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Adoption of kid brother was best move for my family

Extend helping and nurturing hand to others

Zipho and her bestie Lotanang take a stroll around the yard in 2020.
Zipho and her bestie Lotanang take a stroll around the yard in 2020.
Image: Supplied


Do you know adoption is in your mother tongue?

In the context of children and family.

I had to think for a minute, asking myself aloud “what is to adopt in isiXhosa? What does it mean? What does the act of adoption even entail?” I considered adoption as the act of ukwamkela ( the act of welcoming, embracing and nurturing). Adoption is the act of ukwamkela umntwana... my English to isiXhosa dictionary validates my interpretation.

Many don’t know this. November is world adoption month. Before my family engaged in the legal adoption of my youngest brother Lotanang, 7, I didn’t know much about world adoption month.

At the start of this journey, circa 2015, I was 23 towards the end of my honours degree. I remember being at an academic crossroads with two choices. Do I stay at Rhodes University and do a master’s by full thesis or pursue an MA in research psychology with course work and a half thesis?

I sought my father’s counsel. He said “come home so we can talk”. I remember being elated because I was going home. I travelled from the Eastern Cape to Gauteng by bus.

Going home was always so anti-climactic. Picture this: the Beyoncé of the family arrives, parents are at work, younger brother Phetolo, known fondly as Lolo, at school. No welcome party, no one took leave, nothing! I forgave them though.

My parents had a discussion with Lolo and I about their wishes to adopt. It was important to them that we knew that this wasn’t a fina decision, rather an opportunity for us to share our thoughts and feelings. I appreciated that because I thoroughly enjoy being heard.

I gave them the green light, reminding them of our familial ethos that supports fostering, adopting and nurturing children. My eldest rakgadi (aunt) Maphutha and husband Ntsie Maphike had set an example by fostering many children. It is a trait I am certain they picked up from my grandparents Nic and Jerminah.

I think it is normative African behaviour to nurture and raise children that are not biologically yours. My maternal grandmother, for example, has raised and nurtured her siblings’ children and grandchildren. I know so many families that undergo non-formalised state adoption by simply nurturing children around them and in their communities. The parent-child relationship is hardly confined to biological relations in African culture.

Baby Lotanang, proud parents Sholto and Thabitha Dolamo, the writer Zipho and younger brother Phetolo picking up the new family member at Angels Baby Sanctuary in 2016.
Baby Lotanang, proud parents Sholto and Thabitha Dolamo, the writer Zipho and younger brother Phetolo picking up the new family member at Angels Baby Sanctuary in 2016.
Image: Supplied

Lolo also gave them the nod and we joked about the oddity of having a 23-year-old first born, a 10-year-old middle child and newborn. We all went to bed happy that night, unlike the evenings my dad would tutor me maths and physics (screams in eternal trauma).

Nearly a year after that conversation, having settled into my MA by full thesis journey, I travelled home again. This time to meet the newest member of my family. I remember having a pit in my stomach and being uninterested suddenly – I think I was just anxious.

We made the trip to Angels Baby Sanctuary, an organisation in Joburg that provides safe homes for abandoned babies. I remember I had my headphones on, listening to Bonobo’s The North Borders album in attempts to calm my nerves. We arrived and were greeted by the friendly staff who took us to the nursery. There must have been eight or so newborn babies there that day, all so little and beautiful.

I turned to the social worker and asked if they had secured safe family homes for them. My heart sank into a deep sadness – I can’t even remember what she said to me. The next thing I remember was holding my baby brother – we call him Fufi now. He was the most beautiful and precious baby ever. It was love at first sight.

I remember whispering to him, introducing myself as his big sister. He became an instant bestie. He is such a light, the most vibrant and interactive child ever – somewhat of a celebrity in our community. For a little while the most interesting thing to me was that I had a toddler bestie with whom I’d make snapchat videos. My friends Asande and Soso would be on my case for videos of him, while he bops to 21 Savage’s No Heart. I was and always have been in my trap era.

My parents’ decision to adopt a baby was one of the better move they’ve made in my adult life. It has made us, my brothers and I, more mindful that it our duty to extend a helping and nurturing hand to others . 


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