She once felt so unsafe she used to sleep with a knife under her pillow every night – but since calling it quits on her abusive 10- year marriage she’s found a new lease of life and an untapped well of confidence to draw from.
Reshoketswe “Shoki” Sebotsane is living life on her terms and well on the road to healing and learning to love herself, she says. And she’s finding an unending source of joy in her two young children.
DRUM is catching up with the petite actress exactly a year after she first opened up about the shocking abuse she allegedly endured at the hands of her husband, actor Sello Sebotsane.
The woman here today is worlds away from the distraught actress who was traumatised about walking out of her marriage and worried about how her daughters, now aged 10 and nine, were going to adjust. But things are going so much better now, she says. Seeing her kids happy and unafraid makes her a better mother, Shoki adds.
“I have always been a hands-on mother, I read to my kids, we play and if they want me to roll on the floor and act like a dead cat I will. Nothing has changed since Sello left us except that we’re safe and don’t live in fear anymore.”
It feels good not to be afraid, she shares. “My girls are now safe and they attend The Teddy Bear Clinic, a foundation that helps kids who have either been abused or seen abuse. I got out of my marriage when I realised my children’s lives were on the line.”
The Skeem Saam star left her husband in 2016 and the pair – once the golden couple of Mzansi entertainment – is in the process of getting a divorce. “I have gained inner strength and my feet are firmly on the ground,” Shoki says. “I know what I like and what I don’t like and I laugh more and my kids and I speak about everything.
“I want them to grow up loving themselves and never to doubt their strength.” Making the decision to leave her marriage wasn’t easy. She and Sello were a couple who seemed to have it all – fame, looks, success and a fairytale romance.
But it was all a lie, she told us in her no-holds-barred interview last year. Shoki (40) finally decided to put her life and her children first and had Sello escorted out of their home by police in June 2016.
“My neighbours were all there on the day he left. He’d beaten me up so badly I realised if I continued living this way I would die,” she says. “I sent a message to our neighbourhood WhatsApp group asking them to call the police.”
Her neighbours knew about the abuse as they would often hear her crying so when she sent the message they knew what was happening. “They would hear me scream and hear the beatings and knew my children were being shoved around.”
She hasn’t regretted her decision to leave her husband and no longer gets upset when she sees Sello on TV. “I stayed too long in the relationship,” she says.
Shoki hasn’t seen much of Sello since he was escorted out of the house and only catches glimpses of him during court appearances – she opened a case of assault against him in 2016 which is still ongoing.
“When I go to court I put my heart on ice and refuse to break down,” she says. The abuse has made her realise her inner strength, she adds. “I don’t know how I managed to put myself on hold and focus on work because at home I was going through turmoil.”
Yet she always showed up at work despite the abuse except for the one time she was so badly beaten in the early hours of the morning she woke up with a swollen face and couldn’t go on set. Sello, who currently plays the role of Ace (a ruthless father of two who brings trouble for the family) on eExtra drama series Broken Vows, told DRUM last year he wasn’t interested in talking about his personal business and has still steadfastly refused to comment on the abuse claims.
“There is a case I’m dealing with,” he says. “This matter is deep and there are other things going on. I also have kids to think about and I just want to stay away from discussing this.” Despite everything that’s happened Shoki would hate to see the father of her children go to jail – although she does believe he needs to be punished in some way.
“If the court wants him to go to prison, then that will be their decision.” S HE isn’t ready to start dating yet but when she is she knows exactly the kind of man she’ll look for. “I want a loving, caring man who listens to me and who will be able to hear my stories. I want someone who will encourage my potential and not be intimidated by my achievements in life – a man who won’t feel threatened by me.”
A lot of women approached her after she shared her story, she says, and asked her to assist with their marriages. “There are women who want to come out and say their husbands abuse them but they are scared.” She gives advice where she can and tells women where they can go for help. Celebrities who are abused are often afraid of being judged so they keep quiet, often to their detriment, and Shoki hopes by speaking out she’s set a good example. “I don’t want this to ruin my 25 years of hard work as an actress and be known as just a victim of abuse but I do want to help other women. “I mourned my relationship, I cried and I turned my broken ankle into a dance and didn’t allow it to come in the way of being a great actress.” Being an actress is another escape for the spunky mom.
On SABC1’s Skeem Saam Shoki plays Celia “MaKunutu” Kunutu, a poor township mother who is strong and outspoken. She can relate to her, she says. “MaKunutu is brave, her character has grown so much. Like me, she’s taken a 360 turn and she’s tired of living in poverty and wants to make ends meet.”
Shoki loves her character because like her she’s well-rooted and wants a better life for her children. “She surprises me every time,” she says. She feels MaKunutu represents the women of her life, which is why the role comes naturally to her.
“MaKunutu is a survivor like my grandmother who had eight children and managed to clothe and feed them all with her R100 salary as a domestic worker.” Like MaKunutu, Shoki is ready for new adventures and can’t wait to see what her 40s has in store. She’s been through the worst, she says, and nothing can get her down anymore.