'i want my house back'

IS there recourse for a victim when a chief overrules a traditional court ruling? asks a disillusioned QwaQwa, Free State, woman.

Before Marriam Mathebe could move into a house she bought three years ago for R6000, a stranger, Lefatle Mofokeng, invaded the property and settled there with his family.

He convinced Mathebe's family that he had struck a deal with her to buy the house for R4000. He left a R3500 deposit with the area's chief, Leabua Mopeli.

"How could I sell a house for less than I got it for. I never even lived in that house because I had a job in Johannesburg," Mathebe said.

But Mopeli, who had certified the house under Mathebe's name, ignored her pleas for help. She decided to go to the Matsieng traditional court, where 14 headmen and the area's head adjudicator, Ishmael Mpotla, ruled that the land and house rightfully belonged toMathebe.

But Mopeli dismissed the ruling and stopped the police from carrying out eviction orders. He told Sowetan that Mathebe was a "nuisance trouble-maker and that she should just take the money and keep quiet".

Mopeli said he had returned the money for the house to Mofokeng and was no longer involved in the matter. But Mofokeng told Sowetan that the chief had more than R4000 of his money.

"So, has the chief got the money or is the man living in the house for free?" Mathebe asked.

Headmen Solomon Motleleng, Tshepo Lesia and Mpotla said the chief admitted he had accepted money from Mofokeng. They also said Mofokeng admitted he had moved into the house "by mistake".

"We are not happy at all. Leabua is corrupt. He has disregarded the law and disgraced himself," said the headmen.