Males find it easier to confide in their fathers for that essential ‘man-to-man’ talk. And so, missing that father figure can cause them to leap up and seek approval in the wrong places.
Dumile Sukati (23) from Muizenberg, Cape Town, is now a professional life-saver, but he first had to save himself from all the bad habits and friends he was drowning in.
“Everything was pretty normal in my life up until about thirteen years old when my mom decided to close down a business she had started with her husband. The business did really well – but the marriage didn’t,” says Dumile.
Up to then Dumile had what he termed a “normal life”, but he soon watched it fade away.
“Life started to change and some of the privileges weren’t really there anymore. I started turning to friends and being out more. I developed bad attitude and my mom decided that I should go live with my dad. I was excited because I had never really gotten to know him before.”
It wasn’t long until his happiness was cut short by a tragic incident.
“Right at the end of that year my dad died of a heart attack. It was a kind of double blow because everything came at once.”
His father’s sudden passing didn’t only shatter him; his relationships suffered as well.
“I’d go over to a friend’s house where there was a father and get uncomfortable. I kinda developed hostility towards father or man figures because I never really knew what it was like having a father. I had anger for not knowing him and it got me in a pattern of feeling sorry for myself.”
His studies were not immune to the suffering as well.
“I was with friends and I didn’t really care about education. My grades got really bad and I was always in trouble. I’d go to a club maybe on a Wednesday night and come back on a Thursday. You couldn’t perform because you were hung-over. I eventually got kicked out of the school,” he recalls.
The best decision is not always the most pleasant one, his single mother soon learnt.
“[She] decided to move to Sweden in 2008 because things were never the same after her business shut down but I didn’t wanna leave with. She didn’t hesitate to leave. She wasn’t having it easy in SA.” She was able to find work in Sweden.
As if the absence of his father was not a blow enough, he was soon left with nobody but his demons.
“At sixteen it’s not really easy to look after yourself. My mom was all I had and suddenly she was on the other side of the world. I felt lonely and neglected. I thought to myself, ‘Nobody cares about me, so why should I care?’”
However, eventually Dumile followed his mother to Sweden in 2009, where he stayed for five years. Unpleasant conditions were there at the airport to welcome him.
“Going over was one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do, especially if you are black and not understanding the language. My passport was different and you’re constantly reminded that you’re not from there. You can’t get jobs because you don’t speak Swedish,” he says.
“Things got out of hand and I ended up living in a foster home. Nothing was working out because of the bad attitude that I had. I tried joining the British Army and that didn’t work. Everything I tried just didn’t work.”
‘There’s no place like home’ is not just a cliché – at least not to Dumile.
“After my twenty-first birthday I came back to SA and found a job in an online casino. Once I started working there I started to realise that there’s so much that I could do. I knew I could do more than just clubbing and disrespecting my parents. I became proud of my achievement of working at an office, and that restored my self-esteem.”
Dumile also discovered the power of reading and that introduced him to a world he didn’t know existed.
“I met a friend who used to always read newspapers. I never read much before. I always took education for granted. I started reading newspapers and developing interest in other things. I wanted to know more about the world and economics. This is when things started changing. I got to a point where I said I couldn’t continue with that lifestyle. I was pulling away from all the bad friends and habits. I had to stop feeling sorry for myself and put the past in the past.
“We’re still young and there’s a lot of info waiting to be read. There’s a big world out there and reading unlocks it for you. Reading changed everything; I could discover new words and use them in my vocab.”
He credits reading for also helping him regain his self-esteem.
“I always thought I was a stupid guy but reading changed all that. It made me believe in my ability to take in and process all the information. I started reading a lot and investing in my education.”
Dumile is currently studying towards his pilot’s licence and frequents the sea, working on famous surfing beachfront at Muizenberg.
“I’m a surf instructor at Gary’s Surf School. I got two silver medals for life-saving in 2007 and 2008. I surfed for the Western Province and played rugby. I look back and draw inspiration from my sport.”
Dumile thanks his mother for never giving up on him.
“I realised that she was trying to give me a future so that one day, when she’s gone, I could be able to sustain myself. I finally understood now why she was getting frustrated. It wasn’t because she wanted to shout at me, but see me do well.
“That’s what our parents want for us,” he concludes.
Dumile may have no father but his mother proved to be equally capable – most mothers are.
Tell us: What lessons did you take out from Dumile’s inspiring story?