The terrible crime of a quiet woman
A winding dirt roads leads to the cemetery on the outskirts of Lower Maljeakoro village in Pampierstad.
Here, two heart-shaped tombstones linked by a smaller square one stand in the children’s section.
This is the final resting place of Sizwe (13), Lukhanyo (10), Edward (5), Naledi (4) and Reatlegile (2) Siwa, who died on October 18 last year.
This week their mother, 35-year-old Vinolia Siwa pleaded guilty in the Northern Cape’s Vryburg circuit court to murdering her children.
She will be sentenced in November.
At the home where their bodies were found on that terrible day last year, the children’s maternal grandmother is still battling to come to terms with her loss.
“Vinolia is my baby. I don’t know what happened and why she did this thing,” Rebecca Siwa (75) wept.
Vinolia and her children lived with her common-law-husband, Itumaleng Lesimola, elsewhere in Pampierstad.
But on the day of the murders, while her mother was in Rustenburg, Vinolia chose her family home to carry out her dreadful deed.
Lesimola was the father of three of the children, and of a fourth – who was born five months ago to Vinolia in prison.
Vinolia’s older sister is caring for the infant. Rebecca said she did not know much about her daughter’s life.
“This child did not talk much. She was an obedient child,” she said, wiping tears from her eyes.
In a statement read in court this week, Siwa told of how she stabbed four of her children to death and drowned little Reatlegile.
Siwa said in her statement she suffered from severe depression and was unemployed.
Her eldest, Sizwe, was disabled and needed constant care.
She also accused Lesimola of beating the children with a whip, which he has denied.
In her statement, Siwa said if she could have received help earlier, things could have been different.
Northern Cape Social Development MEC Alwyn Botes told City Press that social workers had started working with the Siwa family two weeks before the murder.
Botes said Lesimola had approached social services after Siwa left the children in his care while she went to visit family elsewhere.
A social worker met Siwa on her return, but did not see any signs of what was about to happen, Botes said.
“If the social worker had more time she (Vinolia) would have been part of a process, a proper profile would have been done and the family would have been assisted,” said Botes.
His department would learn from this experience, the MEC said.
For those left behind, there are no answers.
“There must have been other things involved. I don’t know what happened or what came over her heart,” said Rebecca Siwa.
Holding her hand over her heart, the elderly woman said: “It is broken. I do not want to picture this thing and I do not want to think about it.
“I think there is something wrong with Vinolia’s mind. There must be a thing in her head – something she needs to deal with.”
Lesimola, meanwhile, says he is deeply hurt by the allegations against him in court and by his children’s deaths.
The three youngest children were his, and he is also the father of the five-month-old baby.
“I miss the things I used to do with the children, like picking them up from school. I tried to put this thing down, but it is hard,” he said.
Just after midnight on the day of the murders, the police knocked on his door. He had earlier approached them to say he couldn’t track down his wife and children.
The officers said they had found his children.
“When we arrived at the house again there were lots of police officers. One asked if I want to see my kids and took me inside,” said Lesimola.
When he entered the bedroom, it looked as though the children were sleeping. Then he saw the blood.
“What is going on? Are they dead or alive?” he asked.
A police officer responded simply: “It is like that.”
Lesimola said he could not believe that the quiet, humble woman he fell in love with was responsible for the death of his children.