- By Pooja Chhabria
- BBC World Service
Wen she bin dey young, Muvumbi Ndzalama bin dey always question di tradition of monogamy.
She remember asking her parents if dem go only stay wit each of for di rest of dia life.
“I felt like pipo suppose come and go for our life like di season,” she tell BBC.
“But everytin around me, from feem to local church, dem dey preach monogamy, and I no eva understand di concept.”
Now, Muvumbi dey 33 years and she dey see herself as a polyamorous and pansexual woman wey dey create safe space for pipo wey no believe in monogamy for South Africa.
“I get anchor partner wey i dey currently engaged to and we get pikin togeda, and my oda partner happy for us,” she tok.
“I no want to marry… but for future, I imagine marriage wit more dan one pesin. And as pansexual pesin – I dey sexually attracted to pipo, e no mata weda dem be man or woman.”
Woman wit more dan one husband?
South Africa get one of di world most liberal constitutions, e accept same-sex marriages for everybody and polygamy for men.
Now, di kontri dey think of updating its marriage laws, and part of dat, na to ask important question about weda to allow polyandry – wia one woman fit get more dan one husband at a time.
E don lead to serious cry from pipo wey believe in traditions.
“Dis go destroy African culture. What about di children of dis people? How dem wan sabi dia identity?” one businessman and TV personality Musa Mseleku, wey get four wives ask.
“Di woman no go now take di position of man. Wia you don hear dat kain tin before? Di woman go now pay lobola [bride price] for di man? Di man go take her surname?”
Odas, like di leader of di opposition African Christian Democratic Party (ACDP), Reverend Kenneth Meshoe, say e go “destroy society”.
“Time go come wey one of di men go say, ‘you spend most of di time wit dat man and not wit me’ – and fight go happun between di two men,” im add.
‘Pipo belief go shake’
Muvumbi realise say dis na very important moment for women wey dey polyamorous relationships.
“Di current situation dey tense – a lot of pipo belief dey shake,” she tok.
“Men don dey openly and happily do polygamy or polyamorous for many generations now but dem continue to shame women for am and pipo need to unlearn many tins wey dem bin learn before.”
Muvumbi don dey openly polyamorous, or “poly” as her community dey call am, for more dan ten years now.
To dey poly simply mean say you fit dey for more dan one relationship, wit di full support and trust of your oda partners to mata how many you choose to have.
She currently get two male partners – one na “anchor partner” wey she dey engaged to and dem dey share tins togeda wit am and one “joy partner”, wey she dey receive sexual or romantic pleasure but dem no dey meet all di time.
“We practise [style wey dem dey call] table polyamory wey rely on knowing each oda partners,” she tok.
“We no necessarily need to be dia friends but I want dat openness to dey very tribal and communal.”
Initially she bin no wan tell her family but about five years ago wen her bond wit her anchor partner, Mzu Nyamekela Nhlabatsi, strong she decide to tell dem.
“My anchor partner na poly too, and I no want my family to jam am for public wit anoda partner come dey confuse by am, she tok.
“Dat na also di time wey our daughter dey turn five years and i don begin my activist waka for here.
I dey appear for local television dey campaign for polygamy and i bin no want dem to find out from anoda source.”
Muvumbi don get some level of acceptance from dem but say, di way still far.
She remember her recent engagement wen her anchor partner do di custom of lobola – di tradition wia man pay im future wife family for her hand in marriage.
“Dem ask me weda make dem expect anoda man to come and pay di bride price, and I tell dem say e possible say e fit happun,” she tok.
“I need to live my truth, weda dem OK wit am or not.”
‘Rooted in patriarchy’
Gender rights activists dey currently campaign to make polyandry legal for South Africa in di interest of equality and choice, as di law currently permits man to take more dan one wife.
Dia proposal follow for document wey goment release give public make dem comment as dem dey plan to do di biggest change for di kontri marriage law since di white-minority rule end for 1994.
Di document also propose to give legal recognition to Muslim, Hindu, Jewish and Rastafarian marriages, wey e currently consider invalid.
Muvumbi say di proposal na “like prayer answered” and di concerns wey dem bin raise around polyandry na sake of patriarchy.
Professor Collis Machoko, ogbonge academic for topic of polyandry, dey see similar signs: “Wit wen Christianity and colonisation first land, di role of woman reduce. Dem no come dey equal again. Marriage become one of di tools wey dem use to establish hierarchy or seniority for authority.”
Im say Kenya bin once practice polyandry, even Democratic Republic of Congo and Nigeria, and dem still dey practice am for Gabon wia di law allow am.
“Di question of children na easy one. Any pikin wey dem born from dat union, na pikin of dat family,” im add.
‘Na different fight’
Muvumbi discover say patriarchal beliefs bin enta some of her former relationships and since den im don find easier to be wit partners who be poly demsef.
“Many men go claim say em dey fine wit be as poly but later dem no go dey okay wit am,” she remember.
“My type of polyamory no be wia I dey try get as many lovers as possible – na about trying to connect wit pesin if you feel like am.”
Muvumbi meet both of her partners through one online community wey dey aim to bring poly pipo togeda for South Africa.
As di country dey debate legal recognition for polyandry, she dey build one online platform wey dem dey call Open Love Africa in collabo wit her anchor partner.
She say dem dey try to preach “ethical non-monogamy”.
“Di community na pro-black but e still dey allow pipo wey bo be black and we dey hope to expand am as we move forward,” she say.
“Na gift to pipo wey dey happily non-monogamous – I hope dem go find dia tribe and no feel di need to live a lie.”
And like any oda fight, she say, e go always get pipo wey go oppose am.
“Wen my mother bin dey pregnant wit me, she bin dey protest so women go fit use contraceptives without man permission.
“Den dat one na different fight, and dis na different fight for me now.”
Additional reporting by Pumza Fihlani