Home Mma Mosojane's Traditional Wisdom A hand in the dark

A hand in the dark

1973
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‘The world is my church. To do good my religion,’ is theinscription to be found on SeretseKhama’s burial place on a hilltop in Serowe.

I fear the great man must be turning in his grave as the father of the nation looks down on his people 48 years after Independence.

For several weeks now I have shared with you stories that have revealed how we have misplaced the cultural jewel that Sir Seretseleft us in his legacy and are inherent in the ideals of a ‘just and caring nation.’

It is not my intention to preach or moralise, but rather to ignite the dying flame of love, respect and human dignity that the great man envisaged.

There is a Setswana expression that says: ‘fifing go tshwaranwaka kobo’ simply meaning that when it is dark one can rely on the hand of a friend.

This expression has played itself out in the lives of so many people who may never even have seen the four walls of class a room were it not for some caring and compassionate relative or friend of the family who made sacrificial decisions to hold their hand in the dark.

This spirit seems to have sadly been swept aside and in its place there is gross ingratitude laced with arrogance.

Uncle Rori’s story is a case in point.

THE FACTS

Uncle Rori and his niece Luba came to the kgotla together after years of trying to resolve what seemed to me to be a straight-forward matter.

Rori raised Luba from infancy after her mother passed away. He had a town plot with two small grass thatched houses, and when he retired he pursuedhis farming interests not so far from the city.

His city visits were reduced to the few occasions when he needed to do a bit of shopping.

Unknown to Uncle Rori, Luba who was now a grown up woman, decided to break the grass thatched huts without any formal consultation and replace them with fairly modern small houses for the purpose of renting them out.

When Uncle Rori saw the development, he seemed pleasantly surprised that his niece has been so kindas to developthe property, and he made an offer that they should share the rent since he owned the land and the buildings belonged to her.

As an alternative plan he proposed that if Luba compensated him in kind by paying six head of cattle, he would hand the plot over to her.

Far from being grateful for the offer Luba felt aggrieved. She claimed that if she agreed her uncle would be harvesting unfairly from her hard work.

Her alternative plan was that her uncle should simply hand over the plot since he was not capable of developing it himself.

In the arrogance of her demand Luba ignored her uncle’s point that he had spent all he had paying for Luba’s education and it was not fair for his niece to grab the only asset that could sustain him in his old age.

Her petulant reply to her uncle’s heart felt plea was a dismissive “ke ne kesa go kopa go ntsenyasekolo”-meaning ‘I never begged you to educate me.’

As these cruel words settled in the old man’s heart, tears welled in his ancient eyes as he pulled out a handkerchief whose age seemed to match the tired hands of the senior citizen.

After what seemed a long break he said:“O Batswana gabaakeba re mothofa a sena go palama o raga lere”– which roughly translates as:‘It is true that people have a tendency to kick the ladder once they reach the top.’

POINTS TO CONSIDER

* Luba did not have the decency to consult her uncle about her plans.

* She argued that the Local Authority would have confiscated the plot if she had not maintained her presence there.

* She arrogantly dismissed the sacrifices her uncle had made on her behalf, calling him an opportunist and a thief.

* She denied that Uncle Rori ever asked for compensation in the form of cattle.

Despite the poisoned arrows that pierced his heart, Uncle Rori remained loving and caring, reminding Luba that he would always be an uncle and the plot issue need not divide them.

The old man softly but assertively requested for some form of compensation to acknowledge that the plot was his property.

He declared that he did not regret anything he ever did for Luba, saying that he felt proud to have helped shape her destiny.

Rori was in the company of his son who impatiently listened to the proceedings and could not hide his annoyance at the selfish attitude of his cousin Luba.

When he got an opportunity to speak he suggest the best solution was to engage an earthmoving monster and remove Luba’s houses from their plot – alternatively the current value of the plot should be established and his father compensated accordingly.

To this Luba’s eyes seemed to bulge outfrom their sockets.

But some part of her attitude softened as she addressed her uncle for the first time with respect calling him “malome.”

Lubaeventually came to her senses and offered to give her uncle the cattle and keep the land.

And so a situation that should have been settled by natural justice, respect and love, was resolved instead by harsh words, unnecessary heartbreak and the arbitration of the kgotla.

Rather than valuing the hand that held her in the dark, Luba seemed more intent in biting that hand the fed. The tragedy was that the she could not seethe difference.

Fortunately Uncle Rori did not feel defeated by Luba’s attitude.

He stood up and smiled victoriously and declared: “I did my best for her and if she cannot do her best for me it is in the hands of the maker.”