Unmarried moms forced to pay chief R850 penalty

- Glacier Nkhwashu

A LIMPOPO chief is fining unwed mothers R850 if they fail to prove who fathered their children, causing outrage in his village.

And should these women – or their children – die before paying the fine, their families are refused permission to bury them in Mandala village, near Thohoyando­u in Venda.

According to villagers, when a young woman in the village falls pregnant, her elders are forced to alert Chief Pandelani Singo who will immediatel­y issue a “warrant of arrest ” and summon the woman to the tribal court for questionin­g. The South African National Civic Organisati­on (Sanco) took the chief on and reported him to the Venda kingdom. Zakaria Munyai, secretary of the local Sanco, said the matter came to their attention in February when the family of a young mother who had died, failed to raise the fee.

Munyai said they reported the chief to the king, but were still awaiting a response from King Toni Mphe- phu. One local sub-head-man, who declined to be named, told Sowetan that the fining of unwed mothers dates back to 2008.

A second headman said they had tried to help the chief draft a constituti­on but he refused the advice.

“He told us he was designing his own constituti­on to target women who have children out of wedlock,” the headman said. According to villagers, some girls have been forced into delivering their babies in secret after hiding their pregnancie­s as a result of the stigma attached to being a single mother. A single mother, who is also a high school pupil, said she had been rejected by her child ’ s father, leading her to hide her pregnancy and fleeing the village.

Another mother said she gave up her SA Social Security Agency card and ID to a loan shark who loaned her the money to pay the fine.

“My child ’ s support grant card is still there,” she said.

Jackson Mafunzwain­i, the Venda king ’ s adviser and spokesman said they had only received the complaint from the community 15 days ago.

“We were still planning to get to the bottom of it when we heard the chief talking on radio that he won't do it again. So we find no reason to still approach him. We are taking the word he said on radio, for now we ’ ll wait and see if he really meant it.”

When called for comment, Singo said: “We have resolved the matter with my community. I see no need to entertain the issue.”

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