Home News Girl commits suicide after apparent bullying

Girl commits suicide after apparent bullying

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A city family is in mourning after their 16-year-old daughter took her own life, apparently after years of bullying from her peers and members of the community.

Boitumelo Letebele. Picture: Supplied

A CLUB 2000 family in Kimberley is in mourning after their 16-year-old daughter took her own life, apparently after years of bullying from her peers and members of the community.

Boitumelo Letebele died on Monday night after she hung herself with a headscarf inside her room.

According to her mother, Miriam Letebele, her daughter was constantly bullied because of the colour of her skin . . . to such an extend that the teenager shredded all her photographs.

“Boitumelo was a very quiet and reserved child. She was light-skinned and people always used to pick on her for that. Some even accused her of bleaching her skin. My child suffered this abuse from several people in the community. We also suffered ill-treatment from community members.

“I had the responsibility of having to walk Boitumelo and her brother to school, then we had to go and fetch them from school every day. This process was very exhausting because even when walking down the street, there would be someone who would make a remark towards Boitumelo,” she said.

She added that her daughter never retaliated.

“Boitumelo would just shrug it off as if it was nothing and acted tough. There were times that we, as a family, would get angry and would stand up for her. We really did, and still do not understand why people, including adults, would do that.”

She said they tried to get the authorities involved.

“There was one incident where I was walking with Boitumelo and her brother from school where a group of people grabbed her backpack and threw it into a drain hole. We went and obtained an interdict against them. We went to court and the court referred Boitumelo for counselling with a social worker. At that stage she was very depressed.

“We took her to a social worker who had an office in the park near our house. At times we went to the police to open cases against the people who were targeting my child, but the police would just send us back home.

“I feel that because we, Boitumelo in particular, did not have any physical injuries to show, the matter was not regarded as serious. In this country, one should first be close to dying or even die before you get the necessary assistance.”

Letebele said that on the day of her daughter’s suicide she again stated that she did not understand why people hated her.

“Boitumelo went to school on that day. I was supposed to escort her and her brother to school, like normal. Before they left for school, Boitumelo asked me if I was going to walk with them, however, I was so tired and could not even get up that morning. She and her brother walked to school without me.

“After school, she returned and sat outside the house for a while before coming into the house. She sat in the living room and watched a movie. I came to sit with her.

“She talked a lot that day and asked me what was the use of her going to counselling if the people would just continue to pick on her. She said that she was the problem because she was the one who had to attend counselling sessions in order to ‘change herself’. She was just carrying on and on. I got up and just sighed because the conversation had almost become a norm in the house.

“Boitumelo then got angry and went to her room and closed the door. I tried to talk to her but she had blocked the door by sitting against it with her back. I could see that she had put a blanket on the ground and was sitting on the blanket against the door. She refused to open the door and I left her.”

She said she then went outside to go and sit by the fire with her family members.

“I asked Boitumelo’s friend, Nomvula, whether she had been out of the room. The friend said that Boitumelo was out of the room and had eaten her supper.”

Boitumelo’s mother at one stage had to fetch a bucket, which was in her daughter’s room. That is when she found her body.

Letebele said she found her daughter hanging from the roof when she entered the room.

“She had a headscarf around her neck. I screamed for her brother and their father. I ran to her and lifted her. We placed her on the floor.”

She said her daughter was still alive when they placed her on the floor.

“Boitumelo opened her eyes when I called her name. She was not able to talk. Her sister called the ambulance and the neighbours next door pressed their panic button in order to get help. At that stage it was between 9.30 and 10pm. The ambulance however only arrived after 1am. The police and the forensic pathologist arrived hours before the ambulance,” she wept.

Letebele wept uncontrollably and mumbled that her daughter might have still been alive if the matter received urgent attention.

“My child died due to the bad treatment she received every day. My child could not even play outside the yard or walk down the street. She was confined to the four walls of this house because we were too afraid to let her out.”

The parents of the deceased indicated that they are in the process of seeking assistance for the burial of their daughter as they are both unemployed.

Police spokesperson Timothy Sam said an inquest has been opened.

“The Kagisho police are investigating following the discovery of the body a 16-year-old girl in Monsthabeng Street in Club 2000 on July 25. No foul play is suspected and police investigations are continuing. An autopsy will determine the cause of death,” said Sam.

The Northern Cape Department of Health conveyed its deepest condolences to the bereaved family.

“It is always a very sad and traumatic experience if someone takes such steps, whether young or old. We further appeal to anyone with challenges to access psychological services available at our health facilities as well as other government departments like Social Development and non-governmental organisations rendering such services,” the department stated.

“The department will arrange counselling services for the family.

“We are not aware of the alleged delay, we are investigating the incident.”

Abraham and Miriam Letebele are devastated after their daughter committed suicide. Picture: Soraya Crowie
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