Earlier this month, it was brought to light that Hawks spokesman McIntosh Polela has not kept up with maintenance payments for two of his children. This allegedly came up following a tweet in which he said that he was thinking of buying a new Jeep, something that had angered the mother of the 2 children he failed to regularly support. Following the newspaper reports, Polela had a telephonic interview on Talk Radio 702- an interview which subsequently became a telephonic spat with his ex. She was criticised by many callers, who felt that maintenance discussions are not for the public domain. In discussions with others over the matter, what came across quite frequently is that:
- “She sounds like a bitter ex”;
- “She’s an attention seeking b***h ” and
- “She has no self-respect”
Reality however tells a different story. Reality is besides love, children need shelter, food, to be clothed amongst many other things. No amount of “self-respect”, “attention” and bitterness is going to fulfil a child’s needs- the world we live in requires money to be able to do that.
The Stats SA ‘Living Conditions of Households in South Africa report’ published in October 2011, highlights “gender of the household head” as one of the indicators in marked inequities in poverty levels of households. It goes on to say that, “female-headed households are poorer than their male counterparts. With 22, 8% of these households falling into quintile 1*, compared to 18, 1% of male headed households. Only 31, 1% fall into quintiles 4 or 5, compared to 45, 8% of the male-headed households”
Considering that “43, 8% of households in South Africa are female-headed”, it means that quite a high percentage of female headed households are living in poverty. It is a well-known fact that the median annual income of males exceeds that of females. These findings also suggest that the majority of families in South Africa are headed by females- meaning that the onus of meeting children’s most basic needs therefore often reside with women.
Now taking into account that South Africa has seen a steep rise in the cost of living, it means that women are bearing the brunt of it. In the last 2 months, a 1.8kg of formula milk went from R175.95 to R225.95 at most retail stores in my area. This hasn’t been the only price increase in a short space of time, which has made catering for a child’s basic needs so much pricier. Prior to eating solids, my son on average went through 3 tins per month- which amounts to almost R700. Coupled with the many other things children need, it is clear that raising a child takes quite a financial toll.
I am not a biology teacher, nor do I aspire to be so I won’t go into details about how babies are made. However, if you’re reading this blog, I think it is safe to assume that you know that children do not ‘magically’ come from thin air. They are made by two people a man and a woman, meaning that both should be equally responsible for ensuring that the child’s needs are met.
In South Africa however, we have created a culture of making parenting a maternal issue. It is widely accepted that men can just walk away from their children, also neglecting their parental responsibilities. Despite all the joys that come with parenting- it is not an easy world. Being a parent comes with:
- Sleepless nights spent with an ill child;
- Dealing with the many hurts experienced by a child;
- Navigate the daily difficulties of trying to raise a well-mannered child and
- The general emotional upheavals that go with parenting.
So, considering that they are ‘spared’ all that- the least one would expect wayward fathers to do is ensure that their children’s most basic material needs are met. The excuse of ‘running short’ in a month just does not cut it. That is unless of course, we are suggesting that children should contain their needs to eat, be clothed or have shelter in between those periods.
People can judge all they like, but until fathers accept the obligations they have to their children, naming and shaming them may just be a form of recourse for struggling mothers.
* Quintiles are a classification used to class households by their income. They range from Quintile 1, which is the lowest 20% of incomes to Quintile 5, which would contain the highest incomes and is sometimes referred to as the top quintile