Coronavirus a chance to rebuild broken fabric of black family life

The forced lockdown is an opportunity for husbands and wives and fathers and children to spend time together in their homes.
The forced lockdown is an opportunity for husbands and wives and fathers and children to spend time together in their homes.
Image: 123RF

There is a park called Kwandodayami (the place where my husband hangs around) in the small town of Bronkhorstspruit, east of Pretoria.

Every day after work and on weekends before the outbreak of Covid-19, men would be spotted relaxing outside their cars. Cooler boxes would also be there, a clear sign that throats are always lubricated.

Locals say in the evening it transforms from a place where men chat and share jokes into a serious romantic rendezvous. Cars drive out and return with a woman in the front passenger seat when it is dark enough for the trysts not to be observed.

The women smuggled in are not wives; they are assistant wives who entertain husbands without seeking permission from their wives.

That is how Kwandodayami earned its pejorative name. The figurative and bitter meaning is "the place where my husband is busy with an assistant I did not appoint". It is a protest name; wives hate the place, and obviously husbands and the assistants love it.

Now that there is coronavirus, husbands have been sucked out and thrown back into their homes, forced by a mere virus to spend long hours with their wives.

It is obvious that the wives of Bronkhorstspruit must be very happy to spend afternoons and evenings with their husbands. What we don't know is how deeply husbands miss assistants.

The little one has seen of SA's townships and rural villages suggests that almost every part of the country has its own notorious place where husbands make a turn before they go home after work.

There are parts of the country where such places take the form of a shebeen, and others a simple tree under which men like parking their cars. Those who live in the suburbs have their own popular bar somewhere.

What is striking about Kwandodayami is that there is never a white person among those who frequent the place. For now, let us leave white people aside, and confront a more worrying phenomenon: black men who do not spend time at home.

We are always counselled to turn every crisis into an opportunity. However menacing, we must also not fail to turn Covid-19 into a social opportunity to grapple with the question: Why do black men avoid spending time in their homes?

Now that husbands and fathers are detained at home, wives and children must not miss the opportunity to hold them to account.

Fathers must explain to their children if there are also child-assistants at Kwandodayami. On their part, wives must demand to know why can't their husbands simply divorce and marry the assistants they spend long hours with.

If a man does not want to live permanently with an assistant, and if there are no children who take the place of his own, why doesn't he stay at home with his children and the woman he has decided to spend the rest of his life with?

One can imagine a silent protest by men who can't wait to return to the park.

Their protests notwithstanding, the coronavirus has revealed that husbands can survive without assistants and throat lubricants. Even those who pretended they cannot survive without smokes have been exposed.

One of the biggest opportunities presented by the coronavirus is the possibility to fix families broken by notorious places like Kwandodayami.

On page 82 of his self-critical book, Please Stop Helping Us, Jason L. Riley reflects on what explains slow economic progress on the part of us black people, quoting Fox News's Bill O'Reilly: "the disintegration of the African America[n] family".

Look around the world, and you will see that people with weak family structures are the slowest in economic progress.

Hopefully, the coronavirus will rebuild black families so that our race can begin to make significant economic progress.

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