Caution- readers should take note that Punchaat (talking ill of someone else) is detested in all religions. The only reason the Laudium Sun publishes the Punchaat column is to reflect one of the realities of our society, which is Punchaat, Punchaat and more Punchaat. People need to respect each other’s privacy, be it that of family members or friends. Let us as a society stop the Punchaat so that we the Laudium Sun, need no longer reflect this scourge.

This column is for readers who have issues that are of concern to them. If you have problems with your neighbour, your mother-in-law, your boss or even with the shopkeeper down the road, write to us. This column is for you. If you so desire, you need not give your name or any other personal details. Publication and editing is at the discretion of the editor.

In order to avoid innocent parties being mistakenly identified, the Laudium Sun has, where necessary and appropriate, replaced names or other identifiers in this column with symbols like Mr? or Mrs X or XXX.

No matter how sincere advice may be, if it happens to come from an in-law, it is, in most cases, viewed with suspicion and contempt. I find myself to be on the receiving end of such contempt from my sister-in-law (husband’s sister) who despite my concern for her welfare, has accused me of trying to interfere in her life for my own selfish gains.

Here goes my story… My husband and I have been happily married for the past fifteen years.

 I have always enjoyed a healthy relationship with my in-laws, especially my sister-in-law NNN who is the youngest and only daughter of the family. NNN who is 32 years old and only four years younger than myself, currently lives with us in LLL, at her maternal home with her two daughters; aged 10 and 8, since her divorce two and a half years ago. NNN married SSS eleven years ago at the age of 21 as a result of a love marriage. At the time, SSS who had not studied further after school, owned a small shop retailing cellphones, which assisted him to make ends meet. NNN who came from a wealthy background, found it difficult adjusting to life on a tight budget with her new spouse, so my father-in-law who was alive at the time, ensured that she received a monthly allowance to ensure that she lived a fairly comfortable lifestyle. SSS was only too happy with this arrangement, since he did not need to give my sister-in-law much money for herself and even later for the kids expenses. As time went by, her husband was seen out more often on many nights with his friends at fancy restaurants, boasting the latest designer clothing and bragging about being married into the ‘money’. NNN on the other hand stayed at home looking after her two young daughters and denied that SSS was using up all her money, claiming that his business had picked up and he was entitled to spend on himself as he worked hard to earn the money. Over time, my brother-in-law spent less time at home and even started going away on weekend trips with his buddies, most of whom were still single. My in-laws started receiving calls that SSS and his friends were seen out partying with females at clubs in Johannesburg, but when they approached NNN about it, she would hear nothing of her hubby being spoken ill about. She insisted that she was very happy in her marriage and that SSS was a loving and caring husband and father and that she fully trusted him. Six years into NNNs marriage, my father-in-law suddenly took ill and passed away.

Our family was devastated and my husband, being the eldest son, took over the family’s financial responsibilities as per his father’s wishes. NNN who inherited a large sum of money from her late father, was advised by my husband to invest it safely for her children’s future. She assured everybody that she would do so, but wanted to do it on her own in consultation with her husband, thus rejecting her two brothers offers to help her with investing the money. As soon as NNN received her inheritance, SSS went on a further spending spree, but this time on big items. He bought a new sports car for himself and took NNN and the girls for a month long European holiday. Upon returning from their trip, he closed his shop and NNN claimed that he was working from home, repairing phones. However, SSS was seen most of the time during working hours hanging out at the malls and also at the casinos.

Although we all tried to talk to NNN, she always took her husband’s part and refused to admit that her marriage was not only less than perfect, but heading for disaster. About two years after my father-in-law passed away, NNN called my husband frantically one morning to come over to her house as SSS had assaulted her. My husband rushed over and found his sister all alone, sobbing hysterically with a blue eye. SSS had left the house and luckily the two girls were both at school. NNN told her brother that SSS had been out all night and when she questioned him upon his return, he had become aggressive and hit her. My husband called SSS up and demanded that he return home immediately. SSS returned shortly in a fit of rage and told NNN that he wanted a divorce as he could not stand her nagging anymore and complaining about him to her family. In the presence of my husband, he issued NNN with three divorces which he uttered verbally and then wrote it down on a piece of paper as well. My husband brought NNN to our home as we lived together with my mother-in-law at the ‘big house’ and he felt that she and the kids would not be safe in her own home.

At first, SSS made no attempt to contact NNN or even enquire about his daughters. Then suddenly, he pitched up on our doorstep a few weeks later, pleading that he was very sorry and that he wanted her to come back home. We refused outright and told him that he had divorced his wife thrice and could not take her back in marriage as it was against Islamic law. He came back the next day with his uncle who wanted to try and patch matters up, but my husband and mother-in-law stood their ground. At first NNN seemed very happy to be away from her husband and we learnt from her that he had spent all her inheritance money. SSS had asked her to loan him the money to invest in shares in the stock market which he claimed crashed and caused him to lose all the money.

We all knew that this was just a lie and that he had probably gambled it all away. After her 3 month iddat (Islamic waiting period after divorce) NNN started getting back into  routine with her kids’ school rounds and extra mural activities. It was soon thereafter when we began to hear from extended family members whose children attended the same school as my nieces, that NNN and SSS were seen sitting and chatting cozily together in her car outside the school while waiting for the kids to come out. A friend of my mother-in-law also asked us if they were back together as she had seen NNN and her ex-husband having coffee at a nearby coffee shop. Upon being questioned about these stories, my sister-in-law became very defensive. She started raising her voice and shouting that everybody should mind their own business since she and SSS shared the same children, so it was obvious that they had matters to discuss regarding their daughters. My husband asked why could they not discuss these matters over the phone to which she just stormed off and locked herself in her room. After two days of sulking, she then carried on normally with everyone at home as if the incident had not occurred. During the day when the kids were at school,  I would constantly see her talking on the phone softly and when she was in someone’s  company when her phone rang, she always walked away to answer her calls. NNN did not have close friends since her marriage, so it was strange that she would speak so privately to someone, as if she did not want us to know who she was talking to. On a few occasions, I overheard her conversation, which even though hearing the one side only, it was clear she was speaking to SSS. I was not the only one to notice her change of behavior. My husband pointed it out to his mother that NNN was making a fool of everybody and that she was very much in contact with SSS. This carried on for four months until we went into full lockdown last year March. NNN seemed to be aggravated about being confined to the house and she kept on insisting that she needed to go out to do grocery shopping. On one occasion, I realized that I also needed a few personal items for myself from the supermarket and upon walking through the isles, I bumped into SSS and NNN who seemed to have been shopping together. When they saw me they walked away from each other and my sister-in-law joined me saying that she had just bumped into SSS who was enquiring about the kids. I could see from her red face and her faltering words that she was clearly lying. The next day, I decided to keep what I had seen to myself and to rather approach NNN myself, thinking that as we had such a good relationship up until now, I could speak to her as a sister. I explained that we were all aware that she was still holding onto her ex, but under Islamic law he had already divorced her thrice and it was final. I pointed out to her examples of so many divorced women in our community who were finding new husbands within a few months after their divorce and moving on quite happily with their lives. I asked her to think about moving on as well, since she was still so young and could not remain alone all her life. She listened very calmly and thanked me for the advice assuring me that she was definitely over her ex, but that it was just a bit complicated as she didn’t want to alienate him from the kids. Her convincing words made sense and I let the matter be.

I thought that NNN had heeded my advice, but shortly thereafter, a friend of mine told me that she had seen SSS and NNN together at the gym. Strangely enough, my mother-in-law also started acting cold towards me. I walked in on her and NNN one day softly whispering and when they saw me they just stopped dead in their tracks and kept quiet. My gut instinct told me that NNN was trying to turn my mother-in-law against me. My theory was shortly proven correct when a few days later, my husband commented about NNN and SSS always talking on the phone to my mum-in-law, who sarcastically remarked to him that if his wife had a problem with NNN living in the house, then he should not allow his wife (me) to dictate to him and spoil his relationship with his sister. My husband tried to defend me as I had never complained about NNN living with us, but my mum-in-law just ignored him. Since this incident which took place this February, both mum and daughter keep an aloof distance from me. I feel like an outsider living in my own house. While NNN refuses to stop entertaining SSS’s constant calls, my husband and I have both heard that NNN is dating him again, but we decided to keep out of it as NNN has my mother-in-law wrapped around her finger,  making it clear to us that we are not allowed to interfere in her daughter’s personal life. . SSS now openly comes home every weekday and spends an hour with NNN on the pretext of spending time with the kids in our home, instead of taking the children to his home. My sister-in-law has even attended two of SSS’s family functions, claiming that the children were invited and refused to attend without her. My husband and I no longer know where to put our faces every time somebody remarks about the way NNN behaves with SSS, that one would never think that they were divorced . Our greatest concern are the two little girls who are going to grow up confused about their parent’s relationship. As for SSS, he still manipulates my sister-in-law to believe that he is penniless and pays no maintenance at all towards his kids. Despite NNN still getting an allowance from her mother, she seems to always be looking for money, clearly SSS is still using her for her money.

Recently, after the country went into level 1 lockdown, NNN went for the weekend to Durban, claiming she wanted to attend a wedding of one of her school friend’s sister. My mother-in-law agreed for her to go alone and also agreed that she would take care of the girls. I knew that it was a big lie, as NNN had cut herself off from her friends after she got married. I heard from a cousin of mine in Durban that SSS and NNN were spotted at Vapor Café having a meal, at around 8pm on the Saturday night, when she was supposedly attending the wedding and having dinner there. I did not want to tell my hubby about it, as it would just upset him further. My hubby now for the sake of peace, is looking to buy our own home, as although my mother-in-law means a lot to him, he does not want to fight with her or NNN, as he strongly believes that it is wrong for NNN to maintain this cosy relationship with SSS after their divorce. Just what is wrong with some of the women out there, who remain suckers for being used and abused by their spouses or their ex’s and still want to go out with them and show the utmost respect for them, even whilst still being constantly mocked at or disrespected and used just for money? Why is it that some women just do not have self confidence and self respect for themselves? I appeal to NNN to move on in life and not to carry on with this loser, SSS. He is bad news for both you and your kids. Do not send the wrong message to your two young girls, that its okay to be abused by or beaten up by a man. Besides SSS being unable to support you, he cannot even support his kids, or has no conscience of not providing for his kids. What kind of a man is this? Not sure if I should even call him a man.

I agree that there should be moderation in every aspect of our lives and I certainly do not condone the desperate behavior many newly divorced women display, throwing themselves at the first man that comes their way. Some of these women have no qualms about even having affairs with married men. However, on the other extreme, there are women like NNN who don’t have the self confidence to break away from their ex-husbands, who still dictate their lives and fool them. It is important for divorced women to have faith in the Almighty, as He is the best of planners. Live a life of modesty and honesty and always pray for what is best for you and your kids. I for sure, no matter what, pray that the Almighty protect NNN  and grant her and her kids happiness in their lives and protect them from all evil.

  – Caring sister-in-law