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Who died and made you a marriage expert?

By Mpho Buntse

The rainbow nation, as South Africa is affectionately known, was abuzz with praise from international Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Intersex (LGBTI) pressure groups, the shallow voices of the same sex marriage critics mattered less, and media organisations, even those that are known to be ridiculously conservative towards LGBTI affairs, flaunted on their front pages and in their top stories the historic love story of Cameron Modisane and Thoba Sithole, a couple which came to be popularly (or notoriously to some groups) known as the first gay couple to tie the knot in a Zulu-Tswana traditional affair.

I must admit that this love story was among some of our greatest milestones for this so-called democracy, in an effort to uphold the Constitution.

I have, however, noted with disgust the manner in which our people have been treating the recent split between Cameron and Thoba. In the absence of fear and prejudice, I would like to express my disappointment at the judgements that have been passed on various social networking platforms.

I believe that we need to be honest with ourselves and admit that divorce is not a new phenomenon. Pointing fingers at those who decide to cease their marriage contracts does not help the situation in any way. Heterosexual partners go through divorce often, but no one cares. I believe that is the case because heterosexual divorces are seen as common.

Recently I have observed numerous social media comments labelling Modisane as an attention seeker. It has become apparent to me that people change their minds about a situation with just a snap of a finger, much like the Ancient Roman plebeians (I’ve said enough). Just over two years ago, the same group that is now pointing fingers and making nasty comments was inspired and happy for the couple. Two years later, Modisane — who is being courteous by letting you know that they are parting ways – is being pelted with stones of judgement.

Let us be frank, we don’t know the reasons for their breakup, and even if we did it’s not our place to question their intentions to cease their marriage. If there was pain, we did not feel it; if they had financial squabbles, we did not contribute a cent; and if they had sexual predicaments, we were definitely not present to bear the brunt. My point is that they surely had their justification(s) for terminating their marriage contract, period! I doubt people divorce to make Facebook and Twitter happy.

I am not debating whether it was right or wrong to publicise their divorce summons, the point I am making is that as much as you were in a jovial mood, you must also commiserate and try to understand. Because it ultimately reached this point, it means prior interventions were attempted. As my divorcee friend put it, “Walk a mile in our shoes, then you’ll understand, rather than judging us on our past life.”

I am of a view that we are not marriage councillors. As a result, we are not in a professional position to recommend remedial mechanisms that could have or will keep a marriage intact, even when those who took the vows decide to part ways.

I personally do not see this breakup as a setback in our strides to transform South Africa with regards to the recognition of LGBTI; in fact, I see it as a lesson for many who might be planning to tie the knot. It gives evidence that we have come a long way in our fight against prejudice of the LGBTI community.

I continue to acknowledge Thoba and Cameron’s bravery and initial commitment to change the status quo in South Africa. Additionally, we also need to note that they once took a step that created a platform for debate that actively engaged various sectors of our society on the significance of love.

Mpho Buntse is a social commentator, LGBTI activist and a journalist during the night …

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