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In the African context, mothers are known to be gentle, nurturing, always there and quite easy to relate to and on the other hand, fathers are known just to be providers, nothing more and nothing less.

Some African men though, like Indibano Jazz Club member Sibongiseni Mamba, chose to be hands-on fathers, and be there for their children all the way.

Men, like this well-known jazz music lover, are setting precedence for this new era.
While GCWALA had a sit down with Sibongiseni to know him, a lot was learnt that there are fathers who are keen to be involved in their children’s everyday life.

Who is Sibongiseni Mamba?

Sibongiseni is the second-born son in a family of two girls and two boys (from my mother). Well, I also practically grew up with step sisters and brothers. So, in essence I come from a typical sizeable African family. Academically, I have a diverse training background. My first career was in journalism.

I am a writer and communication professional. I loved my years at the Times, where I cut my teeth as a cub reporter, and learned all the tricks of the trade.

I studied a bit, first in India and later at Rhodes University in Grahamstown, SA. After graduating with my media studies, I changed direction, out of interest and curiosity, and obtained an honours degree in Industrial Sociology, specialising in labour law and industrial relations. I am now in the middle of my short programme in Economics and Business Management, just to immerse myself well in the corporate environment. Well, there’s no telling what’s next or when this journey will stop.

At discovering that you were going to be a father, what were your first thoughts?
Well, I have two kids now, a girl and a boy. Each one was born when I was at a different stage in life. But the feeling will always be the same. My children bring a sense of pride and humility, each in their own way.  With the birth of my daughter (my first born) I had mixed emotions really.

I was young at the time, had just started working and practically just starting out in life. So I was a bit afraid, and anxious. But her birth removed all of that. I could see a long, beautiful journey ahead. As I got used to the idea of fatherhood, my excitement grew. Our relationship has been great, eight years on. Every day brings a new lesson, and a new experience. There have been a few unpleasant circumstances in the journey, but I am extremely proud to be the father that I have become.

Seeing your daughter for the first time, what were your thoughts?
I still remember that day like it was yesterday. I was emotional and proud at the same time. It took the whole day, if not more to make sense of that beautiful reality that was unfolding right in my eyes.

From the first day of fatherhood, what changed in your life?
My daughter, Asande, was born in December 2009. It was a watershed moment in my life. Like I said, I was a young man back then, still in the early stages of adulthood. Up until that point, I was a care-free individual, chasing my dreams and basically self-absorbed. It had never occurred that I would become a father in the early years of starting my career. Typically, my timeline had other personal plans at the time. But certain things in life don’t happen when we are ready. However, the positives of fatherhood have driven me to adapt to my status as a father and face all the responsibilities that come with it head-on. The days after she was born were indescribable – joyful and beautiful. Every time I faced a challenge, she just brightened up my day and gave me renewed hope. I became more responsible and my reality changed. Having children always drives you to work harder, to balance your own interests with the mammoth task of not only catering for their needs and aspirations, but to also instil other values. I have gone through all of those, and still do. But it’s been a memorable journey and I love it.

It is quite obvious that you are a responsible and hands on father. Please run us down on your daily fatherly duties.
I don’t live with my children, but I am heavily involved in their lives. Fatherhood in my case stretches beyond day-to-day duties, which, obviously doesn’t apply in my case. It involves ensuring that even as one doesn’t live with them, they still get your love and full attention. I drive her to school every morning, and we set aside special weekends just for us to bond.

Many can agree that parenting is tiring at times. What are your views on this consensus?
I don’t agree. Parenting gives you a fresh perspective every day. You are always faced with a new challenge, many of which are extremely exciting, actually. Your children, in as much as they have their own lives, are an extension of you. You can’t be tired of you, now, can you? The sad part is that many parents, especially in our generation, take parenting as an extra-curricular activity. We are just too busy, with work and all other things, such that when everything else has been done then we remember that “by the way I still need to look after my children.” The other thing is that in some cases (I don’t have the statistics); we raise our children as divorced or separated parents, who still harbour anger towards one another. The negative emotions will certainly convert to irritation and exhaustion. This is just my view.

The African society still suggests that children are a mother’s responsibility, but you have broken the record by being as hands-on as most mothers. What are your views in this regard and have you suffered criticism?
I can’t be criticised because looking after my children is not a stage act. It’s not something you do for the crowds. My siblings and I were raised by our mother, whom, for the greater part of our formative years, was a single parent. Our father died very early in our lives. So, mother was both father and mother. I also had the privilege to live with my maternal grandmother, who also brought us up as a single parent. I grew up in the safest of hands, where I received attention, love and counsel. I am proud to have been raised by two powerful women. From such upbringing, I took a decision that I would do the same with my own children one day, and that is what drives me to share all the love, time and attention.

Besides your daughter, do you generally tend for other children and if so, how have you done this?
As I said, I have a son too. I think I’ve done my part now; the focus is on raising them to become responsible citizens.

What are your words to single and/or hands on fathers?
To fathers, whether single or in relationships, gents, our fight is huge. And we are losing the battle. We have neglected our children for a long time. We have fought stupid and unnecessary battles with our children’s mothers, especially in cases where parents separated. But we have neglected the biggest battle of all. If I could convince just one man reading this article today, that let us go back to our positions as men – provide emotional security to our children. Our society is bleeding from the blows inflicted on it by the children we neglect, who today are angry, lost and desperate. We need to break this cycle, and be remembered as that generation that loved and cared. We need to also be grateful to the mothers of our children. They do so much, while we are out watching football matches at the pubs. This goes out especially to those fathers, who for one reason or another are no longer with the mothers of their children. Conversely, we need to also recognise the men who defy all the odds to be fathers to their children. Some don’t have the finances to buy their children fancy toys or take them to fancy schools. But they give them the most important gift of all – love. We salute you.

Wise Words...
As men and fathers, we need to ask ourselves these questions. What kind of society do we want to leave behind? What legacy are we going to leave for our children? How do we want our children to remember us when we are gone? Lastly, our children need us; they want the expensive toys, but that will never replace the biggest need, which is our love and attention. Money never raises children, but love and words of counsel do wonders. Happy Father’s Day to all the men and women who are playing the role of fathers in the lives of their children.

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