'I thought I could get through to my child by beating her up'

General , Being a father

A recent Fathers Matter workshop that took place in Alexandra came as a great relief for dads who experience many challenges when raising their children. 

Alexandra is one of the most populated informal settlements in Johannesburg. Residents face issues of unemployment, poor sanitation and crowded living spaces.  

Mandisi Johanse says raising a 15-year-old daughter in the township forced him to be very strict, which not only affected his relationship with her but caused him great emotional distress.

“My relationship with my daughter was very good when she was a child, but when she entered teenagehood she started dating, she was too young and I tried to speak to her about pregnancy and contracting HIV,” he says.

“But as a teenager she is constantly being affected by peer pressure and the only way I thought I could get through to her was to beat her up.” 

He admits that he laid hands on her on a few occasions because he thought that was the best form of discipline. 

“I was very frustrated, I did not enjoy it and it pushed us apart. I also noticed that it did not change her behavior, so I just gave up.” 

He says he attended the Fathers Matter workshop because he was looking for new ways to be a father and was in desperate need of tools to help him on his journey. 

“The experience shed light on what other fathers were experiencing and made me feel less alone on my journey. What I appreciate the most is that I learnt that it is important not to give up and that showing love and affection is a better way to father than to resort to violent means of discipline,” he says. 

Understanding the influence of their own fathers

Lizwi Johanse, who attended the workshop with his cousin, said one of the challenges men face in his community is that they have been heavily influenced by their own relationships with their fathers, which has created a parenting style that is not effective today. 

“If a man’s father beat him up, that’s how he will raise his children. In the past the responsibility of raising a child was seen solely as a woman’s responsibility and being emotionally or physically absent was the norm. But today if a man is not active or present he is considered to be a failure,” he says. 

Lizwi, who is expecting his first child in a few months, says he will also be modelling his parenting style on his dad, who taught him love and responsibility. 

“When my mother died she left six children behind to be raised by our father and he became very involved. Despite family members putting pressure on him to find a new wife to raise us, he made a firm decision to be a single dad because he knew how he wanted to raise us,” he says. 

“In the Eastern Cape he was a successful businessman and after my mother died, he lost his businesses and moved to Johannesburg to work as a taxi driver to provide for us. After we all completed school and others started working, he moved back to Eastern Cape to retire.” 

Lizwi says there is a lot of excitement in his home as he and his wife anticipate the birth of their first child. He’s looking forward to raising his child with the same love and care he received from his own father.

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Becoming an involved father

Dumisani Bafo, who arrived at the workshop a few minutes late, says he was delayed by his 8-month-old baby who slept in his arms while fathers connected throughout the workshop. 

“It’s my responsibility to look after him when his mother is at work on weekends. I have to feed him, change his nappies and bathe him – it’s a lot of work,” he says. 

When he heard about the workshop, he did not want to miss it. 

“I was absent when I had my first son because I was attending school. He is now 12 years old and lives with his grandmother in the Eastern Cape. Now that he’s going to be a teenager, I really want him to come live with me in Johannesburg because it’s an important period in his life and I have to help him through it,” he says. 

“I want to be present for him and his new brother and coming here was an opportunity to learn about how to be a more involved father.” 

Dumisani says the workshop helped him understand his own father, who was emotionally absent. 

“He moved to Johannesburg from the Eastern Cape to find work and I used to visit him. I was terrified of him because he was strict. There was no emotional connection between us and that affected me greatly. I came to realise that me being absent from my first child was a big mistake, and I don’t want to repeat it. I want to do things differently this time around,” he says. 

Heartlines is committed to assisting fathers in Alex – and throughout Mzansi – by connecting them to resources to help them on their journey. 

Download Heartlines’ free Fathers Matter Connect Group resources here to start your own support network for dads in your community. 

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