Residents of Dikgonnye, a settlement 25 kilometres out of Rasesa village in the Kgatleng District, were reeling in shock and disbelief after one of their own was left homeless.
Forty-seven-year-old Atameleng Rakgati lost all three of her houses to a fire caused by a gun-wielding man days after the mourning period for her late husband came to an end.
Narrating the details of that fateful day, Rakgati cannot stop thanking God that no one was hurt or burnt alive during the incident.
What remains of the houses and a big army tent, their only accommodation, met The Monitor team arriving at Dikgonnye, and immediately at Rakgati’s homestead.
The suspected arsonist, Kelebonye Lebakeng, who is now in jail, reportedly accused Rakgati’s son of telling on him after allegedly abducting and defiling a Form Three school girl.
Lebakeng who was said to have been using a stolen a pistol from one of his neighbours, went to the girl’s home and demanded to see her. He is said to have threatened the girl’s mother with the pistol before taking her to Rakgati’s yard. Lebakeng claimed Rakgati and her son hid the underage girl from him while at the same time reported him to the police for abduction and defilement.
According to Rakgati, Lebakeng has a pending case before the police for defiling the same girl and had on the night of the abduction taken the girl in the presence of her son.
Rakgati, who is now staying in a tent with her children and grandchildren, said on the fateful day of April 1, 2015, she was tending to her tuckshop few miles from her homestead. It was then that she started receiving ‘please call me backs’ from her son.
“My son hardly sends call backs to me and I was surprised that on that day he kept sending them, but at the same time I dismissed him and just went ahead with my normal business at the shop,” she recalled.
Little did she know that, “My son was in the house fearing for his life as Lebakeng was outside our house with the victim’s mother trying to push her in another house, which was already set alight saying he was going to burn them alive if they did not give him the girl.”
Rakgati said her son escaped through the back window of the main house before it was also
“My son came running saying our houses were on fire and that he was fearing that my neighbour (the girl’s mother) might be in another burning house. We got there and there was nothing we could do except watch as everything that I had worked hard for went down in flames. I was happy when she later emerged from where she had escaped to when the police arrived and we were happy that she was safe,” she said.
Rakgati further explained that they only fell victims to the arson because her son was with the girl the day before and that he had tried to rescue her from Lebakeng.
She said Lebakeng had maybe in turn thought that her son was in love with the girl who is schooling at Artesia Junior Secondary.
“The girl is underage and my son was only trying to protect her, especially that he knew Lebakeng had a case for defiling her. Right now I am happy Lebakeng is in jail,” she said.The mother of three from Mmadinare told The Monitor that she had settled in Kgatleng area after she got married and that it has since been her home.
“Now I don’t know if I will go back to my home village after this because rebuilding the structures is going to be hard,” she said.
She appealed to members of the public for any assistance saying that she has been struggling since her houses burnt down. She added that the social workers have not been helping that much apart from providing them with a tent.“We were unable to save anything from the three houses.
We were only left with the clothes we had on, and we have been living on donations from good samaritans. We cannot keep on living in a tent because it is not even in a good state and that it gets really cold at night,” she said.Rakgati, along with the residents of Dikgonnye, have for a very long time been living in a very small, quite and uneventful settlement. They are yet to come to terms with what happened in their sleepy area.