This was done through the counsel of aunts and uncles hence our Setswana saying, “ntwakgolo ke ya molomo,” meaning the greatest battle is through dialogue.
There is evidence that as a society we are not just loosing this valued treasure but there are individuals out there who do not have regard for the liberty and dignity of others.
This week, I would like to share with you how Phatsimo had to bear the brunt of her husband’s anger.
Incidentally the name Phatsimo means shiny and she alleged that whenever Ranko picked a fight with her, he would imply that she could fetch a lot of money by auctioning her pretty and shiny face.
Phatsimo was a polite and soft spoken person who radiated with beauty not only physically but her inner beauty. She struggled to describe the humiliation she had lived with.
Phatsimo had been married to Ranko for over a decade and were blessed with three children who were all at primary school.
Phatsimo alleged that Ranko had a habit of deserting their matrimonial home for a period extending to 2 weeks without explaining where he was.
When he returned, he would not offer any explanation as to where he was.
Phatsimo had tried to talk to him and he seemed shocked that she had the right to know where he was.
She said she tried to get the parents involved but Ranko would either absent himself from meetings or would appear drunk and hold everyone at ransom.
The parents advised Phatsimo to report the matter to the District Commissioner, Customary Courts but Ranko ignored requests to attend reconciliation and counseling sessions.
His hurtful pattern of behavior continued to be a source of pain for Phatsimo and the children.
His financial obligation to the family gradually decreased with all their commitments planned on two salaries becoming her responsibility. Whenever she raised the issue of money with him, he would tell her to sell her pretty face to the highest bidder and pay rent.
Phatsimo had been kicked out of rented accommodation with the children several times for failure to pay rent.
Ranko did not seem to struggle to find out where Phatsimo and the children had moved to as he would just show up in the middle of the night and demand all the rights a husband may enjoy.
Phatsimo’s efforts to negotiate for safe sex in view of their unstable relationship would meet scorn from Ranko who clearly told Phatsimo that married couples should trust one another.
When Phatsimo reported to the aunt she was shocked when she told her, “go molemo ngwanaka ka jaana ga a latlhe bana a tsamaela ruri,” meaning “it is a blessing that even though he disappears occasionally he has not abandoned the children.”
Ranko’s uncaring attitude had hit Phatsimo so bad that she had to rely on anti-depressants.
One of the good days, Phatsimo acting upon information given by a well wisher, traced Ranko to a house in another area where she was greeted by a display of Ranko’s clothes hanging from the washing line.
Phatsimo only found a young lady at that house who gave her information that her mother and father had travelled outside the country on a business trip and were expected to return in a week.
When she enquired about the names of the couple she learnt that the father of the family was none other than Ranko.
Phatsimo retraced her steps to her home to lick her wounds and continue to cry for help through the uncles who would simply said “o tla a lapa abo a iketla tsatsi lengwe,” meaning that Ranko will get tired of playing truant and settle one day.
When Phatsimo tried to raise other concerns like health implications and financial issues, the relatives asked her to be strong.
Phatsimo tried to ask her Pastor to intervene but he simply gave her scripture verses to read and wait patiently and see how the Almighty would come into her situation.
Phatsimo came to the Kgotla to seek a way forward because Ranko had resorted to battering her and when she reported the assaults to the Police, she had to withdraw the charges under pressure from her mother –in-law who threatened that if she got Ranko finger printed she would know who she was.
What would you do if you were the Judge?
Many issues arise from Phatsimo and Ranko’s case
- Phatsimo feels she is a victim of matrimonial rape which has become a highly controversial issue.
- Phatsimo strongly feels that conjugal rights should be a celebration of the love and respect that the couple enjoy and not an obligation.
- Phatsimo feels betrayed by the system which is rigidly pro-unity at the expense of individual dignity.
- Ranko can only attract prejudice unto himself as he completely does not seem to see that his conduct hurts Phatsimo and his children.
- Phatsimo’s mother-in-law has betrayed not only the course of justice but the struggle for violence free homes by pressurizing her to withdraw charges of assault against her son at the expense of an abused woman.
- The conservative attitude that individuals should sacrifice self to secure family stability seems to be outdated and needs to be replaced by anger management tips at cultural ceremonies like “go laya banyalani” (couselling sessions for newlyweds)
Phatsimo resolved the crisis by talking to her lawyer who would speak the language of divorce to which Ranko could no longer remain stubborn.
We have reached a stage as society that we need to advocate for principles that value individual dignity and liberty in marriage.
The union of marriage need not compromise the individual’s power and ability to negotiate for safe sex.