[notice]A fortnightly column on marriage, family and relationships.[/notice]
Zane Meas, the CEO and founder of the Fatherhood Foundation, legendary actor and author of Daddy Come Home; actor/producer on the movie Father was one of our guests in the marriage and family television program I co-host with my husband Rest Kanju, Renewed Love. He spoke on fatherhood and the effects fatherlessness has on our nation. His insight on fatherhood; fatherlessness and manhood has made him a popular speaker at family themed events around the country. The words he spoke during our interview still ring true today.
Rest: Apart from you being known as an actor in the small and the big screen you have recently started the Fatherhood Foundation tell us about that?
Zane: Well fatherhood is something that is dear to my heart. It is not only dear to my heart and my organisation but I believe it is also dear to God’s heart as well. You know there is a scripture in the Bible in the Old Testament the book of Malachi that says, “God will send the prophet Elijah and he will turn the hearts of the father to the children and the family, and the hearts of the children back to the father or else God will strike the Land with a curse”. The scripture fills me with a little bit of fear because God will strike the land with a curse if the hearts of the fathers are not turned and at the moment our subcontinent of Southern Africa two thirds of our homes are single parent homes so more kids are growing up without a father figure in the home than kids growing up with a father figure in the home so this is causing all sorts of social and societal evils. Drug abuse, teenage pregnancy, gang violence is making a comeback — all of that kind of thing because the father figure is missing. So it is very important that men understand their importance. Don’t underestimate your importance. You are very important to the future of the country you are living in because the future of the nation lives in the fathers of the day.
Neziswa: That is a very good point; don’t undermine your role as a father because most of the time ,especially in South Africa, is that the role of raising up children falls on the mother. We need both to co-parent a child. There is a need for fatherhood!
Zane: Absolutely!!!! You know in my book I give a definition of fatherhood. What does father mean, and the definition is founder of a lifestyle; roots; source; anchor; the stone pillar. Those are all definitions of father; so if he is a founder of a lifestyle then we are all products of our father because if you think at home the father sets the atmosphere; the mother creates the atmosphere. You know you come home and the mother has put nice covers on the thing, she’s cooking a nice meal. She makes the house homely but the atmosphere is set by the dad. You know if the dad is angry, he comes home and the mother says, “Just put the music softly your father is in a mood.” If he is in a bad mood then everybody must be. If the mother is in a bad mood it is the not the same thing. The fathers teach us. They are also the people who give us identity. They tell us where we come from and where we can go. In many African cultures the women will take the surname of the husband. So a surname is very important; a name is very important that’s where your identity lies. I write about it in the book. There is a chapter on identity. What it means. Fathers explain and root children in their identity and this is very important. I just want to say we are not negating the importance of the women and the mother. They are doing too much already.
Neziswa: We are?
Zane: Men are not taking their place. I know there is a big demand for women. All these women are getting these prominent positions and the men are beginning to wonder “Do I matter?” because it filters down to the men on the street.
Neziswa: So many children grow up in fatherless homes. Where can a child who grows up in such a home end up?
Zane: One guy said “Boys will join gangs because they don’t belong to a gang called family led by a leader called father”. It’s part of the identity.
Neziswa: Isn’t that what you deal with in your movie ‘Father’? Tell us more about it?
Zane: Yes our movie deals with a single dad. It’s unusual that you find a single dad you always find single mums. This movie deals with a single father who has to fight for the hearts of his two sons. One is his natural born son and one is his adopted son. His wife died five years ago and he wants to get remarried. These boys are at the brink of making wrong decisions in their lives and this man wants a second chance. He wants to remarry another woman and start all over giving these children a chance to have a family again but they have these spirits; forces and powers trying to pull the family and his heart in the wrong direction. He has to fight for them. The subtitle of our movie is “fight for the family”. That is what our men have to do today. That is what the fathers have to do; we literally have to fight for our families.
Rest: What do you think leads to men forgetting or negating their role as lifestyle setter; as founder of a lifestyle in a family?
Zane: There are various factors. As I have said, one is women getting prominence. Number two, lots of these men themselves grew up without a father. There was no father in the home so they do not have the skills. They don’t have the vision; they don’t have the example. They don’t have the mentor; they don’t have a role model to look up to; to emulate; to copy. They will then grow up and have kids who grow up without a father.
Rest: Obviously role models can either be positive or negative role models. As a father if I transmit a negative lifestyle to my child, to my son, he will grow up adopting what I am transferring to him.
Zane: That is why you are the founder of a lifestyle! Whatever you do at home children see that is how a man is supposed to be. This is how a family is supposed to be. I go to schools and the teachers says, “Speak to the kids they swear. I say to the kid, why do you swear at school? He says but my father swears at home. Why are you hitting the girls? But my father hits my mother and my sisters. He thinks this is what men do. You are right; positive role model. The hearts of the fathers must be turned back to the family God’s way. Not our way, God’s way.
Rest: How do you do that? You began to answer it. Is God the answer to changing what we see in society today; to bringing a new revival in fathers?
Zane: You know for me whenever I speak about fatherhood in churches I say I thank God that He sent His Son to show us His heart. Jesus came to show us the father-heart of God. He did two things He came to die for our sins and He came to show us that we have a God who is not sitting up in His throne saying, “Look at what these people are doing. Jesus says I am the Son of God and He is a Father” they say “How can you say you are the Son of God. What are you saying? He says “I only say what I hear my Father say. I only do what I see my Father doing.” They say “Teach us to pray. He says “Our Father”. He starts opening this father heart of God. He is an ABBA Father. Lots of people say abba is father but Abba is a term of endearment you use for your dad; you know pops or daddy or whatever you call your dad. He is saying He is not just a Father but He is a Daddy father. The father part is the function when you have a child you become a father. The daddy part is the relationship you have with that child. What is the definition of manhood and fatherhood? I know a man with a child who is three; he falls and the father says “Don’t cry you are a man.” He is not a man. He is three. There’s no way that’s a man. That’s a child. From early we teach our children the wrong concept of manhood. Jesus wept. The shortest verse in the Bible! If He could cry who are we not to cry and He was going to raise the guy in 10 minutes. He was going to say “Lazarus get up”, but He cried for him first. I know of so many men who think we must know all the answers, even if you pretend. You can’t be seen to not know everything. You must be this, you must be that. You’ve got to be strong but now there are men who are staying at home and women are working. I want to say something to those men. This does not diminish your role in the home. You are the spiritual head of the home! You are not the boss but the spiritual head.
Neziswa (Laughing): Please talk more about that!
Zane: Men have this idea. They read in the Bible women submit then they go, “Women submit”. They don’t go a few lines further that says; “Love your wives as Christ loved the church and gave Himself for her”. 2 Peter 3: 7 Honour your wife as a weaker vessel. Honour her as the weaker vessel. Men need to get a whole revamp on how this thing happens; you know on what it really means to be a man. You do not need to know everything. It’s ok to make mistakes. It’s ok to say, “I don’t know”. It’s ok to say to your kids “I don’t know but we will find out together”
Neziswa: Tell us about the relationship with your children.
Zane: My kids are teenagers at the moment and I have a baby who is three so I have two teenagers and a baby who was born very late. A gift from God!! At the moment it’s a challenge because my daughter is first year varsity. My son is fifteen then I’ve got this baby so I have got these different levels that I’ve got to operate in; my wife and I. We have to be disciplining down here; understanding over here and supporting over here so we got to support visions. She wants to do this then we have to support that. Then we have discipline issues with the 15year old. He is 15.They all go through that at 15; then the baby. The baby we have to nurture. For me it’s great. I love being a parent. I have always wanted to have lots of kids.
Neziswa (Laughing): Is three the final?
Zane: My wife says so. (Laughing) We African men we just got to have 15 kids.
Neziswa: What is the number for African men?
Zane: (Laughing): As many as possible
Neziswa: Tell us what inspired the Fatherhood Foundation? Why did you begin it?
Zane: You know as a celebrity I always go to events and I always see women and children and I say “Where are the men?”; “Where are the men in the church?” There was always women! I did some research and this is how I found out this country two thirds of the homes are single parent homes or child headed homes and that’s why my book is titled, “Daddy Come Home”. We need fathers in the homes today. We need them to take their place. We need to restore the walls of family. The wall is broken just like the walls of Israel were broken during the time of Nehemiah. We need to rebuild those walls and just like Nehemiah was building with one hand and had his weapon in the other. We need to do that. We need to start fighting for our families. This was a calling for me on my life. I believe that God called me to go speak to men. It wasn’t something I wanted to do. Trust me. I was like Moses. God send someone else. Send Rest and Nezi. That’s how it started. He has been leading me throughout all the time.
Rest: Obviously not all families will be privileged to have fathers. I find that maybe we need to play a double role as fathers who understand this thing. As fathers who understand that there needs to be a rebuilding of society; a rebuilding of families. There are single parents; fatherless homes and the likes. What role do you think that some of us can play to support those who don’t have fathers in the homes — maybe the fathers have died! As an African, anybody I saw in the street was my father. Do you think we have a space and role to play even in families that are not ours?
Zane: We’ve got to go back to that. It’s the African saying “It takes a village to raise a child. Your child is my child. UBUNTU! It’s an African concept. I am who I am because of you but today if you shout at another person’s child they come down at you, “Don’t you shout at my child. It’s my child”. Back in my day the neighbour will give me a hiding then I go home tell my mother then she will give me a hiding. Things have changed now. We’ve got to go back. But with all the child abuse that is happening you have to look after your kids, so I suppose that is frightening a lot of parents away from allowing their children to interact with other families. I believe we need to go back. I believe it is an African principle that the world can learn from. We have to understand that to put the order in place the father has to take his place. Everything then follows after that but if he is absent it forces the woman to be the mommy and a daddy and that’s not right. Wherever I go I ask a double portion of God’s blessings on single moms because this country is being held together by single moms working two jobs; a granny with a pension of R800 who has a family of six, seven and she does it. She does not know how. It happens.
Neziswa: So what would be your last words to fathers out there?
Zane: My last words would be exactly what my first words were: don’t underestimate your importance. Men, whether you are a father or not. Don’t underestimate how important you are. We complain in this country about crime, gang violence, drugs, teenage pregnancy — well we can stop all of that. The motto of the Fatherhood Foundation is “Changing families one man at a time”. We are not going to change the world but if I can change the heart of one father; change the mind of one man in his home. There’s an old song by the Main Ingredient that says, “Everything starts with two people. Happy couples make happy families. It goes all the way to happy nations. IT STARTS WITH A FATHER TAKING HIS PLACE!! We can restore this nation.
Rest: The one thing that I have learnt personally is that it’s just so important for me as a man to acknowledge that I make mistakes; to acknowledge to her ‘you know I am sorry if I have done something wrong’ — even at times when I feel maybe I have not done something wrong but she feels offended and I need to quickly accept that I may have made a mistake as a person. Maybe that’s where we need to say to men you know you are a human being. You can make mistakes and leadership starts from that. It starts from you accepting that you’ve done something wrong possibly and you accepting you are able to provide good leadership to your kids.
Zane: It starts exactly there Rest. You have hit the nail on the head. There’s no such thing as a perfect man in the Bible, only Jesus. No one else was perfect. One stole, one killed, one was an adulterer, etc. No one is perfect and we don’t need to be perfect either. We just need to be intentional in what we do as fathers.
Rest: Thank you so much Zane. All blessings to the Foundation, in your career, your family as you raise your kids. May the grace of God be with you!
To all our fathers have a wonderful Father’s Day on Sunday!! We appreciate your presence in our lives. If you are a father who has to make amends please do so. Your family needs you. DADDY COME HOME!!!