Evicted widow seeks justice in estate dispute
A grieving widow had her broken heart shattered this week when her in-laws told her to find another man and move on with her life as they did not recognise her marriage to their late son.
In the heart wrenching tale that highlights the plight of women caught in the dark side of customary marriages, a homeless Gaobopelwe Mogapi of Moeti ward in Maun, explains how her in-laws evicted her and her children from their house after her husband’s death.
Devastated and distraught at the mistreatment, Mogapi approached the customary court, challenging the eviction from her home.
When appearing before Kgosi Oleyo Ledimo last week, the family maintained that Mogapi’s traditional marriage to their son, Sello Tsheko, was never completed hence the eviction.
The deceased’s brother, Tshenolo Tsheko, told the court that the marriage process was initiated but not completed as lobola was never paid.
In his testimony last Thursday, Tshenolo further stated that because of the incomplete marriage process, Mogapi’s parents refused to release her to her husband’s family. “She customarily remained with her parents. They rendered the marriage incomplete, but she defied them and came on her own to stay with my brother,” he said.
Tshenolo further added that sometime last year his brother told him that he no longer had any intention of marrying Mogapi.
“He said although they stayed together in the same house, they were more like brother and sister than lovers. He in fact said he wanted to tell the elders about it, unfortunately he passed on before doing so.”
The deceased’s family maintained that Mogapi neglected their son when he was ill and instead took their granddaughter for medical attention in Gaborone while her husband was helplessly ill inside their house, an accusation Mogapi has since denied.
“When she arrived from Gaborone, a night before her husband’s burial, she refused to lie down in mourning as per our custom and tradition. She said her religion does not allow her to lie down in honour of the dead,” explained the deceased’s aunt, Tebelelo Kelatlhilwe.
Kelatlhilwe further added that Mogapi refused to allow the elders to cut her hair for ritual purposes and told them she is a born again Christian whose religion abhors such practices.
However the deceased’s parents, Khana Ngande and Tsheko Karome told the court that Mogapi was not evicted but rather asked to return to her parents house to allow the elders to resolve the estate issue without her interference.
“I found my son critically ill and the wife not there. It really pained me when he died and this woman not being there for him,” stated Mogapi’s mother in-law Khana Ngande.
Ngande further claimed that the house in question belongs to her even though it is registered under the deceased’s name.
One of the witnesses, 71-year-old Keneilwe Mokgowe, dismissed Ngande’s claim and told court that she gifted Mogapi and Sello with the residential plot and they developed it.
Mogapi told court that three months ago she was stripped of her inheritance, right and dignity when she was thrown out of her house together with her children.
She said her in-laws evicted her, just three days after her husband’s burial while grieving her husband who died from COVID-19 complications.
At the time of her husband’s demise, Mogapi was away in Gaborone where her minor granddaughter was hospitalised and critically ill.
“My husband died on a Wednesday and the doctors refused to release me immediately as they needed somebody to come and help with the child. I had to wait for my daughter to travel from Maun to Gaborone, hence I only arrived in Maun a day before burial and my in-laws did not accept me, they felt I neglected their son which was not even true,” she said when narrating the painful chronicle of events.
Mogapi also accused the in-laws of having taken away her new bridal dress, wedding rings and her husband’s suit which they had bought for the wedding that was never to be.
The matter returns to court next week Tuesday.