Published in 2006 by University of Kwazulu-Natal Press, Pamphilia Hlapa’s A Daughter’s Legacy is a tearjerker that brings to life the ugly scourge of child sexual abuse that virtually continued unabated in the village of the author’s upbringing where silence was golden and speaking out against such was taboo.
There I was with a baby boy and all my interactions with men had been dysfunctional and painful. How was I supposed to nurture the relationship with my son when I was more convinced than ever that men were cruel people who had no emotions? They raped children; they left their families, and they impregnated women and abandoned them. Many girls had to live with the consequences of not knowing how to behave in their male-female relationships. How could I be able to show my son that we could have a healthy and loving relationship when I myself could not deal with my inability to derive love from men? I had to make a decision: either let it be and have an unhealthy relationship or deal with my past and learn how to be a loving and caring mother. These thoughts dominated my mind every time I held my son.
These are the troubled thoughts of a young mother trying to come to terms with her wretched past. Raped twice before she was a teenager, she had to endure a painful abortion when faced with the choice between an unplanned pregnancy and university.
With such a chequered past, health-wise, it was no wonder that Kedibone’s body would become a gynaecological cesspool that would make her eternally grateful for the ‘small wonder’ of conceiving and giving birth to a son Tumi.
The men, who visited these ills on women and children such as Kedibone, had the protection of patriarchy that shielded them from the repercussions of their vile acts. Kedibone – the author’s given African name that hung like an albatross around her neck – was first raped at six. All she knew about the functions of her genitalia at the time, she writes, was that they were used to answer the call of nature.
A brute savage waylaid her on her way back from school and shattered her innocence. She spoke to no one as per the culture of silence.
A few years later a relative – Bra Joe, would have her way with her inside her own home. When her mother woke up to the girl’s petrified screams, she put the hysteria down to a ‘bad dream’. Bra Joe, like many other men who scarred young girls for life, got off with murder.
Life as she knew it in her village in the Limpopo province was one of sexual abuse, alcohol, absent fathers and an oppressive tradition that made speaking up impossible.
She got into university in Cape Town with this baggage. Seeking a substitute for the absent love from her father, she sought it in promiscuous relationships that did not fulfill her single need.
Having graduated and ready for the working world and consenting sex and relationships, the man fate thrust her way, Timothy, was a lying cheat who made her life a living hell. He took no responsibility for their child.
The letter she writes to her mother later in life as she heals will make you realize the pain mothers have been forced to carry, sometimes to their graves, as they lose their daughters to the dictates of tradition and customs. Her mother, an enlightened schoolteacher who did further studies in Israel, was too blinded by the very tradition to speak truth to power in defence of her daughter’s innocence.
The daughter feels the legacy her mother bequeathed her was an unbearable yoke.
There are many Kedibones out there saddled with the pain of their upbringing. Only God knows what their catharsis becomes if they do not, like Pamphilia Hlapa, expose the horrors of their childhood.
How do they become better mothers themselves?
I’d force sex offenders to read this one, if for anything, just so they know what lifetime woe they inflict on their victims.
© makatilemedia 04/2012