After two years of raising his “beloved daughter”, 27-year-old Phillipus Amunyela found out the baby girl he so fondly loved and took care of was not his biological child.
“It was very painful. I had bonded with the child and introduced her to my family and everybody at home loved her,” said Amunyela as he reflected on that painful moment of discovery. Amunyela said people stared at him strangely when news of his misfortune started spreading.
A government employee and second-year journalism student, Amunyela said his supposed daughter was born in 2011. The baby was born prematurely at only five months. This, he explained, meant that the baby’s mother slept with him while she was four months pregnant, although he did not realise that she was already expecting.
Nevertheless, the young man named his daughter, as the Aawambo culture dictates. He also supported the child financially and in every way possible, just as any responsible father would, even though he broke up with the child’s mother when the baby was just two months old.
He says that the reason for breaking up with the child’s mother was because she had an affair with another man. When the baby was seven months old, the woman’s family told him to come get the child as it was ploughing season in the north. Since then he lived with his daughter in Windhoek.
Amunyela then started a new relationship with a nurse who encouraged him to do a paternity test after he told her that the baby was born at five months, even though she didn’t appear premature.
“I went back to her (the baby’s mother) and lied that I did a paternity test and she confessed that I wasn’t the father,” a disappointed Amunyela recalls. “It was the greatest disappointment of my life. It was painful. I kept it to myself for a week until I spoke out,” said Amunyela.
He said the mother told him that the biological father of the baby didn’t know it was his. Amunyela added that the mother had asked him not to tell the real father about the baby. From there onwards the two families met to discuss the matter, but Amunyela said the maternal grandmother maintained he was the father, while her own daughter had said he was not the father.
“We decided to go for a test, but the results were delayed and we were given a different date to return to court for the results. My uncle and I went to court, but she never showed up. We got the result and it showed that I am not the father of the child.”
Regardless of what he went through: “Until today, I love the child. If I could adopt her, I will,” he said, revealing that the child still uses his surname. However, he said the woman disrespected him and his family.
“I didn’t sue or hurt their daughter and they never apologised. I spent money on her, on medical aid and study policies,” said Amunyela, who has sinced moved on with his life and has another newborn baby. He said a simple “sorry” from the woman to his family would do.
After the painful incident he came up with a motivational brand, called NamLegend, to encourage him and others going through difficulties. He believes each person is a legend in their own way.
False claims of paternity are a widespread social problem. Another man contacted by New Era declined to share his story, saying the situation created a lot of complications for him and the child and he wants at all costs to distance himself from the woman who lied to him.
In September the Minister of Justice Albert Kawana revealed shocking statistics that nearly 40% of paternity tests done nationwide for child maintenance purposes revealed that those men petitioned for maintenance payments were not actually the biological fathers of the children involved. Kawana also called for the prosecution of women who “purposefully, with malice aforethought, make false paternity accusations”.
Windhoek psychologist, Dr Joab Mudzanapabwe, explained that some mothers lie about paternity, because they might not be certain who the father is, as she might have had multiple sexual partners.
“If the father argues that the dates don’t tally, then the mother hip-hops and goes to the next one. If he was in love, or a responsible man then he will accept paternity.”
Mudzanapabwe explained that the mother might also give the child to another man, because she feels anger towards the real father. “Some relationships end on a bad note and the mother might not want the child to associate with the real father.”
He said a mother might also do this because the child would be better off with a man of a certain calibre, who has good financial and social standing or good behaviour. He further said some women may do it because they suffer from a mental condition, but that is more rare.
Asked who is mostly hurt in such situations, he replied that the father and child are mostly hurt. “People bond to children because they stay, love and protect them. Parenthood is not biological, but a caring process. You can be a father, but not a parent,” he said.
The psychologist added that the one who knows the paternity (mother) is least likely to be hurt, as she knew what she was doing all along.
He said in such cases there is a lot of emotional upheaval and anger towards the mother when the truth is revealed and that is why there are sometimes extreme reactions, such as when a father kills a child or the mother.
As for the child, especially when they are teenagers, he said they tend to suffer from a identity crisis, lack of self-confidence, internal conflict and may become aggressive and depressed. People going through such events should seek psychological help, as it creates, shock, confusion and anger. “They need someone to help them deal with the reality,” he said.