MARLENE Williams (55) has been running a self-funded orphanage in Vereeniging, in the Vaal, for 15 years. One of the people she cares for at the orphanage is Tebogo Modise (20)*, who has experienced the worst kind of trauma imaginable, which left him disabled.
THE LIFE-CHANGING INCIDENT
Tebogo was raped sereval times by his mother from when he was nine years old. At the time, his young mind thought that this was normal and by the time he realised that it was wrong and tried to stop his mother, she hit him with a hammer, which left him brain dead. Being a victim of rape herself, Marlene knows exactly how it feels to be in Tebogo’s shoes. She says it took Tebogo a while to start trusting her as a result of how he was treated by his mother. She had to take things very slow with Tebogo when she took him in to live with her.
Marlene says she first heard of Tebogo’s case when his neighbours told her about his situation. “One of his mother’s friends told me what has been happening at that house, but I wasn’t really sure about it as the friend is the mother’s drinking buddy. I went to the place where the boy stayed with his mother and I could see that there was something wrong with boy. So I took him home with me and this when I started believing the mother’s friend,” says Marlene.
“The mother reported me to the police, so I had to return him to his mother. I had no proof that she was using him as a sex toy. When I told the police about the stories I heard, the mother made it seem like I was making them up. But judging from the boy’s reaction when I had to bring him back, the police should have seen that something was wrong.”
A LITTLE TOO LATE
According to Marlene, by the time the police believed her story about the mother sexually abusing her child, it was a bit too late. The mother had scarred Tebogo for life and nearly ended the poor child’s life.
“I got a call from the neighbours five weeks after I returned him to his mother to come and see how badly the child was beaten by the mother. I went there accompanied by the police and when we got there, we found Tebogo lying unconscious on the floor. We took him to the hospital where he was admitted. He stayed there for more than 10 months before coming to live with me at the orphanage,” says Marlene.
“Apparently the mother wanted to sleep with him again and he refused, which angered her. She then took a hammer and hit him on the head so hard that it left him brain dead. If the police believed me the first time I brought the child’s case to their attention, they could’ve prevented this,” she adds.
She adds that Tebogo’s mother was shortly arrested after the incident and sentenced to 15 years in prison for child rape, but she passed away in jail due to natural causes five years into her sentence.
ADJUSTING TO LIFE
Marlene says she has been living with Tebogo for almost 10 years.
“Ever since he returned from hospital, he hasn’t said a single word or moved on his own. The only thing he can do is sit and sleep. It’s an everyday struggle for me to take care of him due to a lack of funds because he has special needs that I sometimes cannot afford such as his nappies,” she says.
“As he’s getting older, it’s becoming quite difficult to give him a proper bath. Sometimes I have to force feed him because he just refuses to eat anything,” says Marlene. She thinks her love for Tebogo is the only thing that keeps him going. “Even though he doesn’t talk or move, I can see it in his eyes that he appreciates all my efforts to keep him happy and healthy. This fulfils me beyond anything in this world. It brings me great joy to help these children,” says Marlene.
“Times are really tough for us but we still continue with our work. Our faith in God has got us this far, so we believe that He will one day provide us with everything we need. We have made it this far without government funding. God has been our provider,” she says. * Not his real name