READER LETTER | African cultural norms being undermined

27 September 2023 - 08:05
By Reader Letter
Stock photo.
Image: 123rf Stock photo.

Yesterday we celebrated Heritage Day in our country, although it is very contentious if our constitution is based on African as opposed to European culture. Here are three examples to illustrate the point. If a woman is married, lobola is paid and she becomes ngwetsi (daughter-in-law). In our culture she is now a child of her in-laws just like her husband. One often reads of disputes in the media between the in-laws and their daughter-in-law over the burial site of the husband when he passes away. Our cultural norm is that the parents of the husband should determine the burial issues, yet our constitution overrides our African culture and the daughter-in-law can overrule her in-laws, who are actually her parents in terms of marriage.

The father is the guardian of her children in our culture. However, when  grandparents leave an inheritance for their grandchildren and their parent in terms of a will written by a banking institution, the European norms and values once again override our culture. The father of the children cannot exercise parental control over the trust but a trustee is appointed by the bank.

A grandmother left an estate for the grandchild and her father when she passed away in May 2020. The bank is still refusing the father access to the funds in the estate to pay for the grandchild’s education.

In terms of African culture, the father would take control of the inheritance in these circumstances, but not in our country. This matter is compounded by the fact that although the Master of the High Court rules state that an estate should be wound up within six months, Absa bank won’t budge.

This is a small estate. The staff at Absa have no compassion. The granddaughter is being denied the right to adequate education.

Jeffrey Mothuloe, by email