Last year we carried the story of the broken bond between four-year-old Toni and British father, Richard Benjamin of Kanye.
Her father claimed that Toni had been ‘orphaned’ by her mother when she forcibly moved the child from Gaborone to her niece’s home in Phikwe, while Richard battles for his right of access to the child. Father and daughter have been separated for six months since her mother took Toni away.
Here Richard talks of his three difficult years in Botswana.
“I arrived in Kanye just before Toni’s first birthday and had a mystical experience. She was in her pram in the garden and I gazed at her, felt my legs turn to jelly, experienced a strange out-of-body sensation and looking again at her. It was then that I had the realisation I was looking at my own life.
“This child has every little oddity and blemish of mine and rapidly displayed all my energies and idiosyncrasies. Spiritually this child is the pinnacle of my life. Of her I am prouder than any other achievement.”
Together father and daughter became a noted entity around Kanye and the school where Richard teaches. But now that his daughter has been taken away from him he is met only with the painful greeting – ‘Where’s Toni?’
Recalling his life with his little girl Richard talks about how they would spend time together downloading educational videos from YouTube. “On walks she mirrored my natural science interests: “Dad, a half-moon,” and “There’s a lot of cow pooh!” We are also best friends and she mostly refers to me as Richard.
“Now she can no longer even play with the children of the relatives she loved most. That’s because her mother says they are evil since their parents have shown support for me.”
The frustrated and embittered dad went on to explain that he has had to endure death threats and false charges of being an illegal immigrant made by his wife. In addition he describes a violent midnight attack on his household by drunken relatives, and removal of his property and himself from his legal home in June 2013 – the issue finally coming to trial at the end of April 2014 under the charge of ‘common nuisance.’
“I have experienced a number of physical injuries from my wife, who has been allowed to brush these off with: ‘He attacked himself to frame me.’”
When one allegation fails to produce results, fresh allegations are made. Currently he is facing the accusations of sexual molestation towards his daughter, and using violence against his wife. This despite the fact that a welfare investigation rejected the charges last year, and that he has not lived with his wife, or seen his daughter for six months.
“Conversely my attempts to bring to attention definite instances of child abuse, supported by statements of witnesses, photographs and videos against the people my daughter is staying with, are ignored.”
His efforts to get help from Childline, Ditshwanelo and the Department of Local Affairs have also proved fruitless Richard claims.
A further set-back was when he paid a legal firm P5000 to open a file for a custody application at the end of November 2013, while he travelled to South Africa to bid farewell to his mother who died at Christmas. When he returned at the end of January they had not done what he had instructed, and still have not done anything.
“Daily I feel a deep heartache and anger as I prepare my classes for school performances and concerts, knowing that my own daughter cannot enjoy my creative energy like the other children. Perhaps my wife’s pathetic remark used to justify her actions and her claim that the violence stems from me: “He’s a white South African. He killed OUR people in Soweto in 1975,” is felt more widely!
“Being the target of continued malicious attacks is draining, but these will go on until some official action intervenes,” he says.
He ends the interview by describing the bond between himself and his daughter as ‘God-given.’
“It is a relationship that should be and protected by law in Botswana and yet remains broken by easily disproven lies and a series of criminal acts by the conspiracy controlling Toni’s life.”