This rearing business meant they could also rear a wife or wives and have many children. That would then give them perfect bliss.
The transition from those days of predictable outcomes to modern times has betrayed many individuals who assume that our ancestors’ key will open all doors.
Ranko had the shock of his life when Naani, the mother of his 3 children disappeared into thin air leaving him to care for them all by himself.
The betrayal was beyond his understanding as he was raised to believe that come what may “mmangwana o tshwara thipa ka fa bogaleng” meaning mother hen can never deny her chicks cover under her wings.
Ranko and Naani had been living together in perfect bliss for over ten years and as far as Ranko was concerned nothing could shake their union.
He was saving as much as he could from his meager earnings as a security officer to pay lobola and have his children use his surname before they finish their primary education.
He was also looking forward to have his plan bear fruit when he would wear a suit and tell his peers that “banna ke a folosa” (formalising his marriage at the DC).
His star however stopped shining one morning when he returned from work only to be met by an empty bed and the ashes on the fire place (sebeso) that always welcomed him with flames ablaze and the whistling kettle with boiling water ready for Naani to serve tea.
The children did not know where their mum was, they innocently announced “ o sale a tsaya beke a bo a re keetla ( meaning she took her bag and said “I will be back”.
For some weeks Ranko could not just believe he could be left raising the children because him and Naani had a simillar background of childhood abandonment.
They had both lost relatives when they were young and for them to meet and begin to raise a family was just magic for which they were truly grateful.
Weeks later, Ranko was able to trace Naani to the house of another young man not far from town. When confronted she simply said leave me alone.
Ranko asked Naani if she did not miss the kids especially the youngest who was only 2-years-old and to Ranko’s shock Naani replied, “Ga ke a tla kwa ga gago kena le bana” meaning I did not have children when I came into your life.
Ranko thought the customary court could help but after a lot of pleading Naani agreed to meet with Ranko.
Naani was very clear that she suffered all her life and she did not want to be dragged into the struggle of their household.
She hardened her heart towards her kids.
She explained that she did not want to have children and Ranko had insisted that they had to “increase themselves” (a re ikoketse tlhe motho wame re kobe bosiela).
Ranko gave up after sobbing like a boy whose toy had fallen into a flooded river.
Weeks later Ranko stopped by to tell me that he had sued Naani for maintenance but she appeared only to tell the Magistrate that she was not working and the matter was laid to rest.
Ranko later in the year heard that Naani had a job and he retraced his steps to the Magistrates Court where Naani this time around was fined P150 per child per month and she undertook to pay.
Ranko’s expectation of cash to assist him crushed to zero when for 3 months Naani failed to pay.
Instead one evening she knocked on Ranko’s door to announce that she wanted to have the children for the holidays.
Ranko was relieved to have a break from being both mum and dad for the kids.
In a week Naani dumped the children with dirty clothes with a message that the kids must tell their dad that she did not have money for soap.
This hit Ranko below the belt as he had thought that the Magistrates Court would be effective to address both the matter of neglect of children and support.
Ranko went to check on Naani at her place of work only to hear from a friend of hers that she had decided to stop working to evade maintenance.
Ranko stopped one more time to chat and seek my advice. Sadly the well of wisdom was dry.
What would you do if you were the Judge?
Why should Ranko be left holding the nest with three kids without warning?
What is it that hardens Naani’s heart towards her kids which are flesh of her flesh and what happened to our Setswana proverb that “lebele la ga mmangwana le amua le a sule” meaning a baby will try to get milk even from the breast of the mother who has died?
Ranko has a legitimate expectation that even if Naani desires to move on she must bear in mind her God given duty is to participate in the raising of these kids more so that these children were using Naani’s surname.
According the our culture, parties are referred to parents who would step in and assist the customary court to bring a solution but in their case they are orphaned and the distant relatives remain aloof.
Ranko does not understand why the police did not seem to push to maintenance as they do with men.
Naani insisted that Ranko was the one who wanted children and therefore he had to dance.
What happened to the notion that mother hen would sacrifice her life to defend her chicks from the threat of the eagle?
The children born out of wedlock keep the mother’s surname and the father who keeps custody has to make affidavits to explain himself to authorities in all of life’s situation.
In Conclusion, Ranko had become very weepy and depressed. His anger and frustration were not easy to cover given the difficult situation.
Ranko loved his children and the meer mention of alternatives like SOS village made him aggressive.
With advocacy Ranko received a bit of financial help from some service clubs but more than material support Ranko desperately needed Naani to re-think her stand especially where their children were concerned.
She did not have to get back to warm up Ranko’s bed but she had to participate in the raising of their children to give them the love they desperately need from her.
It is amazing that although there was a great shift towards improved lifestyles for us, there is an element of selfishness running through the minds of people which seems to fueling domestic violence in communities.
In the end I had to remind Ranko to rely on a proverb from Greek wisdom which says, “bear patiently my heart, for you have suffered heavier things.”
Ranko’s pain will heal with time.