WANJURAH: Wetangula’s domestic woes and political redemption
The woman turned up at the school just the way she had left the shamba after her son’s unusual interruption.
Her bare feet and hands were bathed in soil. A lesso that had withstood many years in the harsh weather was wrapped around her waist, its message “Kwa Nguvu Za Yesu” spread on her backside.
On her head was a Presbyterian Church Mothers’ Guild headscarf that had since lost its Sunday best privilege to the vagaries of routine wear and blackjack weeds. She carried along her muddy panga that no longer looked like the innocent digging tool it had been hours earlier.
It was the 10 o’clock break and the teachers were having their tea and gossip. She walked straight to the staffroom, her son in tow. Without bothering to knock at the door, she ushered herself in and to the first teacher she encountered, thundered the question: “Where is he?”
As usual, an unfortunate class was suffering the forfeiture of a much-desired break to his gusto for teaching and time-keeping. The extension was the more unbearable because a more violent teacher than him was hard to imagine. Partly why his lessons spilt to extra time was because he wasted a lot of time caning pupils for real and imagined mistakes. He caned them for undone homework. He caned them for wrong answers. He caned them for inattention. He caned them for looking at him with “bad” eyes. He even caned those who failed to get amused by his jokes!
We had reasons to believe the school timetable was made by a sadist. How else could one explain that his lessons were almost always the last to break time? On the particular day, Class 7 was destined to sacrifice the 20-minute valued break for Mathematics.
But salvation was delivered in the most unusual manner. It happened that he was also the duty teacher of the week. That meant he was also responsible for punishing latecomers and noisemakers. And as fate would have it, his son, a notoriously naughty Class Five boy whose name was a permanent feature in indiscipline lists, had stayed true to his reputation.
He administered his standard punishment for latecomers: five hot canes on the bottoms for boys and on the calf for girls. His son grudgingly took his dose of the strokes. But when he was due for another five for noise-making, he rebelled. The standard punishment for declining punishment was to go home and fetch your parent. Since dad was a teacher and he had rejected his punishment, the boy went for his mother, a turn of events that would save the class from the teacher’s cruelty.
She didn’t bother to enter the class. Instead, she thrust her head through the window and ordered him out! The living nightmare for the pupils meekly answered “Yes Mama Munene” and hurried to her. She slapped him and although he tried to parry it off, the force sent him staggering. She then raised her panga, her intent apparent. Fearing bloodshed, the pupils screamed. He took to his heels, not through the gate but across the football pitch and over the barbed wire fence, the pupils mocking his flight and having the laughter of their lives. He even forgot his beloved bicycle that his wife now rode, the smiling son on the pillion.
In subsequent days, we learnt from the boy that the mum would have never cut the teacher on the material day. Back home, she occasionally disciplined him with the flat side of the panga for “serious” mistakes. But as a housewife with kids and needs, she was careful not to endanger the family’s sole breadwinner. Besides, unless he wished to provoke another beating, he dutifully surrendered his salary to her for “proper management” every month end!
Had the mother offered herself in an election where the pupils were voters, hers would have been a landslide win. She was our heroine especially because after the incident, the bully teacher significantly mellowed. His hunger for anger dissipated. Whenever he was the duty teacher, indiscipline ran amok in the school.
By contrast, poor Moses Wetangula would today struggle to clinch the chairmanship of a Sirisia cattle dip in an election. It does not matter where the truth lies in the soap-opera-like blame game with his wife. The bigger motivation behind Bifwoli Wakoli’s doubts about the Bungoma senator’s future electability may have been political rivalry. But the truth is nevertheless likely to resonate with his observation that a Bukusu man who admits to a beating by his wife is damaged politically.
And therein lies a big dilemma for men in violent relationships. Physically fighting back is a no-no because getting a wife-beater label could be a reputation killer. You also have to reckon with the law that seems inclined to regard men as the natural aggressors. As a guy who lost the chance to become the IIEC boss painfully found out, shaking off the tag of a barterer can prove to be a costly impossibility.
Wetangula’s case illustrates that seeking legal redress for domestic violence for men is fraught with danger. I don’t know about the senator’s experience but I suspect the police were initially reluctant to write his statement. If it was not for his prominent status, there would have been blunt suggestions that he should go back and fight “like a man!” Going public about your torment in the hands of your Mrs brands you a sissy who is unable to control a woman. How then can you ask for the bigger responsibility of political leadership?
Friends will certainly take a sudden interest in your food. Are you eating enough murenda and other traditional greens, for instance? Do you keep some cashew nuts in the office? Do you swallow your watermelon seeds? The interest extends to your lifestyle: do you still go to the gym? Does your regimen have enough of muscle toning? Do you wear sleeveless shirts enough times at home for Mrs to see there is some muscle in the biceps? In the bar, friends will be generous with offers for a drink, preferably whisky, as if in Dutch courage lays your redemption.
It does not matter if she is a martial arts champion or a weightlifter. If you have noticed from the social media reaction to the Wetangulas shenanigans, ours is still a very patriarchal society. The mindset firmly remains that a man ought to do what a man ought to do insofar as his wife is involved. To be rich and cowardly is an abomination. It may be true that the rich also cry but surely not because of beatings by Mrs! A few social media suggestions advise Weta to use his considerable wealth to hire a karate trainer.
But perhaps all is not lost for the wannabe Presidential candidate. May be the thumping has earned him solidarity with the many men quietly nursing black eyes and other scars and blaming them on unclear accidents. Among these and in Nyeri County, Weta may have added to his basket of voters.
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