Road accidents increase the number of widows

2015-04-30 16:58
Moeti Molelekoa, Social Observer

Moeti Molelekoa, Social Observer

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IN the past, one would expect to see mature women, mostly older than 70 years, wearing black mourning cloth (Iqhiya Emnyama or Thapo e Ntsho) on Monday mornings after burying their beloved husbands over the weekend. This cloth was an indication that the woman was in mourning.

These days, women clothed in a certain way for this reason, are normally seen in banking institutions or insurance company buildings the morning after the burial, updating their dues. Most of them have very young children or are pregnant.

These women are clothed in black doeks, black shawls and black dresses. This is to culturally restrict them from having sex and being free to socialise.

In the past, men respected widows in black and kept their distance. But presently, men take advantage of women in black clothing, with the wrong perception that they are crying out for sex.

Widows in black are also vulnerable because crime syndicates target them. Due to the hard economic times, young men target widowed women for financial gain: the millions inherited from insurance benefits and paid-up homes.

The mourning period lasts for about six months (short term) or twelve months (long term), depending on the culture of a particular family.

These black items – doek, black shawl over the shoulder and long black dresses – can be seen as a symbol of oppression.

Widowers (men) only wear a press button covered with a small black cloth, pinned on the arm. When going out partying or indulging in sexual activities, men can just unpin that button and put it in their pockets and go on with their lives.

If a family wants to stop the culture, a beast has to be slaughtered to signal the end of the mourning tradition with a big feast.

Every Easter and Christmas holiday we experience a high rate of death on our roads. The government, through its Arrive Alive campaign, coupled with harsh penalties, has failed to reduce road fatalities.

It scares me that as a society we have begun to accept road accidents as normal.

Drivers are intolerant, reckless and drive while fatigued or drunk. It is estimated that about 80% of road accidents globally occur in Africa. This indicates that this continent bears a disproportionately high burden of road traffic deaths.

People between the age of 15 and 50 in South Africa die at a rate of 40 individuals every day. Young women, such as the ones described above, are often robbed of their spouses as a result of fatal road accidents.

The latest statistics indicate that 77% of these are men who leave behind young widows and children.

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