“I was in Form Two by then. I remember the first time I could not walk properly after the sexual encounter.”
Almost 10 years have passed but Thato Kagiso* is still haunted by her past.
Now 26, Kagiso claims she was repeatedly raped by her uncle as a school girl, eventually falling pregnant and giving birth to a daughter.
Although she never reported her ordeal to the police, this week Kagiso reached out to The Voice to share her story.
“I am done living a life of shame. My uncle must acknowledge his child!” she maintains defiantly.
Delving into dark memories, Kagiso, who has since had two more children, tells The Voice she moved in with her uncle’s family in November 2006 because her mother was struggling financially.
“We were staying in Mahalapye at the time. I was living with him, my uncle, his wife, three children and my brother. My mother had gone to Maun to try and make ends meet there.”
For the first three years everything was fine.
However, in April 2009, shortly after she turned 15 and started her period, Kagiso says her life plummeted into pain.
“I was in Form Two by then. I remember the first time I could not walk properly after the sexual encounter. I was a virgin. The first attempt was late at night. He asked me to take a torch and accompany him to a backyard house on the pretext he was looking for a tool to use to fix his car and so I obeyed.
“When we got there he did not find the tool he was looking for. He closed the door and asked me to take off my clothes. He then covered my mouth and told me not to scream,” recalls Kagiso, adding grimly, “He was disturbed by a call and he aborted the mission.”
She was not so lucky the next time.
“The abuse went on for the next few months. His wife used to travel a lot or sometimes she was on early shifts or late night shifts. That is when he would have his way with me.”
Kagiso suffered in silence, terrified of being kicked out if she reported the abuse.
“He warned me if I told anyone he would throw me and my brother out into the streets because my mother was unable to take care of us,” she explains.
Inevitably, Kagiso fell pregnant, giving birth to a baby girl in April 2010.
Again, she says she was bullied into keeping quiet.
“He told me not to tell my mother what he had done and said that I should say it was one of the boys at my school. The biggest thing was that he was married. I actually remember that he too was threatened to say if I come out with this story I would get into trouble because he was a married man and he would say I seduced him.”
Despite her uncle’s threats, Kagiso, burdened by the weight of her secret, soon confided in her mother. Sadly, like so many similar cases in Botswana, her mum was unmoved.
“I told my mother who the true father of the child was three months after I gave birth. She had none of it and asked that I never speak of it again and I never did. My mother and grandmother helped me take care of the child but stopped a few years back.”
After giving birth, Kagiso returned to live with her uncle’s family while her newborn daughter was sent to stay with her grandmother.
She says the sexual abuse continued.
Having missed the entire school year, Kagiso finally completed her Form Three in 2011. Unsurprisingly, she did not do well.
It remains a bitter memory.
“I want him to pay for what he did. He ruined my future. I failed my JC because of him and what he did to me,” blasts the unemployed mum, adding that after her schooling came to a premature end she went to live with her mother.
She kept quiet about her child’s true identity until last year, when, struggling to cope with caring for three children, she reached out to social workers for help.
Her daughter, who turns ten this month, remains blissfully unaware of her origins.
“I will tell her when she’s a bit older. I feel she is too young for now to even comprehend,” says Kagiso, who admits she only truly started bonding with her child about five years ago.
“We’re getting there now though,” she adds proudly.
As for why she decided to contact The Voice after so many years of silence, Kagiso explains, “I just want him to take care of his child. I will eventually deal with my past. I will eventually deal with the everyday abuse.”
Deal with her past she must as the psychological scars still remain. Despite being in a loving relationship with the father of her other children, Kagiso concedes she sometimes struggles to enjoy sex.
When contacted on the allegations, Kagiso’s uncle dismissed his niece’s tale as fantasy.
Instead, he claims it was a one-off drunken mistake and not a prolonged reign of terror.
“She says I was drunk one time and I raped her and she had the child. I don’t even know if the child is mine. She kept quiet about it for so long,” retorted the retired Jwaneng Mine employee, who admitted sending Kagiso money back in December.
“I gave them P1, 500. It is just that she is very naughty; when I give her money she doesn’t use it for the child.”
Although he refused to acknowledge the child as his own, he promised to try a little hard to take care of her. Kagiso says it is something she has heard many times before.
*Not her real name. Although she was willing to be identified, we have decided to keep Kagiso anonymous to protect both her and her daughter.