What does it really mean to be a father?

What does it really mean to be a father? It’s a complicated question when asked anywhere in the world, particularly in a moment when we are having difficult, necessary and long-overdue conversations about gender and identity, and even more so in South Africa.  In the run-up to Father’s Day, we spoke with three local father figures at different stages of their parenting journey to get their on what it means to be deserving of the title ‘dad’.


Father & Father | Tebogo Thothela & Theophilus Thothela

“Men and fathers who are present – those who actively work to fight the sins of patriarchy and systemic oppression. It is these men and fathers that we celebrate,” says Tebogo Thothela. For him, being a father comes down to being present: “It’s a conscious decision to play an active role in your children’s lives. It is about constantly showing up physically, financially and emotionally.”

Of course, this physical presence was not always an option for South African dads, leading us to become a country that has a fraught relationship with the concept of fatherhood. “Our history in SA was such that fathers left their homelands to go work in mining towns, which led to a generation of black children not knowing what it’s like to grow up having father figures around.”

For Tebogo’s generation, It’s essential to do better as dads and as men, and to improve on that legacy so that present fathers are the rule rather than the exception. “There are many fathers and men who are symbols of hope and admiration in our communities. Men who stand up for the most vulnerable and marginalised in our society.

“We live in a society where women and children do not feel safe. They don’t feel safe in schools, workplaces and even in homes. It’s for this reason why South Africa is yearning for male figures that are cut above the rest, men who are exemplary. The more we showcase and celebrate such figures we may inspire others to do better and also call out those who are doing wrong by their families, loved ones and community.”


Father & Daughter | Kuthulakwe Siboto & Baza Siboto

“Being a father is simply my greatest achievement in life,” says Kuthulakwe-Nkosi Siboto, voiceover artist and one half of Darkie Fiction. He’s the proud father of Bayethe, better known as ‘Baza’, and has found that this bundle of joy has become his reason for being, and the motivation behind most of his decisions. “It’s made me a better version of myself knowing that decisions I make for my life directly impact my child’s life and future and that makes me want to constantly improve who I am,” he says.

To him, it seems clear that the role of being a father is a privilege that comes with great responsibility, and that applies to his feelings on being a man, too. “We as men have caused so much pain and continue to do so, looking at GBV and other social ills such as patriarchy. This is the deadliest killer in South African society that we are currently facing.” The power that men hold in our society can be used for good, and there is perhaps no better time to think about this than Father’s Day, given that that so much of that good can be done through caring for future generations. “If we as South African men could focus on fatherhood, be allies to and support women, be good examples for kids growing up, it would instill a sense of dignity and solidify the (black) family unit,” he says. “far too many children are raised by single mothers with their fathers being absent.” 

Community Leader | Lungile Jamani

“Being a father, and father figure, is a vital, huge role that’s needed in our society today,” says community leader Lungile Jamani. “It is giving someone the opportunity to experience the love and guidance only a father can give. Being a father figure means that I am responsible for the minors placed in my care, whether it be my own or another person’s child. It means I have the opportunity to be a good example to those who look up to me as their father figure.”

In his work with Man In Boy, the organisation that he co-founded to mentor young boys, Lungile works to shift a generation’s notion of what it means to “be a man” and doesn’t shy away from any of the hard facts. The organisation’s mission includes the effort to “eradicate social ills affecting women and children perpetuated by men.” Through the mentoring of young boys the organisation aims to curb atrocities facing the most vulnerable of society by re-teaching the already learnt and taught ideas of what it means to a ‘man’ through discussions and activities that deal with sexuality, abuse, patriarchy, religion and many other issues affecting society. In providing this guidance, his mentorship fills the role of the father in navigating some of life’s most complicated questions. After all, “Most children in South Africa grow up without fathers or father figures. Therefore, they have hardships that could be solved by the presence of a father.”

He sees Father’s Day as an occasion on which to celebrate the potential that men have to shape society for good: “This day is special because it’s the one day that we get to be reminded of the importance of good men in our society, men who, instead of resorting to abuse, resolve conflicts,” he says, then reflects On the potential for men to shape a better society “Men are peculiar beings, they protect, provide, care, love and work hard to make ends meet for their families and loved ones.” Perhaps most importantly, and perhaps now more than ever, “Men are proactive, they are change makers for good.”


Yours in Style.