Jautse Jautse of Mochudi is a very happy man. With 24 children, he feels blessed. The 87-year-old patriarch feels like a king, lording over such a big family.
Born in 1923, Jautse, who is still as healthy looking as anyone, walking straight without the aid of a stick, says he was 26 years old when he had his first born.
Then he had another child, another and then another until 1992 when he brought to this world his last born, child number 24. Of the 24, 16 are men and eight are women. He also says he has more than 40 grandchildren. "Ke bana ba malwapa a mararo - they are from three mothers". I married three women. From the first house I produced nine children, the second house, eight and the third house, seven. "Of my three wives, only two are still alive, them being Mmapidisi, the third wife, and Kapo the second wife. Ditsamai, who is now late, was my first wife," he says.For Jautse, it was nothing unusual to have that many children because, explained, his mother was born in a family of 30.
"I never set out to have a particular number. Modimo o ne o mpha bana fela ke sa bala gore ke bata ba le kae.When they got to 10, I was happy because I could see I was blessed to have a big family. Ke ba godisitse ka ba tsenya sekole. Ba a nyalwa. Ke a ba nyadisa," he says. Surrounded by some of his children, with the ease of an accountant reading out his figures, he starts reeling off the names of all the children, stating who comes before whom. "...It's Segopotso, Sadito, Isaac, Chona..." he goes on and on until he gets to 24. He says back then it was not a hassle for him to raise the children as he had a lot of cattle and he was also engaged in tilling the land. The children were sent to school to enlighten them, but some would leave school so they could help their father in his farming operations on a full-time basis.
He says he was a subsistence farmer, who ate and sold some of his produce. In those days he used oxen-drawn ploughs to till his land. "But now I use a tractor. It is my own tractor. I did not get it through government programmes. I just bought it. I have a very big tshimo or farm. Actually, I am engaged in the same kind of farming I was back then. I rear cattle and till the land. I have never in my life worked ko makgoeng. I have always been self-employed," he boasts. He says that though he has never been to school, he wanted his children to get the modern education to deal with future challenges. "Most of my children after school went to work in the mines in South Africa," he says.
Raising children in his times was not difficult. When
a child was ill, he or she went either to the clinic or "ha gongwe re leke ka tsa Setswana," he adds. Jautse says unlike in the past nowadays raising a child is a big task. On Christmas he used to slaughter some of his beasts where they would go on to feast as they enjoyed as a family.
He says Chona, child number five, was so named after his mother, who had been breastfeeding all along, suddenly decided to feed the young one milk formula. Then a name was coined and it was Chona, meaning "that a lot of money will be spent buying milk instead of feeding him breast milk. I don't know why his mother did that.Maybe she was impressed by this milk formula. But then after Chona she went back to breastfeeding," he says. Chona has seen many years. At the age of 58 he is one of the most famous and successful of the 24 progenies. He owns a transport business with buses and combis, a milling company, a poultry business and other businesses.
"I did not go beyond primary school. I finished my primary schooling at Segale Primary School and then left school to help my father in his farming business. I used to transport groceries and water using a donkey cart.
With this idea in my head, I set up a successful transport business. After two years working for my dad I asked for permission to go and work in the mines in South Africa. But I was to later come back and work in various companies. At one time at the University of Botswana I was a messenger in the Science faculty. I once worked under the likes of Kgosi Mosadi Seboko and MP Isaac Mabiletsa at Barclays bank," he says. His immediate young brother, child number six, Kabelo, born in 1961 says he is grateful for having grown up in such a family. Despite being so many and coming from three mothers, they always loved each other and never quarrelled. It was and continues to be a peaceful coexistence. He says he also went to the mines but later came back. At one time he was a business partner with Chona where they were among the first group of businessman to open the combi transport on various routes in Mochudi.
"My father is a very supportive person. He played a major role in my first marriage and after the divorce, which also ruined my business, he was there to support me. When I married the second wife he also supported me. At the moment I have six kids; four from the first marriage and two in the current one," he says. His brother, Chona, says he has only three children and has no intention of having a lot of children like his father because he is too busy running his enterprises.
"I don't have the time to make babies. I am always busy," he says.