Interrogate Approaches to Widowhood in South Africa, “root out hostile” Traditions: Priest

A banner for the last session of marriage awareness week. Credit: SACBC

There is need to interrogate cultural approaches to widowhood in South Africa view of rooting out traditions that are at odds with the teaching of the Church, a Catholic Priest has said. 

Speaking at the ongoing marriage awareness campaign, Fr. Sefiri Motsepe highlighted polygamy as one of the cultural traditions that South Africans need to get rid of. 

“We need to root out the hostile approach of caring for the widows while interrogating the cultural and traditional approach to widowhood and family life,” Fr. Motsepe said last week. 

He cautioned against polygamy and divorce saying, “There are practices contrary to the teachings of the Church; practices like divorce, polygamy, where it may raise some controversies regarding whether polygamy can be used or be looked at as a solution to solve widowhood.” 

“There are some cultures that say a man should take more than one wife, so that if he loses one, he can continue with the other one in that regard,” the South African Catholic Priest said, expressing his disapproval of the cultural practice of polygamy.


“When one loses a partner, the guardian angel is there for the family,” Fr. Motsepe said during the October 7 session of the ongoing marriage awareness campaign, an initiative of the Southern African Catholic Bishops’ Conference (SACBC).

Addressing himself to widowers, the Catholic Priest said, “I am sure there is a time you dearly miss your spouse; and when you miss them, you want to go to that special feature, which reminds you of them, those manifestations of your friendship, the places you used to go to.”

“A spouse who has reached destiny continues to bring the one who is left behind to the state of perfection in that relationship, a spiritual relationship,” Fr. Motsepe further said, adding, “To help each other reach destiny, meaning husband and wife, hence I say in this sacrament, there is the concept of grace, we help each other to reach holiness.”

“Christian marriage requires total commitment of the couple’s bodies, feelings, affections, the will and the spirit,” the Catholic Priest serving in the Archdiocese of Pretoria went on to say.

Such total commitment “results in a deep unity of the body, the heart and the soul,” he said during the October 7 session organized under the theme, “Till death does us part.”

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“Is marriage an end to itself or a means towards an end? I want to believe it is an end to itself; people get married because they love each other, and it is embarrassing to see a situation where now people enter into marriage with ulterior motives,” Fr. Motsepe observed.

Sharing his experience of widowhood during the virtual event that was facilitated by Archbishop Zolile Mpambane, Jabu Nkosi who had been in marriage for 39 years before losing his wife used natural phenomena to describe his life. 

“There are moments you get frustrated and you feel lost; sometimes it is like you are in a desert, and the desert is punctuated by a few oases and a lot of dust and heat, and sometimes you feel like you are in the middle of the sea,” Mr. Nkosi shared. 

On her part, Thoko Nhlabathi who had been married for 48 years before losing her husband shared, “We prepared in case one of us passes on, my husband told me not to embrace any of the cultural practices after his death; he told me just to go to the church and pray.” 

“To keep myself busy whenever I think of my husband, I get into my bedroom, light a candle and sing a song which he liked to sing and the one that was sung when his body was taken to church on his day of burial,” Mrs. Nhlabathi said.