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Woman at point zero

SHARE   |   Tuesday, 14 October 2014   |   By Ephraim Keoreng

“For the past two weeks, my children have been unable to go to school. They don’t have transport and we also don’t have food,” she says.

A trained lawyer, Keletso Mokobi, has cried out for help, saying that she is in a quandary after she was humiliated by her relatives, who said that she is a lunatic and at one point accusing her of abducting her own children. She has been ostracised by the society and unable to get a job and work to fend for herself and her children. For the times she tried, she was met with cold replies. She thinks this has to do with the fact that her name and face are now in the public domain associated with all the bad things she has been accused of; a kidnapper and a psychotic. She says she is not a psychotic. At one point, at the insistence of the police and her mother, she was taken to a psychiatrist, who gave her a clean bill. Mokobi also insists that she is not a kidnapper. “How can I kidnap my own children? As you can see, I stay with them, but of course there is the threat of government to take them away from me because I am an indigent and unable to cater for their needs,” she says.

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Speaking at a house she has been ‘borrowed’ by her mother, in Phase Four, Mokobi says she is afraid her children might miss their examinations which are due on Friday, while the other child’s are due next week. Due to their mother’s economic situation, their school fees and transportation have been taken care of by their grandmother. These two children, a boy and a girl, are students at various English medium schools.

In what she describes as a long-protracted family feud that has seen her taken to court more than 20 times over issues related to her family inheritance, the custody of her children and other things, Mokobi says that she is on the verge of being declared a pauper who is homeless and unable to take care of her children. She has two children who are students.

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She says over the years, she has been persecuted by her family, using state machinery, such as the police, the District Commissioner’s office, and the mental health system.

Narrating her story, she says then, persecution by government agents and public institutions reached an all time high.  She was removed from a house she was renting as she was unable to pay rent, dispossessed of all my property, including our very personal effects, my entire livelihood and possessions were taken, as government “ended my public service career,” she says.

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She has been to court many times over issues of her children’s custody and many others related to inheritance of her family heirloom.

“In February 2011, Gaborone City Council (GCC), together with my mother, and others, filed an urgent application before a magistrate seeking to remove my son from my custody, and into that of the Mpule Kwelagobe orphanage So malicious was the lobby to discredit me. I have been accused therein, of the worst offences ever; that I am a drug addict; that I am psychotic;  that I am a child abuser, molester.  Accusations intended to make the persona non grata, the pariah I am today in my society.  Unemployable, no family, no friends, isolated. At one point, it was stated that I am violent and a thief,” she says. 

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She says they remain social outcasts.  Despite having custody legally restored to “me, with the judge instructing social workers to rehabilitate us, the converse is the reality.  I am ceaselessly hounded by social workers, down the length and breadth of Botswana, for my mother’s favour. After my mother threw my children we were housed at the Women’s Shelter.  Then two government social workers followed me from Serowe, to arrest me on trumped up charges so that they could take my son into an orphanage.  They claimed to have a court order to that effect.  To this day I am not privy to this order, but it has had the desired effect for our enemies:  we remain with the threat of my son’s institutionalisation looming over us, a guillotine held over our heads by government agents and my mother.  Despite the humiliation of being publicly arrested at Village Mall, I refused to surrender my child.  I escaped the net,” she says.

Mokobi has credited Assistant Minister Botlhogile Tshireletso, who sought Keletso’s mother and another relative’s audience, who then made commitments to support “our rehabilitation by providing a furnished house, education for my son who was already two terms out of school, all educational expenses, food and utilities.  It is a constant battle, to put food on the table for my children.  Winter arrived, and found no furniture, clothes or blankets for us to use.  The school complains constantly about the children’s lack of material resources, and the Assistant Minister has lost interest in our cause.  And so, typically marginalised and ostracised as we are, it is our very oppressors, my mother, uncle  and brothers, who once again have been given life and death power over us, by government agents.  We have been declared destitute, indigent, by government machinery, and yet, we are not, according to the very same institutions, entitled to destitute rations such as food, blankets, and public education.  We go without education for two terms, days without food, weeks without electricity, and no blankets in winter,” she says.  

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Meanwhile, she says she is not considered indigent by government agencies, because her parents’ divorce in 1998, which she contests as illegally acquired, has become the bane of her life, because it grants her “rights to property and profits that have never accrued to me,” she says.

However, her mother, Sheilah Mokobi, has said she cares about her grandchildren, adding that she pays for their school fees, rental and pays their utilities in a very expensive house. She said her daughter will at times use her children as pawns to get whatever she demands from her mother (Sheilah).

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“It’s sad. I care about those kids. She makes them stay indoors all the time, they are unable to interact with other kids. Even when I send people to do repairs on the house, she refuses to open the gate. When I take them food, I have to leave it at the door. I have no access to the kids. She removes children from school and these kids are very intelligent. She is aggressive and the kids live in fear. I just wish you can organise for some NGOs or people who can help her. I have spent so much money because of these countless court cases. She is saying that there is no transport for the children and this is true, because the taxi man who used to transport them has since stopped after she sent him very nasty messages, accusing him of making sexual moves on her 18 year old child,” she said.



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