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I want what’s mine

92-year-old fights grandchildren over inheritance

At 92 years of age, Mmanthobanyane Tshiamo is only eight years away from her centennial birthday celebration, but that is the least of her concerns as her immediate priority is to pursue the fight for an inheritance she believes slipped from her grasp under deceptive circumstances.

Distraught and distressed, the nonagenarian intends to wrestle for an estate she says she had entrusted on her late son before he passed away, leaving it in the hands of his stepchildren.

After exhausting all legal channels- attempting in vain to regain what she believes is rightfully hers, the aged Tshiamo last week invited this publication so she could voice her frustration.

“I worked hard to accumulate my estate. My late husband and I really worked hard, and for grandchildren who are not even biologically mine to take all of that from me is disheartening,” she says pointing to stacks of court papers on her living room table, dating as far back as 1992.

“I have given up on the law. I don’t want to hear anything about lawyers because the legal system has failed me. They can’t help me get back what is mine,” she says with a look of forlorn resignation.

When narrating the chronicle of events that led to the tussle over the estate, Tshiamo says when her husband passed away in 1987- leaving her with seven children, she transferred land deeds and ownership of most of the property to her firstborn son who had convinced her it was the best thing to do.

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“As my firstborn son, he easily convinced me he could better take care of the estate only if it was in his name. So I eagerly followed his advice. I had no problem with that because I knew I would later divide the estate among all the siblings,” she says and adds: “I signed the letters he had prepared. I did not know how to read or write but I trusted him enough to sign a document which I am now told is missing,” the old woman said.

According to Tshiamo, things took an unprecedented twist when her firstborn son got married without her knowledge.

“I first knew the woman when she came to work at my shop selling fat cakes. Later I was told by neighbours that they got married. She already had two children from a previous relationship but she never had any child with my son,” she explains.

Fast forward to 2005 her firstborn son died.

“I then called this woman to tell her that it was time to divide the estate among my children. Things were back and forth until she too passed on a year later, and her children took over my property,” the old woman says in vivid recollection of the memory and succinctly describes the problem besieging her in an adage: “Se tla se anya sa ntshenyetsa,” loosely translated to mean ‘they are not my biological grandchildren.

“I accumulated that property with my late husband and now I have nothing. The only thing I did not have is a horse. I had chickens, goats, cows, land, shops, and everything else you can think of in a traditional Tswana home set up. I was not one to sit down, I worked hard. Now I have nothing at all because I transferred my property into his names in good faith,” the dejected Tshiamo says.

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She says she has explored all legal avenues without any success.

“In court, they said I was wrong by saying I did not marry my son to that woman. But I did not, according to the customary law in Setswana because there was no ‘patlo’ which means there was no marriage traditionally. Without marriage, the grandchildren, therefore, are not mine. That is what I meant when I said that in court,” the frustrated old woman further says and adds that she now seeks the intervention of the Office of the President.

Mmanthobanyane Tshiamo is a grandmother living in distress.

She is helpless as her wealth and the estate is no longer in her control.

This Week the Voice team visited the granny at her home in Mogoditshane.

When we arrive at her house stacks of court papers dating as far back as 1992 are waiting for us on the living room table.

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“I have given up on the law. I don’t want to hear anything about lawyers because I have been through it with all of them and they can’t help me. They can’t help me get back what is mine,” she said as she struggles to catch her breath.

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