Ukuthwala is painful

      Year of Birth: 1964
      Mfundisweni, Flagstaff, Eastern Cape

      “I was 18 when I was thwalad, my husband was 34.
      My parents had sent me to town to do groceries. When I got off the bus on my way home there were four men waiting at my bus stop. They started helping me with my groceries but I told them I could manage. They insisted, so I let them and didn’t think anything of it. They suddenly picked me up and one of them put me over his shoulder.
      I cried and cried, but nobody came to my rescue. When people asked where they were taking me they said they were taking me for marriage.
      Back then people would not get involved if you were being taken for marriage. They took me to a house, locked me in, and left without saying who my husband was. There was no way for me to escape because the windows of the room were small.
      At about 8pm they came back and said, “You are getting married, here is your husband”. I did not accept it. They grabbed me, forced muti down my throat and blew into my nostrils. I didn’t know what was going on. I asked why they had forced me to drink this thing.
      My husband slept with me that first night.
      The following morning they let me leave the room. I forgot all about home, I didn’t miss home at all. That is how I became a married woman in that home.
      I was in Grade 9 when my thwala happened. Before that I was determined to succeed in life. I wanted to become a teacher because I love working with children.
      Before I was thwalad I had a boyfriend who had promised to marry me. I never saw him again after that. This hurt me deeply, but I eventually got over it.
      When my husband died in 1994 my parents came to fetch me to take me home. I asked my parents what they meant, because I had a home. They told me lobola wasn’t done because only one cow exchanged hands, so that is why they were taking me.
      That’s when I realised that muti played a big role in my marriage, I was married by muti. Every time I think about it, it hurts me deeply. This made me resent my husband’s surname. Had I known, I would never have changed my surname to my husband’s, I would have kept my maiden surname. They kept saying they’re going to lobola me but they never did. My parents only received that one cow when they were first informed of my thwala. I told my parents I would stay in the home my husband and I had built, it was my children’s home.
      It never occurred to me to escape. I assume it was because of that muti they made me drink. Also, in those days it was a disgrace to leave your marriage and go back home. There were names for women like that, and they [the names] were hardly spoken because it was such a shame.
      My husband was a kind man who treated me very well. He was a migrant labourer in Johannesburg and he left for work soon after we were married. His mother and five sisters were cruel to me. My father-in-law was a quiet man, but he was the only one who was kind to me. I was miserable.
      It was only a few years later after my husband got a separate plot, less than one kilometre away from his parents, and we built our own home, that things got better. I lived happily in our home with my husband and children until he passed away in 1994. His parents passed away after him. His sisters are still wretched to this day.
      My older sister was thwalad on her way to school when she was 14 years old. Even though I knew ukuthwala happened I never thought it would happen to me. I thought I would consent to my marriage.
      Ukuthwala is painful. You may not be welcomed by your husband’s family. You might get no love from them. Ukuthwala is no life. It must be abolished. Being forced to marry a person you were never in a relationship with, a person you don’t even know, is not pleasant. Even though I ended up loving my husband, it was because muti was forced down my throat.”

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