Dikeledi is a youth novella written by MNET Literary Award winner Sabata-Mpho Mokae, edited by William Mashike. It was published in 2014 by Geko Publishing in the City of Johannesburg. The short story is written in the native language Setswana, the title Dikeledi can be translated as tears.
The story takes place in Kimberley, Galeshewe and begins with a teenage girl (Dikeledi Molatlhegi) burying her mother (Tiego Molatlhegi), who met her death at the hands of the disease that still plagues many communities; Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS). On her death bed, she asked her daughter to take care of her siblings. After the funeral the young girl’s relatives disappear, leaving her to take care of her two younger brothers Oratile and Modisa on her own. She is forced to drop out of school to take care of the them.
The young girl’s life becomes an everyday battle when she is faced with the possible suspension of her brothers from school due to unpaid fees, possible furniture repossession and a drunkard uncle who comes back into their lives after being jailed on suspicion of drug utilisation. He also posed a threat to the children as he was abusive. After an incident where he beats the young girl up, and the intervention of a neighbour Mme Selepe, the children were able to get a protection order against him. Mme Selepe plays a pivotal role in the children’s lives. She becomes like their mother and is always there to support, help and give guidance. Dikeledi knew she could always go to Mme Selepe and her husband should they be in need of anything. A local shop owner offers Dikeledi a job at the shop to allow her to make ends meet.
The author describes Dikeledi as a very beautiful strong young girl who is well mannered and who loves church. The priest (Moruti Tau) who is referred to as Rre Moruti in the story, plays a loving and supportive role to the orphaned kids. The young girl’s world soon becomes a further nightmare when she is raped by the very person she trusted the most, Rre Moruti. Dikeledi is disturbed by the ordeal but soon confides in her neighbour Mmme Selepe. The woman takes Dikeledi to the police station to open a case, Rre moruti is charged with rape, pleads guilty and gets sentenced to prison.
The story ends with Dikeledi and her siblings being taken to a foster care institution where her brothers are taken care of and she soon goes back to school.
The writer illustrates the harsh realities of child-headed households. Many children have lost their parents to the HIV/AIDS pandemic. Dikeledi novella is realistic story that demonstrates how perpetrators can gradually groom children to trust them before eventually taking advantage. This is also a story about Ubuntu and Unity. Many people in the community are seen to be caring and supportive towards Dikeledi and her brother’s situation. This a profound coming of age narration that every teenager should read.