Nompilo Kunene
Senior online journalist
3 minute read
6 Aug 2022
08:34

‘Polyandry won’t work in SA,’ says cultural expert

Nompilo Kunene

In a heated parliamentary debate last year when the Department of Home Affairs considered legalising polyandry, Ganief Hendricks, a member of Al Jama-ah, a political party that supports Muslim interests, strongly opposed the proposed legislation.

Gogo Skhotheni

In South Africa men can marry several wives, but women are prohibited from having multiple husbands. Polygamy is where one man is married to several women, and polyandry is where one woman is married to several men.

The Recognition of Customary Marriages Act recognises polygamy, but not polyandry. Polyandry is currently a hot topic after famous sangoma Patricia Motsoeneng, popularly known as Gogo Skhotheni, came out saying she wants to take a second husband.

The traditional healer, who has a reality show on DStv’s Moja Love channel 157, caused an uproar on social media when she revealed that she had taken a second husband after her ancestors instructed her to do so. While facing a backlash on social media, Gogo Skhotheni said she knows that her arrangement is unusual, but she is up for the challenge.

ALSO READ | Cultural, religious experts slam polyandry

According to media reports, the White Paper on marriages in South Africa concluded on Wednesday that the law should not be amended to allow polyandry. Reports indicated that the government listed the following reasons for its rejection: polyandry is contrary to the dominant patriarchal culture, which accepts or tolerates men who have multiple partners; polyandry is contrary to traditional and religious practices; polyandry has the potential to negatively affect the family structure; and difficulties associated with proving paternity for children who will be born in a polyandrous relationship.

However, national spokesperson for Home Affairs Siyabulela Qoza, told Weekend Witness that Home Affairs has not issued any statement or any communication to this effect. He did, however, say that it might have been something that was sent to Parliament or to cabinet for finalisation and was somehow leaked, but emphasised that nothing has been published as yet.

In a heated parliamentary debate last year when the Department of Home Affairs considered legalising polyandry, Ganief Hendricks, a member of Al Jama-ah, a political party that supports Muslim interests, strongly opposed the proposed legislation.

You can imagine when a child is born, more DNA tests will be needed to discover who the father is. That backlog is going to grow. The problem is only going to get worse

Speaking to Weekend Witness, well-known inyanga, pastor and cultural expert Thokoza Thuso “Ndlabesola” Molefe from Pietermaritzburg raised concerns about Gogo Skhotheni’s decision to have more than one husband.

Molefe said in the history of people who connect with spirits and ancestors, there has never been such a thing. He said polygamy is common with male traditional healers, but not females. “When a female traditional healer gets married, when she burns incense, she must now first pray to her husband’s ancestors before praying to her ancestors.

Now when she has more than one husband whose ancestors are they praying to? I guess it will be her ancestors and her husbands will also fall under her ancestors, which is unheard of

Molefe said he believes that this might be a fame-seeking tactic or just umkhuba (mischief). “If Gogo Skhotheni is successful with her polyandry, she will open the door for more women who have been wanting to do the same thing but have been afraid of the judgement.

“I honestly don’t think polyandry will ever work for anyone,” added Molefe.