For most black women losing a husband in death is a very painful experience and it is more than just a loss, usually it extends for many years after the unfortunate experience, if not a lifetime.
What makes it all that complicated is how the widow may end up getting ill-treated by their husbands' families, from being accused of causing the death, to having children or property taken away. In certain and extreme cases some widows have even been sent away from the homes they would have worked so hard with their husbands to build.
This has been the case for Lerato Sengadi who several months after her husband's death, is still struggling to be recognised as the late Jabulani 'HHP’ Tsambo’s wife.
Lerato recently told Daily Sun that it was disheartening that many black widows were ill-treated by their husbands’ families making any effort by the widow to pick up the pieces of and carry on with life a tall mountain to climb.
The family of HHP declined to recognise Lerato as their relative's wife just after his death in October 2018. They tried to strip her of the rights as a customary wife, she then took the matter to South Gauteng High Court which ruled in her favour.
However, the court judgement was short lived reprieve, as HHP’s family challenged it by making an application against her in March 2019 and the court is yet to pass its verdict in judgment which is expected soon.
“I’m no longer fighting this battle for myself but for all the widows out there. For years, black widows have been treated in the most awful and inhumane way,” she said.
“Ask anyone, they will tell you of a black widow who’s gone through this. That’s why I feel this conversation is important. We must say enough is enough,” she added.
She is determined to fight the battle to its bitter end so as to set a good precedence for other women who are faced by the same predicament. Lerato emphasized the importance of having husbands writing wills to protect their wives and children.
She added that even though wills have their own limitations, it is just good having them while working on the ultimate goal of educating families to co-exist with their late sons' widows.
“But that still won’t ensure their wives will not be mistreated. It’s beyond their control. I think we just need to talk about this until families learn a widow needs their protection,” she said.
Lerato misses her husband so much who was more of a friend to her, talking of HHP, she said: “I miss all the small things he used to do for me. He’d massage my feet. He brought me joy when I was down.”
The matter surrounding HHP's death is so painful, as he did not succumb to a natural end of life, he allegedly took his own life two years ago after suffering from depression.
His death marked the beginning of a serious battle which would spill into the courts of law, with both parties hoping that the judgement would come in their favour.
Tsambo family spokesperson, Nkululeko Ncana, is very confident the court will deliver a fair and impartial judgment.
He added that the Tsambo family was operating within the confines of the law and refuted the claims that the in-laws were abusing Lerato, but all they wanted was for her to respect their late son.
“If Lerato feels abused, she should sue those abusing her,” he said.
At one time the Supreme Court of Appeal (SCA) heard arguments on whether a valid customary marriage between the late Hip-Hop star and his customary wife Sengadi was concluded.
After HHP committed suicide, Sengadi interdicted the funeral, saying she had a right to bury her husband while the family argued they did not recognise her as his wife.
Presiding over the case, Judge Ratha Mokgoatlheng ruled that Sengadi had the right to interdict the funeral. But he said considering that the funeral arrangements had already been made, the funeral must go ahead in the spirit of Ubuntu.
Speaking for the first time since the passing of HHP, Sengadi told Eusebius McKaiser that the legal battles have been spiritual, emotionally and psychically draining.
“When I married my husband, essentially he had a say in how he wanted to be buried. I was supposed to at least be consulted on what the process was instead his corpse was stolen and buried without me seeing him. How do I deal with that and recover from that?. I don’t have closure,” said Sengadi.
Sengadi said she was the protector in the relationship while HHP was the sensitive one.
She added that at the time of his passing, they were not staying together, but still in the relationship. “I was the one wielding the sword and that is why we both balanced. I begged him to seek help and I said to him the only way I was coming back to our home was if he sought help because we were all spiralling out of control, said Sengadi.
After HHP’s funeral Ncana, tweeted that Lerato had kicked HHP’s son out of the house.
Sengadi said this is not the truth. “That is categorically a lie, I would never even think of doing that. That is a lie. What that family did is take pictures when my helper said she was moving out of the house. In the process of moving this guy took pictures and said I kicked Leano out. I am disgusted by that.”
“One of the reasons I am going through this is so that I can take care of Leano the same way his father and I planned to. I have not been allowed to contact Leano, I saw him only once since his father died. I was categorically staying away from him,” said Sengadi.
Sengadi said in this she is fighting for the truth.