Indeed it was an emotional day, one I quite simply do not have words to describe. I feel it is safe to say perhaps one day when you have children of your own you will understand the joy you brought into our lives.
Your health has once or twice given your mother and I a fright, but we are thankful you have in general shown great health and glee.
I need you to know, Teko, that in you I believe we have been afforded another opportunity to learn how to love, how to become human again.
As if you are not a child undeserving of the burden, I look to you in times of real hardship, in times of darkness, to draw strength from the innocence of your smile.
I grew prouder of you when your mother told me now the other day that a stranger had told her that at your tender age, you are much friendlier than her. (In case there arises a misunderstanding, let me hasten to say your mother is out and out a wonderful person herself, so the stranger would have made the comparison only to illustrate your agreeable personality without taking away from your mother’s.)
I hope it becomes your life to respect your mother, to care for her. I hope you get to love, to respect and to protect your sister Tumisang in the same way.
I dream too that you will grow old not only to care for your own family, but also for every other human being you come across. Practically, I hope you learn to share, especially with those who are less fortunate than you.
I need you to know that we only have high hopes for you, son, and when you light that characteristic smile of yours we are comforted by the promise of great things we see on your face. When you smile like that, any amount of despair gives way to aspiration, to a stronger belief that good ultimately predominates over evil.
For me you are hope, Teko. When I look at you each night before I sleep, and each morning before I go out to find us food, I at once realise a feeling, a feeling that ‘everything will be fine.’
I try, every day, to make you proud. But I also dream, every day, that you grow to become a better man than I can ever be, so that one day you will be looked up to by those younger than you.
I need you to forgive me for a lot of things but I will limit them to one: I hope you will forgive me for bringing you into a world peopled among others by men who prey on women and children, a world among others peopled by racists who see others as inferior. I hope you will recognise the cruel deeds of such people and never ever emulate them.
I hope you become an avid reader, my son. In a quest to bring you up within a reading environment, I am collecting books to build up a small library for us. This is so that knowledge and pleasure and stimulation contained in books can be found within your own home.
Speaking of reading, I do not wish to tell you what to read and what not. You quite necessarily should read everything. But I need to confess that I hope you encounter Steve Biko at a young age because then there is a chance that you will understand that “as a prelude whites must be made to realise that they are only human, not superior. Same with Blacks. They must be made to realise that they are also human, not inferior.”
I hope you encounter Robert Sobukwe. I hope you get to understand what the “Sobukwe Clause” was, how it came about, and how it should shape your own thinking as a Black man.
I hope you read among others Frantz Fanon to understand the dehumanising implications of colonisation, so that you are able to fully appreciate why as a Black man your life must be dedicated to decolonise – firstly yourself, and then those within your reach.
Somehow I hope you escape the inadequacy many of us feel in this world. I hope you read enough so that you are equipped to think independently, and critically.
I hope you understand that for as long as there is a man who is oppressed, you are oppressed.
Indeed, son of mine, prosper. Prosper a million times over but do so not on the basis of the enslavement of another.
I named you Tekoitsile after my uncle. You and him have not met because he passed on before your birth, unfortunately.
The obvious reason why I named you after him is for all of us to remember the old man. The other reason is equally special to me. I see you as an answer to some of the many challenges the world faces today, and through you a warning shot – a counter-challenge, is fired.
I am confident even as I type this letter that you are a giant, my son, and that you will contribute significantly to giving this world a more humane face.
So grow up; grow strong, and continue to inspire hope.
Happy birthday to you, Teko!
Ed: Our columnist writes on his personal capacity. Visit other social links for his works. Happy belated youngman from all of us at SLM.