To view polygamy as source of strife is inaccurate

Musa Mseleku and his wives have a reality show on polygamy lifestyle which got South Africa talking as the majority grapple with the thin line between women's rights and patriarchal dominance in marriages.
Musa Mseleku and his wives have a reality show on polygamy lifestyle which got South Africa talking as the majority grapple with the thin line between women's rights and patriarchal dominance in marriages.
Image: SUPPLIED

Practised mainly in Africa in its proper respectful family value-based form, then marred and perverted by the arrival of the colonisers, polygamy is now represented as a form of slavery for women.

Our history hasn't been properly represented as it was not told by our own and from our own account.

Polygamy is more about family and the wealth that comes with being part of that family. As a people, we have never been an "I" society but an "us", and never been about the self. You must view everything from this premise. We would share or more like we have always shared and this is what polygamy represents.

Sharing in this regard means having more mothers to love and nurture, and more hands to share the workload.

Everything is shared; the pain, the joy, the tears, the rain, the land and everything else.

You have people around you to guide and care, give directions and wisdom - nothing goes unnoticed throughout the compound and this takes care of the many societal ailments we have today.

Imagine the possibility of having three mothers and four sisters to notice you haven't been yourself; those close to you will notice when you lose your smile.

There are many sides to this type of set-up. There are many variants and varieties, the practise is conducted differently throughout the continent - from one tribe to another and one clan to another clan.

To describe polygamy as a cause of strife is a bit far-fetched and unfair; polygamy is a choice.

The assertion and subsequent acceptance of colonialism, religion and industrialisation, which shaped urbanisation and migration of labour, led to the destruction of the African family.

All this has led to a dysfunctional African nation that has lost touch with the most basic concept, family.

The family unit in a polygamous set-up emphasises that there be no distinction between the biological and nonbiological family members. Each mother is regarded in the same level and their obligation is the same to all the children.

This means that all should be treated in equal measure. This is very vital to ensure the continued cohesion within the home.

Polygamy, like all that humans partake in, may be flawed for some people and completely different for other people. We cannot however, ignore the fact that the tapestry and very fabric that makes us human is family.

So, it is not for us to question polygamy but to accept that it has the benefit of giving a loving family to children and a dignified and progressive life for those who choose to be in a polygamous set-up.

For me, polygamy is beautiful and unique, but there are also negative connotations for the women folk in this set-up.

As Africans, we are inclined to believe traditional versions of witchcraft which to some are said to play a role in the way polygamy exists - with reference to how the men may bewitch the women (involved in the practise), and the women doing things to harm each other or the children of other wives.

These are some of the tales that may be associated with polygamy but, unfortunately, the literature and the study of the practise is in many ways outdated and, at best, has up to this point been negligent of the reality lived by those involved in the practise.

- Cele is a Sunday World reader

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