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Last Updated: Wednesday, 19 July 2006, 11:25 GMT 12:25 UK
Relationship trends: South Africa experience
As part of a series on relationship trends in Africa, a South African mixed race couple talk about how they have approached their relationship expecting to be different.

Lentswe Moretlwe, 41, project manager and Sinead Delany-Moretlwe, 34, medical doctor/HIV researcher live in Johannesburg with their eight-year-old daughter.

Read their views below and then click on the link at the end of the page to have your say.

Lentswe Moretlwe (R) and Sinead Delany-Moretlwe (L) with their daughter
Lentswe and Sinead are not surprised that relationships like theirs are not common
Lentswe: We have been together for 10 years, married for four of those years and have an eight-year-old daughter called Tshiamo. We've been together for a long time, and our perspective has developed and changed over the years.

We became involved after 1994, and so theoretically there have been no barriers to our relationship.

Sinead: We have experienced one of two overt incidents of racism, for example, when we were traveling through the Karoo on our way back from the Western Cape.

A white man observed me taking my daughter and her (black) cousin to the toilets at the service station. He drove right past us and yelled "Sies!" ["Yuk!"] out the window.

I was surprised at how violated I felt, and wished that I had come up with a suitable put down. At the time, however, my prime instinct was to protect my child and her cousin.

Lentswe: In fact, most of our challenges stem from the fact that we are parents to a beautiful mixed race girl child. In a way, it is easier to deal with the overt racists; you can just dismiss them.

What is more difficult is the subtle racism that comes from having lived in apartheid South Africa. When I am with Tshiamo and Sinead is not with us, people often try to establish what the race of the child's mother is.

At my previous job, I have had my colleagues make assumptions that I married a white woman because of her wealth. People make me feel that I have to explain why I chose to marry a white woman.

Sinead: The reality is that we chose to marry each other because we love each other. We did not go out to choose each other, it just happened that way.

In fact, we were both quite conscious that being in a mixed race relationship can be hard. Lentswe told me that he did not want to bring race into his bedroom!

Lentswe: Being parents has made us conscious of who we are. We make a conscious effort to preserve the richness of both our cultures so that Tshiamo feels equally comfortable and confident in both family situations.

As part of our marriage, my family negotiated a lobola [dowry] settlement with Sinead's father. We reported back to the village that my family comes from during a traditional celebration. But we also had a church wedding.

Sinead: I think this sense of who we are is what makes us strong. We went into this relationship expecting to be different. We're not shocked when we experience differences of opinion.

Genevieve Kuidor

We talk a lot about our life and the world that we live in. We disagree a lot, but we use the time to explore our thoughts on things together.

Living in South Africa, I think it helps to be conscious of these things. It is so easy for English to be the predominant language, so easy for Western culture on TV to be the driving culture, so easy to assume that all is well in post-apartheid South Africa.

This relationship has taught me to be sensitive to the imbalances that still exist in South African society, despite how far we have come, and to be conscious even in the small decisions that I need to work to make South Africa a more fair and a more equal place.

Lentswe: It feels strange to think of ourselves as different or unique, but I suppose we are. I'm not surprised that relationships such as ours are not common.

Apartheid is still recent history. Why should people run to each other? Apartheid caused so much hurt.

People need time to heal. The next generation will deal with some of these issues much better.

What people do need to know though is that we are not unusual. People have been mixing on this continent since settlers and travelers set foot on African soil.

Apartheid made us unusual, but hopefully now there is a chance for our children to enjoy each other as they are and not as separate race groups.

What you think about the personal stories and trends featured in this series on relationship trends in Africa?

Relationship trends: Your views
17 Jul 06 |  Have Your Say

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