Watching Babes and Mampintsha’s new Showmax show, Uthando Lodumo, is an incredibly uncomfortable experience.
Don’t get me wrong, as far as shows go, Uthando Lodumo is alright. It offers a never-before-seen look into the dynamic between a couple that has dominated headlines from the minute they achieved mainstream popularity.
But there’s just something about it…
One of the main tenets of journalism is that a reporter should be objective. And while I admit that objectivity is incredibly important in the work we do, it is not always what is necessary when dealing with certain stories.
The love story of Babes Wodumo (Bongekile Simelane) and Mampintsha (Mandla Maphumulo) is one such story where objectivity is not only not possible, it is not necessary.
This is because I am a black woman before I am a journalist. My experience of this world and all it has to offer is based on that fact.
GBV in SA
Gender-based violence is so prominent in this country that it has been named South Africa’s secondary pandemic by the government and non-governmental organisations doing work in the space.
According to Global Risk Insights, the government’s GBV and Femicide Command Centre, a call centre to support victims of GBV, recorded more than 120,000 victims in the first three weeks of the lockdown.
Additionally, the organisation reports that femicide in South Africa was already five times higher than the global average before the country was sent into lockdown as a result of the global Covid-19 pandemic.
In a nutshell, things were bad on a global scale, and they have not improved much.
As a result, I join many other women live in constant fear of being abused, raped, hijacked, kidnapped and murdered too. Not just by some scary anonymous figure, but by any man I might find myself inclined to be romantically involved with during my lifetime.
In addition to personally experiencing some form of intimate partner violence at some point in their lives, most South African women personally know someone who was or is being abused, regardless of race, age, social status or career.
It is through this lens that I watch Uthando Lodumo, and no matter how hard I try, I cannot get the sound of Mampintsha hitting her out of my mind every time I see the couple on screen.
Uthando Lodumo is a three-part special that follows the couple’s days in the lead up to their nuptials as well as the moment their respective circles find out that they are becoming parents.
Minnie Dlamini and Quinton Jones got a wedding special.
Somizi and Mohale Mhlongo-Motaung got a wedding special.
Dineo Moeketsi and Solo got one too.
However, Babes Wodumo’s wedding special is different from these three in that the joy that usually surrounds such a milestone is markedly absent for some viewers who fear for her wellbeing.
As if the dread surrounding their relationship is not enough, it is compounded by the fact he glorifies falling in love with her when she was still a young girl with a “fit body.”
That is not something a man should be proud of feeling about a young girl.
This is not something a man with so much influence should be saying on a public platform. He is creating an avenue for other men who wish to engage in romantic relationships with children to feel comfortable “because Mampintsha did it too.”
Skirting around assault
There’s also the matter of Mampintsha using very euphemistic language to refer to the time he was caught beating her.
In his Uthando Lodumo diary sessions, he calls it “drama,” “ witchcraft” or “a mistake…” and never what it actually is; assault.
In most cases of intimate partner violence, there are those who will argue that there is no reason to care because the person being abused does not seem to be bothered, however, the way Babes feels about being beat by her partner does not change the fact that someone who claims to love her saw nothing wrong with doing her harm.
In the show, Mampintsha does make an effort to, kind of, atone for his “sins”, by attending relationship counselling with Babes and apologising to her family – but that’s about it.
We as viewers of Uthando Lodumo don’t get to see what happened when he apologised to her (if he apologised to her).
The moment he addresses what he has done and how serious it was even felt like an afterthought, much like his nonchalance about how much his cheating bothers his wife-to-be and the mother of his son.
But, despite all this, I still sat through all three episodes, because much like the people in attendance at Babes’ bridal shower, I find myself caring about the young lady and only wanting good things for her.
And if Mampintsha is who she has chosen to love, one can only hope he does the work required to become the kind of man her family would be happy to see her spend her life with.