When I was in law school, we debated the acceptability or otherwise of corporal punishment and I recall students from Zimbabwe, Kenya and Zambia voicing their support. The South African students were mortified. Further discussions with peers from countries where corporal punishment was still being practised gave more insight into why a huge number of us supported it.
I supported corporal punishment and still do (I think) for reasons that are very personal. You see, by my own admission, I was a pretty fucked up child. I was smoking at the age of 12. I was a delinquent who would leave home everyday and not get to school for two weeks straight. I was good at school, coming top in my class every year since third grade, but I was just that kid who was heading towards a life of loafing and maybe crime, very fast. Now, this was not going to happen on my mother’s watch. The woman had a mean klap and many a time she left me with an imprint of her palm on my face or raised bumps on my legs where the switch would have been put to good use. When she found out I had been smoking and playing delinquent I got the hiding of my life. Have you ever been klapped so bad you start screaming (in vernacular of course) “I’m dead! I’m dead! She has killed me!”? I’m guessing not. My mom’s response was “dead people don’t announce that they are dead!” as she continued to moer me. To this day, I do not smoke and although I have tried, she put the fear of God in me and that fear meant I choked on the smoke and regretted even trying. I did not turn out badly at all, I went on to do very well academically and to this day I always think that had it not been for the klaps I’d be sitting on a corner somewhere in the sleepy town of Macheke, reminiscing on what could have been.
The debate around corporal punishment amongst Zimbabweans was revived recently when a video of a child born to Zimbabweans in the United Kingdom surfaced. In the video, the kid hurls profanities at the elders in the room and is plain disrespectful. I have no doubt that had that been my mother’s child he would have been six feet under for even daring to behave in that manner. However, parenting styles are different and my very own brother can attest to this. He was only 3 when our mom died and therefore did not have to endure the klaps and my gran would never klap her favourite grandson (she did klap me when I was growing up though, guess I was that fucked up) and my brother did not turn out badly at all (could be because I klapped him once or twice).
I have friends who have never been klapped by their parents. The only punishment they knew was standing in a damn corner or going to a quiet place, whatever that is. Now, I’m not saying my friends are perfect and that a klap or two would not have done them some good. Hell I sometimes want to klap them myself, but they did not turn out badly.
I know of people whose parents were strict disciplinarians and others whose parents were very lenient and they are all fucked up.
As I have grown older I have realised that there is no one blueprint to raising a child, some are raised through the fear of a klap and others? Well I don’t know, standing in a corner maybe? Maybe when I have kids I will figure it out, but my kid better be on the lookout for a klap or two, just to keep him on the straight and narrow. Despite what I have seen, I think a good hiding is good sometimes, quiet corner for who? Gerararahiye maaaaan!