About a thousand mourners and sympathizers flouted Angolan president João Lourenço’s directive banning large gatherings – as a measure to curtail the spread of coronavirus – to pay their last respects to Francisco Tchikuteny Sabalo at Mungongo Island on April 19.
According to VOA, Sabalo, who was also known as Pai Grande, or Big Dad, was a popular polygamist, who fathered 281 children and had 47 wives. He is survived by 42 wives, 156 children, 250 grandchildren and 67 great-grandchildren. Polygamy in the Southern African nation is illegal, but still popular.
Pai Grande, who died in his early 70s after battling prostate cancer for over a year, was initially taken to the country’s capital city of Luanda as well as other places for treatment, but was returned home when his condition worsened to ensure that “if God called him, at least he would die beside the children and their mothers,” one of his sons said.
A dedicated family man and respected personality in his community, Pai Grande, was described as “a complete human being” who was an advocate for education. Speaking to VOA in 2015, Sabalo, who said it was his wish for some of his children to take up careers in science and technology, revealed he spent over $1,500 on school supplies annually.
Two of his sons and three daughters, who are currently in high school, are undertaking courses in computer science and medical sciences respectively.
Tributes from other family and community members also poured in during the funeral, with his first wife vowing to do everything she can to keep the family together as per her husband’s wish.
“I will do anything to keep his children fed and OK,” she told VOA.
The director of the island’s school also lauded him for his contributions towards improving education on the island and for starting “a revolution against illiteracy… He was a man and a complete human being.”
Pai Grande’s extended family live on subsistence farming, growing crops and rearing livestock. They also generate revenue from their sales.
Polygamy on the African continent is a centuries-old tradition that is widely practiced till date. Just like Pai Grande, there have also been other men who have made the news for their conspicuously large families.
In Kenya, Acentus Akuku was regarded the country’s prominent polygamist, having married 130 times with nearly 200 children at the time of his death in his late 90s.
Nicknamed “Danger” because of the magic he had with women and his love for polygamy, he had married five women by the time he turned 22. At 35, he married his 45th wife.
“I’m called Danger because I overshadowed many men when it came to women. I was very handsome. I dressed well and I knew how to charm women with sweet talk. No woman could decline my advances. I was a magnet,” Akuku once told The Standard.
Reports said he outlived 12 of his wives, marrying the last one in 1992. With so many children in his family, Akuku had to establish two elementary schools specifically to educate his children, as well as, a church for his family to attend.
Akuku was a global case study in the institution of marriage. A disciplinarian in his home, he knew all his children by name and even had a schedule on when to spend on which house.
Since his death, people have tried to compare him to other successful polygamists from the continent. Names like eSwatini’s King Mswati III, who has about 14 wives and 23 children, have come up. South Africa’s former President Jacob Zuma is also noted to have five wives and 20 children.
But perhaps the one who comes close to Akuku is Abumbi II, the 11th king of the Bafut kingdom in north-west Cameroon.
The king has 100 wives and 500 children. The only exception is that he inherited 72 wives from his father, King Achirimbi II, who died in 1968. With 28 wives already, King Abumbi ended up with 100 queens and 500 children.