Elizabeth Sebolai has lost two daughters in three years, her home has been damaged by lightning, and her savings have been depleted by her sons legal fees. Pictures: Paballo Thekiso


Johannesburg - It’s not raining, it’s pouring in the Sebolai household. Elizabeth Sebolai is the mother of convicted murderer and former Jozi FM DJ Donald Sebolai.

On Wednesday, she will hear, with the rest of the country, how long her son is to spend behind bars for killing his girlfriend, Dolly Tshabalala, in June last year.

Sitting in her Molapo, Soweto home, Elizabeth says it has been a difficult few years for her family.

Donald used to present the weekday Mid-Morning Chat Show on the Dube, Soweto, community radio station. His show focused on women’s issues.

Now he stands to get a life sentence for murder, although Elizabeth hopes that as he is a first time offender, his prison term will be no more than five years.

“It is painful, whatever sentence is passed. It will kill me. It hurts that he is going to prison for the first time having faced such a serious charge,” his mother says.

But it’s not just the tragedy of Donald’s impending jail time that makes tears well up in Elizabeth’s eyes.

In 2013 she lost a daughter, Patricia, after a short illness.

Then in June this year, another daughter, Onica, died a few days after giving birth to her third child, one of Elizabeth’s seven grandchildren.

In between the losses, her house was struck by lightning, destroying appliances and causing a fire in her garage.

A third daughter, Kelebogile, is living with Elizabeth.

“I don’t know why me. I don’t know what I’ve done to deserve all this,” Elizabeth says, wiping away her tears.

“I’m glad you can see I am hurting.

“Some people have been supportive, while others talk behind my back, thinking I’m supporting my son’s action. Honestly, the incident didn’t sit well with me. Even the Bible says don’t kill.”

But Donald is her son and she remembers the things he used to do for her. She says he was a good child and didn’t give her any problems.

“He enjoyed cooking. One Sunday afternoon, I found him and (gospel star) Lundi, wearing aprons and cooking, in my house. They were cooking fish… It was funny, but those were the happy times we shared.

“When he was out on bail and wasn’t working at the radio station, he helped a lot with household chores and by babysitting his nephews and nieces while I went to church on Sunday mornings. By the time I’d be back home, Donald would have cooked a meal for all of us.”

But memories don’t help. Grief has taken its toll on the 58-year-old.

Elizabeth was diagnosed with stress and depression. She was booked off work for nearly four months.

She was admitted to hospital when Donald disappeared for nine days after his girlfriend died.

She remained in hospital after he had been arrested and wasn’t well enough to attend his first bail hearing in July last year at the Protea Magistrate’s Court. Her son was denied bail.

She remembers the chilly Sunday night she received the news that Donald had killed his girlfriend and was on the run.

“The police came knocking on my door. They searched the house.

“I was frightened. I couldn’t believe it because of the person Donald is.”

When Elizabeth last saw Donald about a week ago, he was crying and emotional. This broke her heart, she says.

She is to retire in two years, after more than 30 years as a general nursing assistant. She says all her life savings have gone towards Donald’s legal fees.

“I spent a lot of money. But I’m not complaining, I had to help my son.

“I spent more than R200 000 in legal fees. There is still an outstanding balance that needs to be paid.

“I had plans for that money.

“The plan was to erect tombstones and buy myself a car. What’s left in my account is to provide for my grandchildren.”

Four of her grandchildren live with Elizabeth.

She says the family will continue to support Donald.

“The first time we visited him was difficult because I had no idea what prison looked like. But we will continue to visit him while he serves his sentence.”

Elizabeth vows to continue praying for her family - and for Tshabalala’s too. She says her biggest wish is to be able to turn back the clock, to undo all these tragedies.

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Saturday Star