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My mom and I fought a lot in my childhood.

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My mom and I fought a lot in my childhood.

My mom and I fought a lot in my childhood. In fact, our relationship improved when I moved out of the house at the age of 18. Before that, we were constantly fighting. My mother was violent – she resolved conflict with a belt and her fists. She stopped hitting me very late in my teenage years when one day, I told her that if she hit me one more time, one of us was leaving the house in a coffin and it wouldn’t be me. I often wonder if I would have indeed laid a hand on my mother that day. All I know is that many years of being beaten, sometimes until one couldn’t even cry no more, was not sustainable. It was going to end – one way or another. But even then, anyone who knew me knows that there was nothing I wouldn’t do for my mother. There was nothing I didn’t do for my mother. I loved her with every fibre of my being right until the day I poured soil into her grave. And to this day, I honour my mother and will defend her memory until I take my last breath.

Growing up made me understand that my mother, who was violent and destructive, was both a victim and a perpetrator. She was raised the way she raised me – beaten up as punishment when she became “too much” for elders who couldn’t make sense of a child who questioned everything. And though she encouraged my own curiosity, at times, it overwhelmed her and in her frustrations, she resorted to what she knew: violence. My mother was a victim of multiple layers of violence: the violence that defined apartheid South Africa in which she grew up; the violence of poverty and disenfranchisement; the violence of being raised by a poor single mother who was discarded with her pregnancy by a man (and his family) who refused to accept the child as his; the violence of being a poor teenage mother; the violence of the many traumas she endured. She did not get the help that she needed. And I paid a price for that.

I’m not making excuses for my mother’s damagedness, I’m contextualising her. I’m making you understand that many things can be true at the same time: that my mother loved me, that I loved her, that we fought hard, that she was violent, that she was a walking symbol of layered trauma, that she was brilliant, that she was vulnerable, that she failed me in many ways because she was failed in many ways and didn’t always know how to do better, and that I defend my mother not because I suffer from Stockholm Syndrome, but because I loved my mother, flawed as she was. I loved her immeasurably. And when I lost her, I didn’t lose my abuser, I lost my mother. I lost my imperfect and violent mother – but my mother whom I loved more than I’ll ever love another human being.

So, when post on social media, celebrating how Babes Wodumo is now “free” because Mampintsha has died, remember that she lost her husband and the father of her young child. She lost the man she truly and deeply loved. That he was her abuser is not negated – but what must also never be negated is that somewhere in KwaZulu Natal, a 28 year old is grieving the loss of a man she has woken up next to everyday for the better part of her young adult life. And if your radicalism can’t extend compassion for her loss and pain; if it can’t comprehend the nuance and layeredness of her grief; if the first thing that comes to mind is “Mampintsha is deceased, Babes is now free” as opposed to “Mampintsha is deceased, Babes is going through unimaginable pain and needs all the love and support we can give her and the baby”, then it’s a radicalism that no woman, not even a victim of abuse, should be happy to receive, because that’s radicalism ya masepa.

Malaika Wa Azania

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