According to the South African Institute of Race Relations, 42% to 47% of children grow up with absent fathers. File picture: Pixabay
Sunday, June 17, Father’s Day, was a very emotionally taxing day for me. According to the South African Institute of Race Relations, I am part of the 42% to 47% of children who grow up with absent fathers. Their finding also revealed that the proportion of South African children with such fathers increased between 1996 and 2010.

I fully comprehend why we politicise everything in our epoch. The issue of fatherlessness is very close to my heart and it needs us to act on it. For a good 26 years, I knew that my father was alive and I did not see him for that long. This year was very different. It was unique because for the first time, I did not do my yearly custom of saying this little prayer for him: “Dear God, I hope my father is well wherever he is. I hope that he is taking good care of himself and those he chose to live with. I have made peace with his absence in my life, but on this Father’s Day, I hope the least he does is to remember that he left a son in Pankop. Dad, wherever you may be, Happy Father’s Day.”

This year is contrasting because he is no more. I didn’t have to wonder if he is still wandering or not, because I had the opportunity to bury him.

But it still hurt. It hurt to realise that his absence is something that can never be filled or replaced by anything, even death couldn’t fully fill the emptiness of not having a father in my life. My mom has always been enough. However, she could never be both a mother and a father to me.

Then there was another platoon that dedicated Father’s Day to their mothers. They celebrated their mothers for playing both the roles of being a mother and a father. They share this sentiment; “Happy Father’s Day to my mom and all the single moms out there, who for whatever reason had to hold it down twice as hard, You deserve a celebration every day,” said Trevor Noah.

Others made fun of the day and posted a lot of messages to this effect: “To all fathers who ran away from their kids, Happy Athletics Day.”

I guess the Batswana were right when they said: Loso logolo ditshego, loosely translated it means, even if you are in a catastrophic or heartbreaking situation, some people will find humour in it.

Perhaps we have so much stressing issues in our society that we could do with some humour? Not!

The truth is; being a responsible father knows no political left or political right. It is not about being liberal or non-liberal. It isn’t about radicalism nor conservatism. Being a responsible father is about justice. Our nation needs this justice of present and active fathers.

I am the founder of an organisation, the Young Men Movement (YMM) that is a custodian of the future fathers of the black communities, particularly the poor villages of our country in Mpumalanga. About 80% of the boys we work with are fatherless. Our prayer and part of our mandate is to ensure that they do right by their children in the future.

Let us reclaim Father’s Day. Let it be a day that is about the celebration of men and how responsible and appreciated they are in their big numbers for being present and active fathers.

My heart does go out to the men who are denied the opportunity to see their children because of bitter and angry women. The truth is, denying these men the opportunity to father their children because things didn’t work out in your romantic relationship with this man is part of the problem.

There is a lot that happens in our country that is not right. However, I believe that we can all work together, support NGOs like YMM, who pride themselves with working with young men to create a new generation of fathers that will be active, present and amazing dads in the future.

Let us make being present, active fathers fashionable again.

Happy belated Father’s Day.

* Kabelo Chabalala is the founder and chairperson of the Young Men Movement (YMM). Email, [email protected]; Twitter, @KabeloJay; Facebook, Kabelo Chabalala

** The views expressed here are not necessarily those of Independent Media.

The Star