'He did not tell me where he was going when he left'

FELISTA Samuel Malate met Ananias Mathe, the love of her life, in 1995. She never dreamt that their meeting marked the beginning of an extraordinary love affair, but also the beginning of a horrendous ordeal.

Mathe, her husband, has been convicted of heinous crimes and will spend the rest of his life in jail.

Dressed in bright Brazilian colours, Malate, 30, sits on a grass mat, sifting beans in a small pot between her legs. She avoids direct eye contact unless she is emphasising a point.

The loyal wife last saw her husband four years ago when he left poverty-stricken Chicumbane, near Xai-Xai in Mozambique, for the greener pastures of South Africa. She was four months pregnant with Mathe's youngest son, Doctor Ananias Mathe.

Malate has not heard from Mathe since, has not received a parcel of food or even a few rands, even as he staged his crime wave across the border.

She has three other children with Mathe: Thembi, 12, Adame, 10, and Collen, 8.

Malate now takes care of her own four children as well as his dead brother's four kids, barely scraping an existence from the surrounding bush.

"I was living in Maputo and he was in Chicumbane. I met him in Maputo and I fell in love with him," she said. "He was a nice guy."

She could not say what he did for a living, even back then.

"When he left me, he did not tell me where he was going. He used to come back occasionally, but brought nothing for the children."

Mathe's other two wives have left the homestead because they could no longer endure the privations of the grinding poverty.