CityPress - - Front Page - – Ntombi­zodwa Makhoba *Not her real name

When we look at the dis­tor­tion of this prac­tice – which hap­pens in some fam­i­lies now – it’s not just about the ma­mazala

I ask for money when­ever I need it; it’s un­lim­ited. So when he is mak­ing those busi­ness deals, he must al­ways keep me in mind be­cause I am part of his life SE­RIAL SIDE CHICK

They have vastly dif­fer­ent ex­pe­ri­ences over the fes­tive sea­son – wives are el­bow deep in dishes, while mistresses get a free pass in De­cem­ber. City Press speaks to dif­fer­ent women about why they may or may not be look­ing for­ward to the sound of jin­gle bells this year

‘It’s the most won­der­ful time of the year,” the say­ing goes, but for those women who are bound by duty to spend the fes­tive sea­son with their in-laws, it can also be a time of dread.

The ap­pre­hen­sion around be­ing the des­ig­nated cook, cleaner and tea maker, and be­ing on the clock for the phys­i­cally and emo­tion­ally tax­ing “makoti du­ties”, has in­creas­ingly aroused ire and pub­lic de­bate.

But, says Zama Mopai, a cus­tom­ary law lec­turer and ex­pert at the Univer­sity of Venda, the African cus­tom of “uko­tiza” and be­ing a makoti was not in­tended to equate to the ex­ploita­tion of women by their in-laws, as is the prac­tice in some fam­i­lies these days.

“His­tor­i­cally, the prac­tice of uko­tiza was meant to in­duct a makoti into her new fam­ily. She would ob­vi­ously be com­ing from a dif­fer­ent fam­ily and a dif­fer­ent way of do­ing things. The mis­con­cep­tion that now seems to be per­pet­u­ated is that the makoti would come to serve ev­ery­one. His­tor­i­cally, it was al­ways about be­ing there to as­sist the mother-in-law,” Mopai says.

That brief was only de­vi­ated from if one was in a polyg­a­mous mar­riage – the wives fol­low­ing the first wife would then help each other, while the first wife would be the one as­sist­ing the mother-in-law.

“When you look at the his­tory of the cus­tom, it was never about ser­vic­ing the needs of the sis­ters or ev­ery­one else. And that pe­riod of uko­tiza would be to in­duct her into the fe­male du­ties around the house­hold that ev­ery­one shared. The other purpose was to test her strengths and weak­nesses as a new fam­ily mem­ber to as­sess where she would be placed in terms of the rel­e­vant do­mes­tic chores,” Mopai adds.

But, even then, there was a time pe­riod al­lo­cated to uko­tiza, af­ter which the vis­it­ing makoti would per­form these du­ties as an act of cour­tesy – and not be­cause she was the vis­it­ing maid.

“When we look at the dis­tor­tion of this prac­tice – which hap­pens in some fam­i­lies now – it’s not just about the ma­mazala. Now ev­ery­one is giv­ing the wife chores. And when the cus­tom of lobola also started be­ing dis­torted to mak­ing it about pay­ing high prices, it was eas­ier for fam­i­lies to jus­tify why they wanted a wife to be given more chores, which in it­self is prob­lem­atic,” Mopai says.

Com­mu­ni­ca­tions spe­cial­ist Lupi Ng­cay­isa has spo­ken out about the misog­yny em­bed­ded in the prac­tice of uko­tiza and be­ing a makoti – from the garb that is worn by the women to the long and hard labour ex­pected of them.

Ac­claimed ac­tress Bon­nie Mbuli has also fa­mously spo­ken out against the labour ex­pected of Xhosa brides in a tweet that went vi­ral four years ago. It said: “I love my Xhosa ppl but 12 years a slave ain’t got noth­ing on ya’ll [sic].”

More re­cently, a Face­book group called Wise Makoti was set up for women to com­mis­er­ate and share tips on makoti life and the du­ties ex­pected of them.

One woman told City Press about the snide re­marks her in-laws made to her, think­ing the state­ment “Si­funa ukuva isandla sakho [they want to feel her pres­ence]” would spur her on to do more work.

How­ever, the cul­ture per­sists and Mopai has some ad­vice for new brides and those re­turn­ing to their in-laws over the fes­tive sea­son.

“The prac­tice it­self, I think, still has rel­e­vance be­cause it was al­ways about show­ing cour­tesy to your mother-in-law. It is a good cus­tom in its orig­i­nal sense. You’re join­ing a new fam­ily and, done right, it is a way of show­ing that you as­so­ciate with them and that you see your­self as one of them,” she says.

For new mako­tis, Mopai ad­vises them to “do your home­work about the en­vi­ron­ment you’re en­ter­ing into. Ask your spouse what his fam­ily is like so­cially and cul­tur­ally.

“Where pos­si­ble, also enquire from his sis­ters about their fam­ily en­vi­ron­ment; hope­fully they share with you the ins and outs so you know where to pitch in. Make an ef­fort around those things that may be out of your com­fort zone and plan ahead. The golden rule is to show re­spect.”

For re­turn­ing wives, she ad­vises: “Plan ahead. A clever makoti al­ways has one thing that mes­merises the in­laws and sets the tone for the visit. The golden rule is to show re­spect, but do not over­work your­self or overdo it – you’re not su­per­woman.”

Dorothy Malatji* (25), who is from Polok­wane, Lim­popo, is in for a lux­u­ri­ous though lonely Christ­mas. The self-con­fessed se­rial side chick says she would “never date a sin­gle man be­cause they are just not my type”.

Her boyfriend of nine months, she says, treats her like a “queen”, and she is well aware that he will never leave his wife for her.

Malatji, who lives in a lux­ury apart­ment in Sand­ton, told City Press this week that she had ac­cepted the fact that she wouldn’t be spend­ing Christ­mas Day with her “beast”, as she calls him. But he needs to pay for her Christ­mas present – a trip to Hong Kong – while he’s with his ex­tended fam­ily in Lim­popo over Christ­mas.

Added to the bill for her solo hol­i­day is five-star ho­tel ac­com­mo­da­tion and at least R150 000 in spend­ing money, mainly for shop­ping.

As to whether she loves her boyfriend, whom she de­scribes as a tall, dark “hunk of note”, she pauses and says: “Well, I re­spect him and I ap­pre­ci­ate him.

“Ev­ery woman wants a piece of him,” she adds.

“I ask for money when­ever I need it; it’s un­lim­ited. So when he is mak­ing those busi­ness deals, he must al­ways keep me in mind be­cause I am part of his life.”

Al­though her close friends know she’s dat­ing a mar­ried man, she has not in­tro­duced him to them be­cause she’s afraid they will lure him away from her.

Malatji says her re­la­tion­ships with sin­gle men sim­ply did not work out.

“I am a con­trol freak and I don’t want a man who is al­ways there to suf­fo­cate me. Mar­ried men are al­ways on the road mak­ing money; they give me space to breathe.”

Mar­riage is the fur­thest thing from her mind – she is al­ways think­ing about her next over­seas trip, she says.

But an­other other woman, who is the girl­friend of a prom­i­nent po­lyg­a­mist, longs to be­come his third wife. This is 27-year-old Karabo Mak­galemele’s sec­ond re­la­tion­ship with a mar­ried man.

“I love him and I am go­ing to marry him, as long as the right chan­nels are taken,” she says.

“But he still needs to talk to his wives and my fam­ily about it.”

Al­though she is happy to be named, Mak­galemele de­clined to re­veal her lover’s name to pro­tect him and his two wives.

She met him three years ago at a restau­rant in Sand­ton and, from that day, she says, “I knew that he was my soul mate”.

Mak­galemele ac­cepts that she will be alone over Christ­mas be­cause she un­der­stands he needs to spend time with his fam­ily.

“I don’t re­ally fuss about spend­ing Christ­mas with him be­cause he al­ways makes time for me dur­ing the year.

“So even when he is away, I don’t feel it, be­cause I know that, when he comes back, he is all mine,” she says.

“He gives me money any time I ask for it. He’s the one who al­ways re­minds me to book my car in for a ser­vice. He is my su­per­man.”

Her friends and fam­ily, how­ever, “judge” her for dat­ing a po­lyg­a­mist, but she isn’t too both­ered about what they think.

“They can’t give me what he is giv­ing me, so I don’t care what they say be­hind my back,” Mak­galemele says.

“Un­for­tu­nately, you don’t choose who you fall in love with. He is tak­ing care of me and he is do­ing things that a sin­gle guy wouldn’t do for me. So why would I bother about other peo­ple?”

Mean­while, self-con­fessed blesser Serge Cabonge has a few re­quests for the “other woman” in a mar­ried man’s life.

“Please give us a break – it’s time to bless our fam­i­lies at Christ­mas. Let’s meet again in Jan­uary.”

The mar­ried fa­ther of one, who is dat­ing more than one other woman, says they all un­der­stand that he spends qual­ity time with his fam­ily on Christ­mas Day.

“It is non-ne­go­tiable. They know this and don’t mind be­cause I book them a hol­i­day of their choice, give them money for a shop­ping spree, as well as some pocket money, be­cause I am not a self­ish man.”

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