Almost ten years with a murder charge hanging over her head, a youthful mother last week sighed with relief when the state reduced the charge to infanticide.
Nearly a decade after she allegedly strangled her baby to death, the wheels of justice have finally started turning on 32-year-old Samakwati Mokgantitswane as her trial last week began before a Gaborone High Court.
While the state took a more lenient stance by amending the charges at commencement of trial, family members took to the witness box with testimonies that painted sordid images of the gruesome incident that allegedly took place on the night of 20th March 2009.
The new charge sheet now reads: “The accused person on or about 20th March 2009 at or near Lebeko ward in Kanye, unlawfully caused the death of her newly born baby and at the time of committing the offence her mind was disturbed by reason of her not having fully recovered from the effect of giving birth to the child.”
The accused’s younger sister, Kesego Mokgantitshwane (27) who was the first on the stand told the court that she had stayed for about a year without seeing her sister and that when she finally visited her she noticed she was pregnant.
“She is a slender like me, but hen I went to get the house keys I realized she had gained a little weight. Her stomach was big and showing off in her jersey. Her feet did not fit properly in her shoes so I asked her if she was pregnant but she denied.”
The younger sister continued: “When I reached home I discovered traditional medicine herbs and stameta medication hidden behind the cupboard. I went to our other house and told our eldest sister about my suspicions. Together with my elder sister we interrogated Samakwati when she knocked off from work but she continued to deny that she was pregnant.”
Kesego further said that the accused continued to deny her pregnancy to their mother and that it was only after three days that the worst happened.
“I had gone to sleep with Samakwati in the same bed that night but when I woke up in the middle of the night she was not with me in the blankets but I went right back to sleep. At around 4am I was woken up by a loud noise coming from the other room. When I went to the room I found my sister covered in blood in a tub and I called out for help,” Kesego told the court.
She added that when she yelled out for help, a neighbour told her to shut up. “She asked me if I was not a woman myself that I did not know these things. She did not want to help so I went back home. Our neighbour later came back with two sanitary pads which we dressed my sister in and assisted her back to bed, but she was still in pain and screaming.”
The younger sister further told the court that together with their eldest sister they informed the nurses at a nearby hospital which they sent out an ambulance to collect her.
“The nurses then told us that Samakwati was pregnant and she had given birth. They then instructed us to go back home to look for the baby of which we did but did not find anything. It was only until at a later stage when we thought of checking the outside toilet, when we looked inside the pit-latrine we noticed something that looked like a head of a baby with hair,” the young sister testified.
The accused’s aunt also testified and told the court that she got involved in the picture when the accused was hospitilised.
She said she was instructed by the nurses together with the younger sister to go back home and look for the infant which they recovered in the pit latrine.
Their testimonies were however dismissed by the accused’s lawyers who said the witnesses have no proof that the baby that was retrieved from the pit latrine belonged to the accused.
The defence lawyers further quashed the witnesses testimonies saying they have no proof that the traditional medicine belonged to the accused nor did they see her give birth to the supposed baby.
The trial continues.