WHEN AGED KELEOFILE SIWANE ENDED HER TROUBLED LIFE LAST WEEK SHE BECAME THE OLDEST PERSON ON RECORD IN BOTSWANA TO COMMIT SUICIDE, AND THE 50TH PERSON THIS YEAR TO DO SO. BUT BEHIND THE SORRY STATISTIC LIES AN EVEN SORRIER TALE.
96-year-old Keleofile Siwane took a rope, tottered onto a chair using some bricks to help her climb, and used the last of her strength to hang herself from the rafters of her home in Selowane ward Tutume, where she lived alone.
According to the neighbour who found her dangling from the rope the next day Manjamba Tsholofelo, 86, her friend was sick and tired of people stealing her money and food rations.
“She complained bitterly about the stolen money just the day before she killed herself.
Her final words to me were that she could take it no more. She looked very disturbed and fed up that the police had dismissed her complaint.
“I knew her problem but never suspected that she would commit suicide,” she said.
Manjamba went on to say that her friend was particularly distressed because she had discovered that someone had torn out the page of her diary that had the names and data of people who owed her money.
“It does not take a genius to work out that the same person who removed the page might have been on that list, which I know for a fact also included family members.
I also know that she was always having to replace the lock of her house following a series of break-ins,” she said.
Her friend also rubbished the claim some relatives made that the old woman was mentally disturbed.
“She was fit mentally and physically and able to look after herself since she lived alone.”
Manjamba had advised her friend to seek help at the kgotla, since the police had dismissed her plea for assistance.
Now shaking her head as if blaming herself for failing to help, she added: “I was the first person at the scene and I am the one who raised the alarm when I found her hanging.
I had gone to check on her after feeling worried following our talk the previous day.
“I just wish I could have done something to prevent this terrible thing from happening.”
It was a sentiment echoed by Keleofile’s cousin, 70-year-old Kuda Malike who said it was shocking that the old woman had to depart in such a tragic manner.
She noted that while it was too late to start pointing accusing fingers at each other, the truth of the matter was that no one bothered to listen when she asked for help regarding her trouble life.
“It very sad the woman killed herself because of the treatment she was getting from the very people who were supposed to help her.
“All I can say is that as relatives we failed to respond to her cry for help.
Had we acted upon what she told us, I don’t think she could have ended up taking her life,” grieving Malike said.
She said although her aunt was getting roughly P600 every month as part of her old age pension and welfare money for her later husband, a war veteran, no money was found in her house after she passed away.
“Someone knows who is responsible and one day as God is my witness the culprit will pay for my aunt’s death,” she said.
While her grandchildren flatly refused to comment, nephew Keena Masinda said it was clear that a close relative had been stealing from the old woman for a long time.
He revealed that Keleofile told neighbours about her intension to kill herself and it was unfortunate that no one took her seriously.
“Even the social workers were aware of the old woman’s problem.
In fact she tried to hang her self on two previous occasions only to be rescued by neighbours,” Masinda said, explaining that the family was still awaiting the post mortem to determine if there were more sinister issues involved.
However Tutume Police station commander Vusumusi Jorowe said that they did not suspect foul play surrounding the suicide.
He added that while relatives mentioned that the old woman had complained about someone stealing from her, it was not clear where she reported her complaints.
“Truly speaking I can neither deny nor agree that the old woman reported any case regarding her troubles,” Jorowe said.
Keleofile was buried last weekend.