Loving and giving has always been an integral component of African culture and it also suggests that blood connection alone does not sustain relationships.
Individuals must share social values based on unconditional love, which in the ikalanga language translates as bukamuigaswa go zhadziwanoja- meaning that blood relationship is not sufficient, it needs to be strengthened by giving.
In this week’s customary court scenario in the case of MmaKenosi and her late son we see what happens when love is betrayed
It was obvious that all was not well when the old woman who was into her eighties came to register her civil case against Kenosi’s widow Seele.
Tears of distress were etched into her careworn face, and at first I thought that she must have still been grieving the death of her only son.
But she confessed that it was Seele’s betrayal that had broken her heart.
Now even though she believed it to be culturally incorrect to drag Seele to the Lekgotla before her son’s grave had settled, she felt she had no option.
MmaKenosi registered a civil matter demanding that Seele should give her back the piece of land she had given to her son.
MMA KENOSI’S STORY
MmaKenosi said she had invited Kenosi (her only son) to the village, and he had arrived in the company of his wife Seele.
The old woman told the couple that she owned a piece of land in town and now that she had aged and did not need a town house,she was offering it to her son and his wife.
She made a small request that in return they could continue to help her with a few groceries for herself and the young man who looked after her cattle.
She said she had made it clear that since Kenosi was the only child, all she owned was theirs including the cattle and the sheep she kept.
Kenosi and his wife developed the landand decided that they would live there and rent out some buildings on the plot.
MmaKenosi’swas happy that the plan had worked out well, but then when her son died after a short illness, everything changed.
When the post funeral meeting was convened, MmaKenosi declared that the arrangement she had made with her children would still stand.
She would expect her daughter-in-law to look after her the way they did when Kenosi was alive and Seele had agreed.
But it was not long before Seele’s love and care for her dried up.
No food was sent, and when MmaKenosimade an effort to visit, it was obvious that she was unwelcome.
The old lady then decided that in the difficult circumstances she found herself in, she had to reclaim her piece of land from Seele.
It transpired that she had never legally transferred the land into her son’s name.
On the day of hearing Seele concurred with all that her mother in-law-had said.
She made it clear that she could not continue to support MmaKenosi because she had been relying on her husband’s income.
Now that he was gone, the only income she had was from the houses she rented out.
Seele also made it clear that she needed to “move on” and MmaKenosi had to give her space because she was still young.
She had no plan to hold on to her former husband’s roots.
It was apparent that MmaKenosiwas hard of hearing and had not taken in all that was being said.
She asked the court for time to put a few questions to her daughter-in-law.
Question: When Kenosi died were you not given his pension?
Answer: I was but what has that to do with you?
Question: How much rental are you collecting from the houses?
Answer: It is only enough to feed me and my son.
Question: Are you aware that if my son were here you would not dare to talk to me like that?
Answer: But your son is not here.
MmaKenosi gave a searching look into Seele’s eyes and the next words she uttered were more to herself (waii….watemagwaakatatha) meaning that Seele has cut the branch she was standing on.
Seele told the court that she would be prepared to give back MmaKenosi’s plot but she would have to be compensated for the buildings that Kenosi and herself had built.
The elderly woman seemed puzzled by Seele’s implication that she too had invested in the land because she had never worked in her life.
Seelepointed out that she was married in community of property and Kenosi was working for her.
MmaKenosi looked at her again and asked Seele: “How much are you prepared to give me for my one and only son?”
Seele’ssarcastic smile was her answer.
MmaKenosithen gave Seele one more look and said “heiboipusobotsileborwelebothata”- meaning the post independent period has brought problems.
WHAT WOULD YOU DO IF YOU WERE THE JUDGE?
Points to consider:
* MmaKenosi’s offering her plot to Kenosi and his wife was based on the assumption that she would always be part of their lives.
* The old woman had not anticipated that the grocery and support she got from Kenosi and his wife would stop when her son died.
* MmaKenosiclearly wanted to be part of Seele and her son beyond the passing on of her own son. Culturally death did not bring about the end of the family bond.
* Seele did not seem to have any emotion for her aged mother-in-law. She only wanted the court to understand that her marriage certificate entitled her to inheritance.
*The young widow made it clear that she needed to severe her relationship with Kenosi’s mother and move on.
Legal advise was sought concerning this matter and Seele was not impressed to hear that she was only entitled to 50% of Kenosi’s estate and that the other 50% had to be shared with Kenosi’s mother.
The plot that was still in MmaKenosi’s name had to be valued and Seele, who had now become realistic, saw danger and made an offer of settlement to her mother-in-law.
MmaKenosi was happy to get compensation for the land she had donated in love, but an elderly uncle who had accompanied MmaKenosi wanted Seele to tell him what value she had brought to their family.
He was clearly unhappy that theyhad paid a hefty sum of lobola for Seele, who never had children with Kenosi, and now she wanted to inherit all to the exclusion of the mother.
Loving and Giving are aspects of human existence that transcend time. It takes not just a great heart, but also an element of wisdom to wish for others that which you wish for yourself.