Read of the Week


Disa Mogashana

Self-published through Evera Publishing

Review: Roshiela Moonsamy

Unfathered is about Dr Disa Mogashana’s relationship with both her parents but mostly her father, and the book, which reads like a journal, is addressed directly to him.

Through telling her father how she feels about him, we inevitably are taken on the journey of her life.

I felt a bond with Dr Mogashana after reading that we were born just three months apart. And it is her birth that Dr Mogashana blames for her parents’ relationship failing.

So burdened is she by their separation, that she even wonders whether things would have been different if she had been born a boy. But it is the absence of her father for most of her life that has caused
Dr Mogashana the greatest distress.

This has affected how she felt about herself, denting her self-confidence, even though she was always a star student.

She thinks her life experience may have been different if her father had been around more. She shares one traumatic memory in which she was lured into a dark room as a five-year-old girl, with the promise of a sweet by a man in the community. The man makes her sit on his lap and begins to move inappropriately. She becomes distressed and demands to be put down, managing to escape, but the incident leaves her scarred.

She asks her father in the book: “I always wondered whether this incident, and other similar incidents, would have occurred if you had been present.”

As an adult she finally pushes her grandparents for an answer about why her parents did not stay together and they reveal that class and tribal issues were to blame, her father being a Mosotho and mother being Motswana.

While suffering the absence of her own father, Dr Mogashana does also acknowledge the positive roles played in her life by some other male relatives, including her maternal grandfather Papaile, whom she both loved and feared, her stepfather whom she acknowledged as being a good father to her, and her husband whom she praises for looking after their own family.

She also recounts the tragic story of her youngest uncle, Malome Tawana, who becomes a natural father figure to her after Papaile dies.

Malome Tawana is described as a neat freak who would make sure their home in Thaba Nchu, in the Free State, was spotless.

He is brutally murdered in 1989, the year he is supposed to complete his diploma at a teachers’ training college. His girlfriend’s family ties his hands and feet with a rope and stone him to death.

Dr Mogashana, a UCT graduate who has a BSc in Chemical Engineering, and a Master’s and PhD in Engineering Education, is a life transformation coach.

She wants others who have stories like hers, of hurt and self-doubt, to rise above their circumstances.

The self-published book is subtitled A Story of Healing and while it sometimes still reads as a draft in need of editing, I felt the story was told with sincerity. It is, after all, a letter to her father whom she does eventually forgive. “I allow you the right to be the person you choose to be in my life,” she concludes.

There are also a few occasions in the book when quotes need to be translated into English for the benefit of the reader.

Dr Mogashana’s story will resonate with many people who were raised by extended families and step parents, with step siblings, who have spent their lives wondering where they fit in the picture.

Unfathered is available at Clarke’s bookshop, Long Street, Cape Town, or online at