Family violence fosters misery

Angie Makwetla

Angie Makwetla

I had just returned from London where we had raised money for Education Africa when my phone rang.

The caller told me that Thami Mnyanga-Sithole had been involved in a shooting incident, which had resulted in the death of her husband Lemmy. She too was admitted to intensive care but died later.

But we will never know what really happened since the couple are dead. Incidents of this nature are happening too often, and I am concerned that we seem to shrug our shoulders, pray about it and hope it will never happen again. But we need to take action.

We need to do something to ensure that future generations do not go through this cycle of toxic relationships that lead to family violence, murder and suicide. Mnyanga-Sithole's death has touched a very raw nerve in me.

I cried for days after hearing this bad news. Five years ago my youngest sister Antoinette died the same way. Three years ago my niece Matute died in the same way. God, this has got to stop.

I met Mnyanga-Sithole when she joined the state-owned Trans-Caledon Tunnel Authority (TCTA) in 2003.

What a dynamic young woman. What a great loss. She would have turned 36 in March and yet had achieved what most people fail to achieve in their entire lifetime. Mnyanga-Sithole had a BA honours degree, an MSc in Economics and an MBA. She was intelligent, assertive and bold.

What went wrong? Why couldn't she realise that she was in a toxic relationship and that she needed to get out before things went horribly wrong?

She used to talk to me a lot about this. What more could I have done, other than give adviCe? The priest who buried this young couple, Father May, told mourners how she and Lemmy had been to see him on several occasions for counselling.

He talked about brokenness. "Broken people are powerless. Brokenness makes us realise that we cannot rely on our own resources and that we need the hand of God to guide us," he said.

Father May led the congregants in singing the hymn, Hee ba nyorilweng tlong le tle metsing - you who are thirsty come and drink from this well.

Young people are thirsty for relationships that will bring them joy and make a difference in their lives.

We are now engaged in a debate about the school pledge that Education Minister Naledi Pandor has proposed.

But is this enough? My response is an emphatic no. Unless we as parents live up to the values that we are trying to promote through pledges of this nature, unless we "censor" the messages that our children receive from outside - for example, songs like I get suicidal when you say it's over - then we continue to fail our children.

In most African cultures, when a young couple gets married, the elders sit with them and give them words of wisdom and advice about married life. We need to start eliminating messages like monna ke selepe, o a kadimanwa (a man is like an axe, he gets shared with other women), or ntwa ke ya madula mmogo (fighting is part of living together).

We need to start being very honest with our children by telling them that violence and infidelity are not part of life. Let us not protect our children to an extent where we ask their wives to withdraw charges of violence against our "beloved" sons.

Why do women stay in abusive relationships? Is it to prove that we are resilient and that we can cope with any situation?

Iyanla Vanzant, an inspirational speaker, has this to say: "The ego tells us we must prove we are right. If we walk away, the other person will win. The ego keeps us from recognising there is another choice.

"Whatever situation confronts us, we must recognise our right to be at peace. The need to be right and meet discord head on begins from within. It is a need that stems from feelings of powerlessness, unworthiness and a lack of love. It shows up in life as arguments and confrontations."

We need to find peace in our hearts and minds. Only then can we stand firm in all situations and choose what is right. The power to do so comes from within. We need to educate society about sources of help in cases of family violence and abuse.

We need to be present in our children's lives from an early age. If we have failed in everything else, why do we still question that there is a God out there?

We need to go back to basics. Our nation needs healing. The elders of this nation need to stand up, "gird our loins", put our heads together and come up with solutions.

l Angie Makwetla is CEO of Businesswomen's Association. She writes in her own capacity.