Polygamy, anyone?

Metlheng ya bofelo, basadi bale supa ba tlaa itshwarelela ka monna ale mongwe (in the last days, 7 women will cling to one man).

“This is a popular hymn at one of our local churches. I do not know what the song implies, even which man or women it is referring to, but nonetheless this song played in my head last week as I listened to the debate on polygamy. Polygamy is just a topic I came across in school textbooks and as far as I am concerned, that is where it belongs and should stay.

Last week, the country celebrated the national Culture week. As part of the celebrations, one local Chief suggested that polygamy may just be what the doctor ordered for the many social ills in our country, such as; single parenting, sexually transmitted diseases, passion killings, delinquency and high divorce rates.

I do not believe that in the olden days everything was perfect, that everyone was a saint. While I readily admit that social ills exist, I doubt that polygamy would be the solution.

Polygamy is defined as a practice or custom of having more than one wife at the same time. When it is a woman with more than one husband, it becomes Polyandry and because both are illegal in this country; legally they are referred to as Bigamy.

Polygamy is more common in the neighbouring South Africa and Swaziland, where the current leaders at those respective countries have more than one wife. For the Swazis and the Zulus, the practice is very much part of their culture and even then, only royalty and the stinking rich can afford this practice.As others can testify, it is common practice that whenever couples exchange vows either at church or at district commissioner’s offices, the first question is always about whether any of the couple is married or engaged to some other people.

I am of the opinion that, wherever possible, the government should stay out of people’s families and even bedrooms, but I fully support this position regarding polygamy. Never mind the fancy word, polygamy is just a legalised promotion of concubines and harems, where women had no rights at all and are considered just mere chattels.

By their very own nature, human beings are very territorial and women are no exception.  As many people close to me can attest, sharing has never been my strongest point and it goes without saying that I would have never been a good candidate for polygamy.

For me, sharing can never be caring, never mind all those verses on caring for the less fortunate. I would have been long returned to my parents, even long before the bride cattle were branded with our own family brand (tshipi)! Chances are that I would have been the first wife too, because I can never play second fiddle to anyone.

I am told that polygamists never marry subsequent wives without first seeking approval from the first wife and I know I would have ever given such approval; not even under duress, even ecstasy! On a good day, maybe I would have pretended I was for the idea, just so I bargain for something better like a new pair of shoes or even a new hairstyle, only to change my mind later in the day. But, I would have never consented. I had my first encounter with a ‘real polygamist’ a few years ago in rural Swaziland where I was part of a tour group.

As part of the tour, we made a courtesy call on one local chief’s house, which happened to be a large compound comprising of several small thatched houses, livestock and several children. Soon, we were introduced to the family patriarch and husband. A short, wizened old man well into his 80’s with the appearance of a dried prune, the man looked like he could do with a well deserved tropical holiday, as it appeared like his life’s energies were being sucked out of him through having to service his legion of 13 wives, who I must add, ranged from 17 to 70 years old! We would have asked him how he managed his large homestead, only he dozed off in the middle of our conversation with him. Fact is, times have changed and it is ludicrous to even suggest that polygamy could be the answer to our social challenges. As it is, many men already struggle to support their small families, let alone afford the bribe price. Even though the laissez-faire attitude of “Why buy the cow, when you can get the milk for free?” has no place in these times, polygamy is still not the answer. Conjugal love, I put that to Kgosi, is supposed to be undivided and exclusive.

Editor's Comment
What about employees in private sector?

How can this be achieved when there already is little care about the working conditions of those within the private sector employ?For a long time, private sector employees have been neglected by their employers, not because they cannot do better to care for them, but because they take advantage of government's laxity when it comes to protecting and advocating for public sector employees, giving the cue to employers within the private sector...

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