The ‘hit and run daddies’

The ‘hit and run daddies’

MASERU-FOR two years, ’Mapoone Mongoako* was head over heels in love with her boyfriend, Ramatla Bese. He seemed to feel the same way, and frequently showered her with gifts and praises that got her completely smitten.

Then, she fell pregnant.
“The man I fell in love with turned into a monster,” Mongoako told thepost.
Things turned sour the day she informed him of the pregnancy.
“He blamed me for the pregnancy saying I was supposed to have been on pills,” Mongoako says.

Despite numerous campaigns urging people to be responsible to avoid unplanned pregnancies, and for men to take responsibility, Lesotho is still blighted by the scourge of unwanted pregnancies.
For years, the courts have been jammed with cases of women demanding maintenance from such men.

The Maseru Magistrates’ Court alone recorded an average of just over 700 maintenance cases annually between 2016 and 2019.
This year alone, the court has already recorded 347 maintenance cases. Countrywide statistics were not readily available.
For many women such as Mongoako, pregnancy marks the beginning of a hellish period.

Her boyfriend denied paternity, claiming she had been dating other men besides him. He blocked all forms of communication.
“My parents didn’t take that well and my mother even said I should go to his home to force him to marry me,” she says.
“I knew I had disappointed my parents.”
Her frustration grew when she later learnt that he was already married and had two children.

“It was so painful to learn that I had been played for a fool for such a long time,” she says, tearfully.
Mongoako says she waited until she gave birth to tell him about their twins.
“I bought a new SIM card and called to inform him and he still maintained they were not his children.”

More trouble awaited Mongoako. Her family insisted they could not afford to take care of her and the twins.
“They were so furious but at least I was still welcome to stay with them.”
She says she will not force the father of her twins to take responsibility.
“I have been through a lot and I am not going to waste my energy forcing a grown-up man to take care of his children.”
Bese still insists the children are not his.

“Indeed we were dating but I didn’t impregnate her,” he says when approached by thepost.
“This could ruin my marriage if my wife finds out. I was having harmless fun just like other men,” he says, before claiming he is willing to pay for the twins’ upkeep if he finds a “stable job” on condition the matter is kept secret from his wife.

Another woman, ’Malillo Tlhaku says her boyfriend Temoso Rameno suggested that they abort the baby. She refused.
She says “part of me” hated him for that but that did not stop her from pestering him to be part of their now two-year-old daughter’s life.
“He only saw her once when he brought the clothes I had asked for. She was only three months then,” Tlhaku says, adding she accepted the clothes because she was desperate.

She says he now calls her during odd hours claiming to want to see his child.
“I refused and now he is using that against me saying I denied him access so he won’t help anymore,” she says.
“He fails to accept that it is over between us and the focus should be on the child only.”

The baby’s daddy said Tlhaku was “too independent and that made me feel less of a man”.
“She always said hurtful things and disrespected me,” Rameno says, adding he is hopeful things will work out eventually.
“I believe we can still make it work but I need her to help me in making that happen. I know I have wronged her but she should stop hurting my feelings as well. That way it will be easier for me to be in my child’s life if she no longer wants me in hers,” he says.

Other “hit and run” daddies said they were being denied a chance to be with their children despite their best efforts.
One such man is Thaabe Lerotholi. Lerotholi claims he is not supporting his child because his ex-girlfriend and her mother ordered him to stay away.
Lerotholi says the mother of his child had asked to be married “but she started throwing tantrums. Following that I went to inform her parents but that ruined our relationship even further”.

“I was told to back off,” he alleges. “As his father I still wish to spend time with him. I am waiting for him to grow older so that he will be able to tell me what he needs,” Lerotholi says.

Maseru magistrate’s court senior clerk, Matšeliso Selai, says the law stipulates that such absentee fathers should pay for their children’s upkeep up to the age of 18.
Selai says many men were defaulting on their maintenance obligations, even when they hold permanent jobs.
“We use garnish orders. Should someone fail to pay, the court issues a warrant of execution and their valuable assets are auctioned and the money is given to the mother,” Selai says.

Many understate their income to avoid paying for their responsibilities in full.
“They will mention a small amount yet they are capable of paying more and since the court doesn’t investigate they succeed,” she says.
Selai says some men prefer to buy items such as clothing and food than give money to the mother.
“It is a good thing because maintenance is not all about money but they still fail to comply.”

She says people taking care of children can seek an upward variation of the payment after every 12 months depending on the costs of raising the child.
Those denying paternity have the responsibility to pay for a paternity test.
“If the results are negative, the mother refunds him,” says Selai.
Taelo Lentša, the police’s Child and Gender Protection Unit (CGPU) Officer at Hlotse Police Station, says “a week does not pass without women reporting men on maintenance issues.”

Lentša says 90 percent of men do not proffer any meaningful reasons for refusing or failing to take responsibility for their children.
He says there are a few who are denied access to their children.
“Men should refrain from this habit of fathering children and later denying responsibility,” Lentša says.

The Lesotho Council of Non-Governmental Organisations (LCN)’s Democracy and Human Rights Commission Coordinator, Advocate Lebohang Leeu, says people should refrain from violating children’s fundamental rights by refusing to admit their responsibilities.
Leeu says the Children’s Protection and Welfare Act of 2011 aims at promoting and protecting the rights and welfare of children.
“When parents make decisions about a child, it should always be for the benefit of the child to enhance their development and participation in society”.

She says support should not only be about material things.
“Children need love from both parents,” Leeu says. “It is the duty of both parents to maintain a child as it takes two people to have one. Support can be in kind or cash,” Leeu says.
Advocate Kuena Thabane, a prominent family lawyer, says many women do not consult lawyers when taking maintenance issues to court.
“Clients or complainants often approach the children’s court without seeking the help of lawyers,” she says.

Tearing into irresponsible fathers, Advocate Thabane says: “Men don’t support their children because they are men. They won’t even support their own parents. They don’t have paternal instincts.”
Psychologist Calvin Motebang says growing up without the support of both parents can be detrimental to a child’s future as they could be affected emotionally and mentally later in life.

“They can turn out to be bitter and angry adults,” Motebang says, highlighting that this could affect the child’s school performance, “and even the direction of their future” due to low self-esteem and confidence.
“They link everything that happens to the absence of a mother or father,” he says.

Another psychologist, Tšepiso Sesioana, says some children who grow up neglected by one or both parents often lack trust and struggle with anger issues.
“If it’s a female she can be hostile towards men and not trust them,” Sesioana says.

Even after she gets married, she will always work to over protect herself and her children in case history repeats itself. At times they don’t enjoy or live their lives to the fullest because they are always on guard,” he says.
He says if it is a male, he will express his anger through being abusive towards women and not taking relationships seriously.
“Both of them fear attachment as they still think they will go through the same thing,” he said.

He says such men grow up with psychological problems such as depression which may affect their work.
“This will result in a lack of stability.”

’Mapule Motsopa

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