I grew up in a small village of Centane in the Transkei. I have four siblings and we were a happy family until my parents got a divorce. My two elder siblings and me were left behind. My father was the wealthiest in the village, a businessman who had cars and a farm like household.
It was when I started school that I realised he did not want us, everything he said was just to spite my mother because my siblings had no school uniform. They would walk barefoot to school, mind you their shirts were khaki(donation from the neighbour’s husband who works as a tour guide ) – imagine, instead of gold or white shirt. As the little one I want to think I had everything I needed to look normal around other children, although that was probably not the case.
One day my father came home with a box full of clothes as usual. He was a taxi driver and people often dropped their things by mistake and he’d collect them the following day. It was from that day that I realised the clothes that I was wearing were stolen from people’s parcels, by my step mom. They couldn’t afford to buy us clothes during the year, only during the December holidays.
During the December holidays of 2000, I was six at the time, the situation was worse for us because my elder sister and I were forced to fetch water from the river even when there were thunder storms. It was always dangerous because there was always a chance that we would be snatched and forced to marry someone that we didn’t know. Lucky for us, a neighbour informed my mom about our situation. My father even commanded my mother to leave the three of us behind or else he would report her to the police, she didn’t have means to take care of us and she was only 15 when he took her in. We even had to cook outside like the olden ways and my father would not say a thing. He didn’t care.
One night we went to watch TV at the neighbour’s house, we heard a knock. A white beautiful lady came in with a baby. They caught my eye, I saw my sister smile. She whispered ‘mom’. I am so embarrassed to even say I didn’t recognise my own mother, but you can’t blame me. I was four when she left and at that point in time I was six years old and my sister was only ten. I was gazing at these people for their beautiful complexion, yet I didn’t even feel that this woman was my mother. Ever since that day I never lost touch with my mother. She took us to live with her in East London. She was employed as a cleaner at Eskom.
We lost touch with our father until my elder brothers initiation ceremony that had to be held at home. He had moved to another village by then and had children, a family. My brother wished us such a hard life, he cursed me and sister. I remember that night like yesterday.
As the years went by I realised that my mother was trying so hard to fill the void, we still needed a father’s love, but it’s sad we couldn’t get it because the man showed no interest. He was too busy playing happy family with his new family.
When my mother was retrenched things got so hard. We would go to bed without food if she didn’t get a job for a day. She became a heavy drinker. I now understand it was due to stress. She’s been strong for a long time and after she lost her job she became a heavy drinker. My father was emotionally and financially unavailable, but had all the money in the world.
I grew angry. I hated and didn’t trust him. It would stir my resentment seeing other kids with their fathers and I would cry seeing a happy family.
I went to a tertiary institution and it was easy for me to choose what I wanted to do. It was either social work or psychology. I did both because I knew I had unresolved issues and I wouldn’t like to see other children grow up as hard as I did. I wanted to rescue them from themselves because the hate and the resentment had damaged me in such a way, that I might never get a man who will keep up with my issues. But all in all, he’s my father because it was he who brought me into this world. It doesn’t matter how much happiness he took from me in order to have a normal childhood and my love and trust as a woman. He would always be my father.
Being fatherless has made me the strong woman that I am today, but I wouldn’t wish this for any child. Being fatherless while your father is alive is worse than being fatherless because he’s no more.
As I grew up and from a Christian perspective and as a Christian, I was taught that forgiveness is peace. Thank you God for the guidance and love, it kept me and still is keeping me strong.
Psalms 27:14 “Wait on the Lord: be of good courage, and he shall strengthen thine heart: Wait, I say, on the Lord.”
Tell us: What is your relationship with your father like?