The missus's tongue-lashing puts paid to ancestor-riddled dreams about polygamy

Fred Khumalo Watching You
Nokukhanya Mseleku (MaYeni), Busisiwe Mseleku (Mamkhulu), Musa Mseleku, Mbali Mseleku (MaNgwabe) and Thobile Mseleku (MaKhumalo) have made polygamy fashionable. / Veli Nhlapo
Nokukhanya Mseleku (MaYeni), Busisiwe Mseleku (Mamkhulu), Musa Mseleku, Mbali Mseleku (MaNgwabe) and Thobile Mseleku (MaKhumalo) have made polygamy fashionable. / Veli Nhlapo

My friend had been contemplating to make a full confession to his wife that he'd been seeing another woman - and wanted to marry her, with his wife's blessing.

Having been caught cheating in the past, he knew that if his wife found out he'd been at it again, a divorce would probably be on the cards. That is why he had to strike first.

One night as he was sleeping next to his wife, he had a dream in which his great-grandfather said: "We know your wife has been to a doctor so she can stop having children. But we Dlaminis need more children. So, get another wife."

During "the dream", Dlamini kept crying out, "but grandpa what is my wife going to say?" He shouted so much that his wife woke up and shook him out of the dream. He'd hoped that she would ask what he'd been dreaming about. She didn't.

On the third night, the wife lost her cool. She switched on the bedside lamp and wanted to know what was going on.

"My great-grandpa," he said, "in fact the whole Dlamini ancestry, is angry with me."

"Why?"

"Eish, I don't know how to say this. they say I must take another wife."

"Tell them to come to me," she said with finality. And switched off the light.

The following morning, Dlamini was in tears as he told his wife that his forebears had all been polygamists, a tradition that was broken by his father who had only one wife. Now, the ancestors were angry. They were asking him to revive the tradition. In a cool, calm voice, the wife gave him the tongue-lashing of his lifetime. It was a speech so powerful, Dlamini stopped having ancestor-riddled dreams.

I'm recounting this tale, which my friend swears is true, because I've just read in the paper that Musa Mseleku, who shot to national fame when he launched his reality TV show extolling the virtues of polygamy, has written a book defending the practice.

I've always been intrigued by the practicalities. Having been married to one wife for 20 years, I know how long it takes to connect with one person spiritually, emotionally and intellectually.

There are moments when my wife wants me by her side - now! How would I deal with four wives, all of them demanding my attention, at the same time?

Raising one child - and I am not talking about money here - is demanding. How do you do that with 20 children, borne of different mothers?

Many have defended polygamy on cultural grounds. Indeed, many things have been done in the name of culture. There was a time when it was part of African culture to kill twins at birth as they were considered bad luck. Thank God that "culture" is gone.

The kidnapping of women, called ukuthwala, sadly continues unabated among the Nguni people under the aegis of culture.

Ukuthwala entails a man literally carrying a woman to his house in the knowledge that her people will come to rescue her, at which point he will tell them he wants to marry her, and will offer ilobolo right away without even consulting the woman in question.

Lust is a human weakness. It becomes difficult to deal with this weakness when you have "cultural" laws that defend it.

Mseleku clearly can afford polygamy financially. From anecdotes, I know that many men envy him. His wives appear happy. But are they?

How many of King Mswati's wives - with all the money at their disposal - have run away from him as they couldn't handle polygamy anymore?

What long-term psychological effects does polygamy have on all those involved: The wives and the children?

Asking questions is not a crime, is it?

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