In Memory of Rethabile Mofolo

Photo by Sixteen Miles Out on Unsplash

Saturday the 6th of November 2021 was supposed to be a beautiful day. A warm, sunny clear summer day. The kind of day that makes you want to take the kids for a picnic, perhaps a braai with friends or an excursion with a lover. All in all, a day to be enjoyed.

It was also the day when the Mofolo family had to bury their daughter. Rethabile Mofolo. I cannot bring myself to call her by her marital name. I cannot in all good conscience let an identity that would ultimately lead to her death follow her into her early grave.

I did not know Rethabile when she was alive. If all had gone well, we probably would never have crossed paths. Her life was better for us never having known her because the only way we knew was as the face of tragedy. She did not deserve that.

I have however known a few Rethabile’s in my life. Women whose lives now represent the tragedy of a love gone wrong. Women whose lives have been reduced to a few moments just before their deaths as if they had no identities or lives before tragedy struck.

Perhaps that is the most tragic part of all. That a beautiful existence, which should be marked by so many moments of joy will now go down in history with nothing but the tragic circumstances of death associated with it.

I watched Rethabile’s memorial and funeral on Facebook. I would have loved to attend the funeral but work commitments did not permit. It was what the callous would call the event of the season. Not to be missed. What an odd thing.

In any case, I gathered, as so many of us did to watch. That is the thing about humans, we will gather to watch tragedy unfold. Always attracted to the painful, the tragic, like moths are to a flame.

I cried when watching the online live cast of the funeral. I cried for this woman whom I had never met. I cried for the first woman who I saw murdered when I was 7, I cried for the two friends I had lost to Intimate Partner Violence in subsequent years. I cried for women still stuck in these kind of situations. Most of all I cried for myself, I too am a woman who gets into romantic and intimate relationships with men and one day one of those men might see fit to end my life.

I cried because I live in Lesotho and in the event of my untimely death or the death of a woman that I love the justice system will turn very slowly, if they turn at all. I am scared with the knowledge that I may die and someone will pay but a thousand maluti to go back in the streets and terrorize my family instead of letting them bury me peacefully. 

Perhaps I could have taken the news that Rethabile Mofolo, a woman I had never met had died a painful death. There is nothing particularly attention grabbing about that. Women die painful deaths every day. One might be begging for her life as I type this, or by the time you read it.

What I cannot understand is that even in her death she continued to endure abuse. Rethabile died in September. She was buried in November. In that time her body lay cold and lifeless and her family could not find the closure and healing that putting a body into the ground brings. I cannot understand such cruelty.

I watched the funeral wondering what the family of the alleged perpetrator would say. I did not envy them. I believed they would be ashamed, traumatized and looking for ways to face a community that can be cruel. I never expected to defend their son, simply because there are things that are indefensible. To see a grown man, take to the podium, look at the hordes of people who were there and blatantly lie!

I have not the words, and I pride myself on having words in any situation. That a whole family, or at least the representation of it could be callous. That they could lie to a community that was already aware of the truth? To hear from subsequent speeches that as the Mofolo’s were mourning they were already strategizing ways to inherit the monies of the slain woman. Truly it boggles the mind.

I expect there to be a case. The judgment given on who gets the death benefits of Rethabile Mofolo will be a landmark judgment I am sure. It will set a precedent that will echo throughout the future of this country. Yes, men are by all intents and purpose given leeway to kill us in this country. They can get away with it. Are our courts going to provide them with further encouragement to say, not only will we be lax if you murder your wife in this place but we will stand by while you enjoy the proceeds of her death.

I shudder to think that I cannot with any conviction say it will never happen. It is disturbing that I do not have enough trust in our justice system to know that our courts will stand with the Mofolo family and by extension with all women living in Lesotho, today and in the future.

She seemed like a nice woman, Rethabile Mofolo. I am however sorry that I got to know of her. Both our lives were better if we never heard of each other.