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Selby Bok­aba is known as the spokesper­son for the City of Tsh­wane, but his most im­por­tant job is be­ing a dad. Bok­aba (45) has been the pri­mary par­ent of his daugh­ter, Maikano (15), since she was seven years old. He has an­other daugh­ter, Molemo (7), who lives with her mother, but he sees her every day af­ter school and every sec­ond week­end. Bok­aba’s de­ci­sion to be a full-time dad has changed his life. “It’s tough in the sense that you have to al­ter your life­style. There are no more Phuza Thurs­days and Fri­day nights out. I’m ef­fec­tively a mother and fa­ther to my [el­der] daugh­ter. Par­ent­ing is my re­spon­si­bil­ity,” he says. “It’s a good and re­ward­ing life. Girl chil­dren need their fathers.” Shy Maikano says her fa­ther is the best dad in the world. “It’s nice to live with my dad. We go out. We have din­ner,” she says. But par­ent­ing done right is hard work. Since the age of seven, Maikano has not missed a sin­gle day of school, Bok­aba says.

He goes about par­ent­ing like a project man­ager, keep­ing to-do lists and a diary to en­sure he keeps track of both of their chores – in­clud­ing pol­ish­ing shoes, mak­ing lunch and en­sur­ing her school uni­form is per­fectly clean and ironed.

“I get up at 5am and wake her up. She is not the quick­est of peo­ple, so I have to wait for five min­utes and go wake her up again,” he says.

He pre­pares Maikano’s school lunch the night be­fore and puts pol­ish on her school shoes and his work shoes. In the morn­ing, he brushes her shoes un­til they gleam.

Re­cently, he had to or­der her a new school uni­form on­line – a daunt­ing task that in­volved deep knowl­edge about women’s cloth­ing sizes, and much de­bate about what would fit. “We had to check her size to be sure,” he says. He be­lieves in a good night’s sleep and easy morn­ings, so he en­sures she goes to bed at 8pm. For fun, the Bok­abas go shop­ping, to restau­rants and to the hair sa­lon.

“One thing that I re­ally hate is to take her to hair salons. It takes a lot of time and some­times I am the only guy there,” he says, laugh­ing.

Pu­berty is­sues have also not been easy. “She’s grown up. She is a teenager, so I have to re­spect her space, but some­times I have to put my foot down,” he says, adding that he has lit­tle tol­er­ance for teenage cheek.

Bok­aba says he has been sub­jected to stereo­typ­ing and told that what he is do­ing is “a woman’s job”.

He has dealt with this by shed­ding friends, keep­ing only those who have chil­dren them­selves, or who un­der­stand his sit­u­a­tion. He so­cialises at home around the braai. Bok­aba urges black fathers es­pe­cially to look af­ter their chil­dren. “That’s why we have these teenage preg­nan­cies and chil­dren roam­ing the streets do­ing drugs. We need to change that cul­ture of not tak­ing care of our chil­dren as black fathers. Pay­ing main­te­nance and be­ing an ATM are not enough. Chil­dren need their fa­ther’s love. In­vite your chil­dren to come sleep over and take them to movies.”

He says many black peo­ple still strug­gle with the phe­nom­e­non of blended fam­i­lies, and some fathers ne­glect their own chil­dren and fo­cus on their part­ners’ chil­dren to keep their part­ners happy.

“Our gen­er­a­tion needs coun­selling on blended fam­i­lies so that all chil­dren feel loved. There is this trend of fathers who, in­stead of look­ing af­ter their chil­dren, show off by buy­ing ex­pen­sive booze and wear­ing ex­pen­sive clothes. That gets un­der my skin,” he says.

Asked what he has learnt while rais­ing his daugh­ters, Bok­aba says he is now an “all-rounder”. “I also found out that you can live with­out a woman in the house,” he says. Find­ing new love is hard for sin­gle dads. “Women tend to shy away from sin­gle fathers who are close to their daugh­ters, but I pri­ori­tise my daugh­ters more than any­thing,” he says.

What’s im­por­tant for Bok­aba is that Maikano grows up know­ing what she should ex­pect from a man one day. But the dis­ad­van­tage, he says, is that she could mea­sure all men against him.

“She will grow up know­ing what a man’s love is. It is im­por­tant for men to be present in the lives of girl chil­dren. No man can lie to my daugh­ter.”

TALK TO US Are you a sin­gle fa­ther? Is it tough or are you cop­ing?

SMS us on 35697 us­ing the key­word FA­THER and tell us what you think. Please in­clude your name and prov­ince. SMSes cost R1.50


MOD­ERN FAM­ILY Maikano Bok­aba and her fa­ther Selby at their home in Moreleta Park in Pre­to­ria


HANDS-ON Tha­bang Tikane in dis­cus­sion with his sons Le­bo­gang (right) and Tu­miso


WHERE THE BOYS ARE DJ Prince Kay­bee with his son Katleho

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