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Mother, daughter reunited after bruising custody battle

Nat Molomo

MASERU — Together at last!

That’s what happened at the High Court last week in a case in which a Maseru woman was seeking full custody to a love child she had had with a Masianokeng man.

The High Court ruled that although Bofihla Leboela-Matjelo, the mother, had agreed to give the child Nkareng Mapetla’s surname this did not mean that she had surrendered her custody rights.

The court also found that because the child was born out of wedlock the mother had the right to full custody.

The ruling brought an end a dispute that had dragged on for the past year between Leboela-Matjelo and Mapetla over a child that they had after an illicit affair.

It also reunited Leboela-Matjelo and her daughter after a year-long battle.

Leboela-Matjelo told the court that after separating with her husband Thabo Matjelo in 1995 she had an affair with Mapetla in 1999.

She told the court that she knew that Mapetla was married to ’Mantsoabatsane Mapetla, who she cited as second respondent in her court papers.

She fell pregnant in 2001 and gave birth to a baby girl in January 2002.

She said because she was “madly in love with Mapetla” she agreed to his suggestion that they give the child his family’s name.

Later Mapetla suggested that they should send the child to his sister in Swaziland because he “did not want his wife to know about our affair and the birth of our child”.

“The reason I agreed was because first respondent (Mapetla) had told me that he did not want his wife to know about our affair and the birth of our child,” she said.

Leboela-Matjelo said she
used to visit her child periodically in Swaziland until she encountered problems with Mapetla’s sister who wanted to adopt her child.

“Because I refused to allow her to adopt my child in 2010 it became difficult for me to see my child when I had visited Swaziland as Mapetla’s sister would hide her away from me,” Leboela-Matjelo said.

In October last year Leboela-Matjelo said she sought assistance from the police protection units of both Lesotho and Swaziland after she failed to leave Swaziland with her daughter.

Leboela-Matjelo told the High Court that even though she consented to her child using Mapetla’s surname “we are however, not married to each other with the result that Nkareng Mapetla as the natural child’s father born out of wedlock is not in law regarded as the . . . child’s relative and consequently cannot claim as of right to have custody and control of such a child by force,” she submitted.

She told the court that Mapetla and his wife ’Mantsoabane who is the second respondent have no children of their own. 

“As a result of that it is unfair and prejudicial to me for second respondent to behave as if my own daughter is hers,” Leboela-Matjelo said.

Leboela-Matjelo told the court she was traumatised to learn that after her daughter was brought to Lesotho she was taken to Mazenod Centre, a home for abandoned children.

Later she also learnt that the girl was sick and was not attending school.

Leboela-Matjelo said on February 22 this year the police’s Child Protection Unit authorised the children’s centre to release the girl into the custody of the Mapetla family.

High Court judge Justice Nthomeng Majara on Friday ruled in her favour.

The judge ruled that the child should also be immediately released to Leboela-Matjelo.

Advocate Lerato Makholela appeared for the applicant.

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