More than half of South African kids grow up without their fathers and statistics are proving this to be true as 62 per cent of births in 2017 had no information on fathers according to Stats SA. This means that women are left to fend for their off-spring with little or no support from their partners.
Tshidi Mofokeng* (50) is living testimony to this after the father of her now seven-year-old son Vusi* left her while she was pregnant.
She says her baby daddy was working at the local municipality in Orkney, North West. When she fell pregnant, he started behaving weird only to find out later that he was seeing other women behind her back.
“He knew that I was pregnant but decided to leave me high and dry. He left me for another woman,” she recalls.
She says he didn’t even bother to come check on how she was doing during the whole pregnancy. “He told himself that he would have nothing to do with the child,” she says.
Now that their son has grown, he has not tried to build a relationship with his son.
“He’s never come to see him here. He probably sees him playing on the street because we live three houses away from his house,” she says.
Having to raise her son single-handedly has had some financial strain on Tshidi who is unemployed. She says she has to depend on the social grants and supplement it with casual jobs if she’s lucky enough to get them.
She is aware that she can’t force him to be a father to his son if he doesn’t want to. But, she says she wanted him to take some financial responsibility for his son.
Tshidi says she did try to make him support his child through the courts because he was working for the municipality. However, he stopped when his job ended.
“I don’t know if he quit or was fired from his job. But he is no longer working and so I can’t take him to court for child support now,” she tells Move!
She says all she can do now is to do her best in raising her son.
Counselling Social Worker at Famsa Irene Motaung says the absence of a father in a child’s life has quite an impact on their development.
“Father’s participation in their children’s lives reduces the chances of mental health challenges, such as depression and anxiety, including other related psychological problems.
It is also true that a father’s involvement in nurturing a child leads to better emotional, academic, social and behavioural outcome for children,” she says.
Irene says parents ought to act in the best interest of their child. Nonetheless, she’s mindful of the fact that we don’t live in an ideal world.
“As a primary caregiver of the child, who is also a legal guardian of the child, the mother needs to work within the best interest of the child principle. This means that the child’s rights for maintenance, contact and guardianship need to take precedence over the parent’s interest,” she points out.
In cases where the father comes and goes, what is referred to as a ‘yo-yo father’, the mother still needs to put the interests of the child first.
“It is important for the mother to understand that in terms of the South African children’s law, children have a right of contact with both parents. This is even if the parents were not married or are separated or divorced,” she says.
“There are special cases where a father or one of the parents can be denied contact with their child, and these cannot be decided upon by any of the parents against another. Only the court can rule on whether either of the parents is fit or not be allowed contact with their children,” she says.
Irene encourages parents who find themselves in this predicament to make use of Family Life Centre’s service for assistance. These services include parenting skills for divorced and separated parents. They also have legal counselling services which can come in very handy under these circumstances.
Not their real names*