Kagelelo Tidige’s describes his battle to cope with family life after tragedy robbed him of a wife and baby daughter.
It is almost exactly ten months since Kagelelo Tidige’s world fell apart after a suspected drunken driver smashed a car through the walls of his house, killing his wife and five month old daughter.
After a moment’s thought, he opens his eyes and tells me, “Actually it’s ten months and four days.”
Saturday 16 July is a date that will forever be engraved in his memory, as hardly an hour in his life goes by when he does not think of the events of that tragic day.
The story was well publicized and the 35-year-old BCL employee from Selebi-Phikwe is talking in the living room of his new house about how he has managed since then. Just around the corner on the same street his old house is being repaired. It is a metaphor for his own situation as he struggles to rebuild the shattered structures of his life.
“It is like this accident happened yesterday. The memories are still so fresh and painful,” he tells me as he cradles 15-month-old Katlego in his arms. Her twin sister Katlo and devoted mother Malebogo, 28, were killed in the accident.
The two were crushed to death, buried under a pile of rubble as the Toyota Camray smashed into the bedroom. Malebogo was breast-feeding at the time.
“I had just come home after knocking off from the night shift and was in the kitchen warming my food when I heard a loud bang and people shouting,” Kagelelo explains. It was only when he went outside to see what was happening that he realized it was his house that had been struck.
“I saw my family buried in a rumble of bricks,” he continues, describing the awful moment as if waking from a nightmare, frozen in shock and not sure if what he was seeing was real or imaginary.
“The next thing my yard was crowded with people and the air filled with the sound of ambulance sirens, the fire brigade and police.” He raises his hands as if signalling for the memory to stop. “I don’t remember much after that.”
He pauses and looks towards the ceiling. A clock ticks somewhere in the distance, but time seems to remain still as it has done for Kagelelo since that night. Tears stand in his eyes. He takes a deep breath and continues, “It is like this accident happened yesterday.”
Just then his son Tefo, 7, and four-year-old daughter Gorata come bounding into the room, their laughter suddenly stifled, sensing the sadness that is here.
Kagelelo does his best to give them a reassuring smile, but admits that his heart pains because the children are a constant reminder of the loved ones they have lost.
“We were a big, happy family and there is still a gaping emotional hole that is very difficult to fill,” he adds.
The surviving twin had a fractured thighbone, and she and her older sister were airlifted to Princess Marina hospital.
“They are now okay as you can see. The problem is my son – he is not coping well. Sometimes he just looks at me and tears roll out from his eyes. He is now repeating his standard one because his performance at school has taken a nose dive.”
Tefo was still awake when the car crashed through the wall, and whilst he was not injured, he is often troubled with nightmares.
When asked whether he had ever met Mmoloki Mothusi, the 28-year-old man who took part of his family away, the expression on Kagelelo’s face changes.
“Eish! I just saw him in court and was filled with anger and the spirit of revenge. But what is the use my brother, it won’t bring my family back.”
Mothusi, whose case continues next month, has never even apologized for the destruction he has caused.
Curiously, Kagelelo’s new car, acquired after the accident, is the same make and colour as the one Mothusi was driving. Initially he thought about changing it, but later felt that in some way it was a tribute to her memory. “In the end I came to appreciate the fact that it is just a car,” he explains.
The mineworker went on to express his gratitude for the ‘tremendous support’ he has received from his employer BCL, the mineworkers union and his area councillor.
“President Khama also came to visit me and told me that justice would take its course. He really encouraged me to be strong.”
When asked about support from an even higher authority, Kagelelo a staunch member of Zion Christian Church admits, “I still need answers from God, but my religion and fellow church members are the pillars of strength that sustain me.
“Life goes on, even if at times you wish it wouldn’t. But I have to be strong for my children,” he says, looking down at his young daughter, and for the first time during our interview, Kagelelo smiles.
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