Home Columns Mma Mosojane's Traditional Wisdom DIVIDED BY UNFORGIVENESS



PrisonBlacksBack in the 60’s British Prime Minister Harold Macmillian spoke about the ‘wind of change blowing through this continent.’

Whilst his speech to the South African parliament was concerned with the growth of national consciousness,

I feel the phrase has a resonance for us in Botswana.

It is a wind of change that threatens to blow some of us over, and its name is modernity.

Our elders, who have claimed to have a solution for every problem, have identified too much freedom and IT generated knowledge as agents for destruction in society.

And as I share with you Ndapo’s story, you will discover that there are issues were elders either choose to withdraw into their shells like a tortoise and watch helplessly as the storms of modern life turbulently rage over them, or they allow emotions of anger to block healing.


Ndapo visited the customary court half heartedly as he was not sure whether he would ever find an answer for a subject many people preferred to label: “Danger do not touch.”

Ndapo had lost his mother when he was barely seven years old and he remembered very vaguely that he had to change schools and homes.

Ndapo’s mother had been a victim of domestic violence and his father was responsible for her premature and tragic death.

Following the burial of his mother he remembers the packing of his things and quite clearly he remembered his grandmother’s angry rebuke when he tried to run back and get his favourite toy as their car was ready to take him to a new home.

Although Ndapo was over protected and loved dearly by his maternal grandmother he always sensed that he was not allowed to talk about “papa” and as time went on he  knew that he was not to mention papa or the home he had enjoyed with papa and mama.

Ndapo had come to realize too that when his maternal relatives talked about Letlhaku (his father), it was in hushed tones and great secrecy.

Ndapo shared with me that whenever he looked at his parents photographs which were in the house his grandmother would get uncontrollably angry and be visibly moody.

This planted a seed of curiosity in his wondering mind and he promised himself that as soon as he was old enough he would search for the truth.

Ndapo had bits and pieces of information he had gathered from his young cousins and he put that together to present a request that he needed help to be able to visit his father in prison and he also desperately needed to know who was taking care of his parents assets because he needed not only financial help but he had to know who lived in their house and what happened to a few things that his parents had acquired in their marriage.

He had gathered a bit of information about his parents small vegetable garden and that some company rented their house.

He had also learnt that an uncle who had looked after his father’s cattle post had since died.

He desperately needed both his paternal and maternal relatives to be able to help him heal the raw wound concerning his mother’s death and see if anyone would be willing to connect him with his father.

Ndapo confided in his guidance and counseling teacher who had referred him to the customary court.

Efforts to contact Ndapo’s maternal grandmother did not bear much fruit as she came in to explain that she was not in a position to discuss anything with Letlhaku’s family.

The only thing she had been keen to achieve was to raise Ndapo but unfortunately she realizes that a “ngwana wa noga ke nogana” meaning a snake can only reproduce after its own kind”; implying that Ndapo is just like the father.

Ndapo’ s grandmother carried a raw wound concerning the death of her only daughter whom she believed has been killed in cold blood.

Although it had been over a decade, for her the wound was still open and Ndapo’s desire to meet the father was just adding salt to her pain.

Efforts to contact Letlhaku’s family did not bear much fruit either because the day Ndapo’s mother was buried was the last they ever saw Ndapo and his maternal relations.

In all these Ndapo was resolute.  He desired to be assisted to visit his father in prison.

To him Letlhaku was papa and not (sekebekwa) (criminal) as he had heard reference made about him in that fashion.

He was also now old enough to assist in looking after whatever his parents had accumulated prior to the ugly incident that had broken their family and stolen their peace.

What would you do if you were the Judge?

There are many issues to consider in this case.

All concerned individuals in this case were blinded and suffocated by their anger to a point where they refused to acknowledge the reality that Ndapo lost one parent and he needed to connect with the surviving parent.

Ndapo was resolute in getting to the bottom of the matter at all costs.

He was ready to visit his father in prison and embrace him so as to heal not only himself but his father too.

He wanted to find out how he could help manage the family property.  His maternal relative considered Ndapo’s move betrayal and lack of gratitude as they felt that it could only be driven by self -nterest.

They had done all they could to demonise Letlhaku and felt Ndapo should simply join their chorus in declaring Letlhaku a demon.

Letlhaku’s family had not been in touch with Ndapo from the day he was angrily uprooted by his maternal relatives after the burial of his mother.

Letlhaku’s family were reluctant to meet with Ndapo for different reasons.

None of them were in a position to account for Letlhaku’s cattle post business nor were they in a position to trust the young man who had been raised by angry relatives of his mother concerning the Letlhaku’s property.

Concerning Letlhaku’s property they had adopted the attitude that “ga dike di leta mogale oseyong” meaning that an absent mighty warrior is a looser.

None of Letlhaku’s relatives had taken an interest in Ndapo partly because of the animosities between the two families but also because it was convenient to ignore him as he was a threat concerning his parents’property which they were positioned to enjoy.


The social worker working in collaboration with the prisons department paved way for Ndapo to meet with his father.  

With the help of other relevant authorities, Letlhaku’s family accounted for what happened in the over a decade time when Letlhaku was away.

Ndapo’s maternal relatives felt stabbed by Ndapo at the back as they had hoped he would close the door to Letlhaku as if he never existed.

There is a powerful lesson from Ndapo’s encounter with life.  As Maya Angelou says:“Bitterness is like cancer.

It eats up the host but anger is like fire it burns it all clean. Ndapo could only win by embracing his father.

May we develop a holistic response to these tragedies to include the way forward for survivors some of whom will grow to search for the truth no one would like to tell.


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