Booted out

SEEKING JUSTICE: Gaobopelwe Mogapi

*Widow evicted by in-laws 3 days after burial

*Couple lived together for 28 years

Although they had been living together at their home in Maun’s Moeti ward for 28 years, it was only in 2013 that Gaobopelwe Mogapi and Selelo Ntsheko entered into traditional marriage.

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Their nearly three-decade relationship bore three children and countless happy memories.

Sadly, as it has with so many families around the world, earlier this year Covid-19 ensured there would be no more happy memories made.

On Wednesday 25 August, Ntsheko lost his live to a pandemic which to date is responsible for 2, 409 known deaths in Botswana.

As the old man breathed his last, Mogapi was on the other side of the country, sitting by her sick granddaughter’s bedside in Princess Marina Hospital, Gaborone.

Arriving in Maun two days later, she claims she was rejected by her late husband’s family. Mogapi maintains she was denied the right to mourn her soulmate in peace and, three days after his burial, was booted out of her home along with her children.

Two months later and she is seeking legal intervention through the traditional courts.

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Outlining her case before Maun Customary Court on Tuesday, Mogapi stated, “My in-laws said I am not a married woman because lobola had not been paid for me yet. Despite the fact that we had a traditional wedding (patlo) in 2013, they said I am only a concubine (nyatsi) and that I have to pack my things and leave.”

Remaining remarkably calm as she narrated her tale of woe to Kgosi Oleyo Ledimo, Mogapi insisted the house her in-laws kicked her from rightfully belongs to her and her children because she helped her husband build it.

Casting her mind back four months to when her troubles began, the aggrieved lady revealed, “In July this year my granddaughter became ill and was referred to Bokamoso Private Hospital in Gaborone where she was to be operated on. Since her mother was equally in ill health, I decided, together with my husband, that I should take the child to the hospital.”

According to Mogapi, after the operation the little girl was transferred to Princess Marina for continued medication.

“A week later I received a call from my daughter reporting that her father was seemingly not well. I called him and he told me he was having a fever. I advised him to do a Covid-19 test as those were suspicious signs of it but he maintained he was only having ordinary flu,” she testified.

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Two days passed and Mogapi received another phone call from her daughter informing her Ntsheko’s condition had worsened.

“She told me her father was not doing well and keep falling asleep anywhere around the yard, including on bare soil. I called her again and insisted he should go to the clinic and he promised to do so.”

Somewhat typical of most men his age – and indeed men in general! – Ntsheko reportedly delayed in seeking medical attention, instead preferring home remedies for common influenza.

It was not until a relative intervened and rushed him to hospital that the old man finally saw a doctor.

However, the damage had already been done and Ntsheko never recovered.

“I told the doctors of the loss and they said they could not release me because the hospitalised toddler was critically ill. The only solution was somebody to be sent from Maun to come and care for her while I travel to the funeral,” explained Mogapi, keeping her composure despite the difficult subject matter.

The toddler’s mother left Maun on Friday morning, arriving in the capital mid-evening the same day. Mogapi only started her journey by public transport on Saturday morning, touching down in the tourist town as night set in, just in time for her husband’s burial the following morning.

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She claims she received a frosty reception.

“When I arrived at the house, my in-laws, especially the aunt to my husband, told me that I cannot lie down in mourning for my husband. She said I was not welcome because I neglected their son when he was ill and instead took my grandchild to hospital to save her life, leaving their son to die inside our house,” narrated Mogapi, adding her in-laws claimed her husband informed them he was ill even before she left for Gaborone.

“This is simply not true,” she maintained simply.

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UP NEXT: Karome
UP NEXT: Karome

Pausing momentarily to catch her breath, Mogapi told court that the day of the burial, a meeting was held in which her in-laws told her she was ‘an unwanted object’ and must leave their son’s house.

Before a resolution could be made, the meeting was adjourned to Friday, according to Mogapi.

“Before Friday, on Wednesday, my in-laws returned and told me to vacate. They brought a Dyna [Truck] to carry my stuff and asked me what to take first. I removed some of the building materials and asked them to take it to our other plot which we were just beginning to develop. The man on the truck was in such a hurry and told me to be quick so I took some of the basics like clothes. A neighbour took us in since we had no place to go.”

The widow further told court, before her husband’s demise, they were planning a white wedding celebration and had bought a wedding gown together with a veil, white gloves, rings and a shawl. She claimed her in-laws confiscated all of these items when they gave her the boot.

Mogapi is hopeful court will instruct her in-laws to allow her and her children back into their yard and return the confiscated wedding attire and rings.

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