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14 children, and still counting

SX 10Tsitsi Matope

Sixty-four-year-old Butha-Buthe man, who is seeking a new wife, says he is only being ‘a real Mosotho man’ and merely obeying God’s commandment to ‘multiply like sand’
He is 64 years of age and a father of 14 (nine sons and five daughters) who proudly calls himself “a real Mosotho man who has refused to let his principles be diluted by modern trends”, most of which he insists are neither realistic nor practical.

Sepheame Ramabeleng of Ha-Ramabe­leng village in Butha-Butha laughs at sug­gestions that contraceptives could have kept his family “manageable” and has no apologies to make for fulfilling his “mandate” as a man.
Of his children, two are from his first two marriages while the other 12 are by his cur­rent wife, ‘MaSepheame. However they were not at home when Sunday Express paid the couple’s home, situated on top of Mount Ha-Tlehi, deep in rural Butha-Buthe.

Ramabeleng’s honesty and different view of life might provide answers to why some family planning and anti-HIV strategies are failing in some parts of the country.
Old-fashioned or different as he might sound, Ramabeleng is basically a simple man who appears not to expect too much from life.

The lively old man however, strongly be­lieves he has a big role to play in ensuring the expansion of the Basotho nation, hence his large family.

It is a home truth that might shock certain communities yet, on the other hand, present another suppressed social dimension about how some men view and feel about love, mar­riage, women, children and the society they live in.

Ramabeleng believes some problems in his village, which include infidelity among mar­ried couples, are the direct result of “pres­sure” to be seen as modern, resulting in men failing to marry as many wives as they wish and women “sleeping around” because they know they are “safe” due to the availability of contraceptives.

“There is a lot of cheating going on these days and because some people can easily pre­vent pregnancy, they are at liberty to do as they please knowing they can prevent the evidence of sin,” he said.

According to Ramabeleng, HIV had become a national crisis in Lesotho because of those who went against Basotho values and tradi­tions, which were set to guide against sexu­ally-transmitted infections and other social problems.

“Preventing diseases can help but it does not make us at peace with ourselves because we then become people without a conscience.”

Ramabeleng further said that just like how his ancestors lived, he would want to lead a natural life, in line with God’s laws.

“My grandfather, the one I am named af­ter, had 28 children with four wives. I want to do better than him”, he declared.

His last child, Ramabeleng said, is six years old.

“What is stopping me from having children at this moment is that my wife says she is tired. That is why I am thinking, maybe, with her permission, I should get another wife to fulfil my wish to have a much bigger family,” he said.

Apart from delivering all the 12 children at home, Ramabeleng said his wife also had two miscarriages.
“She says she is too tired to have more chil­dren and I can also see the need to bring her a sister who would help her around the home and in other areas. As you can see, there is no one to take care of me now that she has gone on another errand. It’s unfortunate that while she feels tired, I don’t feel tired or old at all. So what do I do? Men never get old in the sexual sense,” Ramabeleng said, adding he sees nothing wrong with starting another family at 64 years of age.

“I don’t believe in lying to myself. God fa­voured some men in the Bible, who had many wives and children. I don’t want to confuse God’s system by cheating on my wife and pre­vent pregnancy with condoms. I want to have someone and remain faithful to my wife and the new one.”

Ramabeleng, who attends one of the ap­ostolic churches in the area, went on: “God himself said we should multiply like sand, so there is nothing wrong if I can have a new wife and children. I would simply be fulfilling my mandate as a man. I married because I wanted to have children. Yes, there was an element of love but the main reason was to make sure my name does not die.”
He also explained that many of his friends in the area also had many chil­dren.
“Some of my friends have more children than me. They are real men.”
Asked if he was not concerned that he might be depriving his children of certain priviledges because they were “too many”, Ramabeleng said: “I don’t see any difference between my life and that of my neighbours who have fewer children. Suffering is suffer­ing; it’s part of life.”
On how he felt about the struggle his wife had to go through each time she fell preg­nant, walking about 12 kilometres to get ser­vices at Linakeng Clinic, Ramabeleng said this was not unique since every pregnant woman in the area was going through the same experience.
“Pregnancy is every woman’s responsibil­ity; I also have my own responsibilities as a man and I am not complaining.”

Ramabeleng’s family subsists on farm­ing while he also spends much time making traditional hats he sells at the Butha-Buthe Craft Centre.

“Each hat costs M50, and the money I make helps a lot because we can buy salt, soap, sugar and a bit of oil with it. We are simple people but also very happy.”

Apart from growing lots of peaches right round his home, Ramabeleng also owns three cattle, three donkeys, chickens and three goats.

A horse which used to carry his wife to the clinic when she was pregnant with their last son, died last month, he

A man who, unlike many other parents, does not seem to expect much from his chil­dren, Ramabeleng said his offspring were walking their own paths in life.
“Two of my sons are domestic workers, others live with their families and do what they can to survive as and others are still in school.”

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