be better off without him. This popped out of nowhere as we were fine until 2 weeks ago when he came back from a cousin’s wedding. I however feel that we can deal with his demons together, I want to support him through it all and be there for him but he is really just shutting me out. This is the guy I saw myself getting married to as I believe he is my soulmate and he too said he wants to marry me and I mean the world to him. He knows me like the back of his hand and is the most amazing boyfriend a girl could have, he was my perfect fit but he just seems to think the least of himself. He loves me and said he’s a fool for letting me go and regrets his decision but it needs to be done. How do I save the man I love from falling into a deep dark hole and our relationship as well? How do I get him to let me in, see himself the way I see him and we get him to get a better job? Or should I just let him go?
Thank you for your wise words.
Die hard lover