Exclusive: Marietjie Vosloo on Mundolene and jail
Marietjie Vosloo tells YOU’s Jana van der Merwe about slapping Mundolene, surviving jail and losing her husband’s love
SHE was so looking forward to getting back to the comforts of home, seeing her husband and holding her 13-year-old son in her arms again. But soon after she’d set foot back on home soil her husband, Mike, who’d supported her throughout her ordeal, told her it was all over between them.
Marietjie Vosloo has accepted it, hard though it is.
“I still love Mike,” she says. “Love isn’t something you can just turn off. He was my true, first love and the father of my child. We’ve been through a lot.”
But she knows what happened will always stand between them like an insurmountable brick wall. She’s grateful Mike (47) waited until she was freed from prison before telling her he wanted out – she doesn’t think she could have handled the added heartache while she was behind bars.
Marietjie (34) spent 18 months in a Mauritian jail after the death of her teenage stepdaughter, Mundolene (17), on a family holiday.
Authorities initially wanted her to be tried for murder but after the autopsy re- port the charge was reduced to assault.
A court in the Mauritian capital, Port Louis, sentenced her to 15 months in prison – but as she’d already been behind bars for 18 months she was allowed to return to South Africa.
Marietjie had a bleak homecoming: only a handful of journalists were waiting for her at OR Tambo International Airport in Johannesburg.
Mike was at their home in Margate, KwaZuluNatal, with their son, Morné*, and Mundolene’s younger brother, Willie* (16). Marietjie’s brothers, Jan (43) and Bertie Jacobs (37), were meant to pick her up but there had been a misunderstanding and they thought she was on a later flight.
Puffy-eyed, her hair in a severe ponytail, Marietjie gathered her two suitcases and settled down to wait for her brothers. She had no cellphone and no South African currency. But when we meet, a day later, she seems much recovered after a good night’s rest in a comfortable bed instead of on a thin mattress on a cement prison floor.
She’s staying with Jan at his home in Springs on the East Rand – he’s prepared a room for her with a TV and moved his five-month-old Great Dane puppy’s bed in there too. Max will help her feel safe, he told her.
It’s still hard to believe she has her freedom, Marietjie says. “It was worse than a nightmare – it felt like I was trapped in a dark tunnel without any light at the end. I don’t wish it on anyone.”
Her lawyer, advocate Zaredhin Jaunbaccus, fought hard to prove his client didn’t deliberately kill Mundolene and the court agreed.
“My trial was quite speedy – there were women with me in jail in [the town of]
Beau Bassin whose cases have been dragging on for five years. Some didn’t even have a lawyer yet after three years behind bars.”
Although Marietjie will forever regret what happened that day, she stresses what she’s said all along: she never meant to hurt Mundolene.
“I’m not a cruel person – the slap occurred in a moment of hurt and anger.
“But I could immediately see Mundolene wasn’t herself. She didn’t lash out at me as usual. She just turned around, put her sunglasses in her handbag and walked away.”
Marietjie, who’s 1,52m tall and weighed 51kg at the time, says she didn’t even think she’d hit Mundolene, who was 1,72m, that hard.
It was once with the back of her hand on the teen’s chin and not with her fist as was reported.
That’s why it was such a shock when they came to her hotel room to tell her Mundolene had died. “I couldn’t believe it. Only when I couldn’t find a pulse did I realise it was true. She really was dead.”
MARIETJIE was working as a pharmacist’s assistant when she met Mike in 2004. She was 21, he was 12 years her senior, divorced with two small children – Mundolene was four and Willie still a baby.
They’d been dating for just three months when she fell pregnant with Morné. Mike supported her throughout the pregnancy and they married in 2008.
Having an instant family was an easy adjustment, she says, and Mike was an involved dad.
“I’ve always loved children. Family has always been very important to me. I would help bathe Mundolene, colour in with her and comb her hair.”
She laughs when she says the marriage was “moonlight and roses” in the early days. But over the years they started fighting about the children more and more.
“I believe kids should be taught manners. I was strict with our son and when Mundolene and her brother would visit over weekends the same rules would apply to them.”
She never hit the kids, she says. “They just knew the naughty corner.”
Marietjie says Mundolene had always been difficult and hadn’t made peace with her parents’ divorce.
In 2010 Mike started working in the mining industry abroad so he could better provide for her and the children.
Marietjie and Morné went to live in Margate and Mike would come home during school holidays when Mundolene and Willie would also come to stay.
Marietjie felt she was always competing for her husband’s time and attention. “There was never enough time just to sit and chat. The children always came first.”
Then suddenly in the middle of 2013 Mundolene (then 12) moved in with Marietjie after she’d apparently fallen out with her mom.
Things went well at first but then she and Mundolene starting having disagreements, especially about household chores and keeping her room clean. “She was extremely untidy,” she says. Mundolene also played Marietjie and Mike off against each other to get what she wanted.
“I’d often hear, ‘ You’re not my mom; you can’t tell me what to do.’ And I’d tell her, ‘In my home you’ll do what I say. If you’re not willing to stick to the rules you’re welcome to move back in with your mother’.”
Mundolene’s schoolwork also started
(From previous page) to suffer and the following year Marietjie, at her wits’ end, moved in with Jan in Springs. “I just couldn’t cope any longer.”
Two-and-a-half months later Mike decided Mundolene should go back to live with her mom and Marietjie moved back into the family home.
“I think Mundolene blamed me for that,” Marietjie says. “Whenever she came to stay during the school holidays she’d be horrible to me. We were constantly at each other’s throats.”
Mundolene started smoking. “She was rebellious but I did my best,” Marietjie says tearfully. “I did love her.”
THE Mauritius trip in October 2016 had been Marietjie’s idea – but only for her, Mike and Morné. “I was longing for just one holiday together as a family. Quality time. Mike isn’t really a beach person but I’d wanted to enjoy the sunsets with him, go out to dinner, watch shows at the resort. Just be together.”
But a week before they were due to leave Mike told her Mundolene and Willie would be coming too.
“I felt like a popped balloon. All the air went out of me.”
Marietjie didn’t enjoy the flight. She and Mundolene bickered and things with Mike were also strained. When they arrived at Hotel Riu Creole on the island, Mike chose to share a room with his two older kids, while Marietjie and Morné shared the other room.
The next morning, 5 October, they all went down to breakfast except Mundolene, who didn’t want to go.
Later the teenager joined her father and brothers in the pool. When it was time to go back to the room Marietjie asked Mundolene to fetch towels for the boys.
She says Mundolene snapped at her, “You’re my nanny. My dad pays you – do it yourself!”
That was when Marietjie, who’d been having a mocktail, lost her temper.
“I wanted to chuck the lemon and ice in her face but the glass slipped from my hand and landed next to Mundolene.”
Marietjie told her to share her towel with her brothers and went up to her room with Morné, where she took a tranquilliser.
She’d wanted to have a lie-down but Mike stormed in. They had a huge row because she’d “made such a scene in public”.
Marietjie rushed from the room and came across Mundolene in the passage.
“I took her by the arm and told her to go and get her brother and come to the room. I wanted all of us to calm down and start showering.”
“Let go of my f**king arm,” Mundolene apparently yelled at her.
And that’s the moment Marietjie lost it. She backhanded Mundolene across the chin.
“I immediately thought, ‘What the hell have I just done?’ I couldn’t believe it. It was the first time in my life I’d done anything like it. I’d never hit any of the children.”
She turned around to see if Mundolene was okay and saw her walking away, tucking her sunglasses in her handbag.
Marietjie went back into the room and lay down – she could feel the tranquillis-
‘I felt like a popped balloon. All the air went out of me’
er starting to take effect.
About 20 minutes later Mike came back into the room and told her Mundolene had died.
“I was in shock. I knew I’d only slapped her. I said to him, ‘It can’t be. You’re lying. It can’t be true.’ ”
Marietjie found Mundolene on the bed in the hotel doctor’s consultation room.
“I even said to her, ‘Mundolene, get up! It’s not funny anymore’.”
She put the heart monitor on Mundolene’s finger. And it was a sound she’ll never forget. “You expect it to be like in the movies – beep, beep, beep. But it was a long and constant beeeeeeeeeep. It was true. Mundolene was dead.”
She turned to her husband in shock. “Mike, I didn’t mean to kill your daughter.”
THE days flowed into one another. Incarcerated in a small island jail, she found daily life a mental and emotional struggle to survive. “They’d unlock the cell doors at 7.15am after we’d been locked up for 15 hours. We were mostly two to a cell but it was often unbearable. You’re locked in there with just a chamber pot.
“You just hope and pray you don’t need the loo or that your cellmate doesn’t start vomiting because of the food.”
There was no breakfast, and lunch was rice only – but Marietjie was allergic to the prison rice.
For dinner she’d have a bread roll and rubbery eggs or a little bit of fish or chicken. She’d save the other two bread rolls for breakfast and lunch. With the money Mike sent her she bought butter and peanut butter at the prison tuck shop.
“Every day was a struggle. You’re stuck behind bars. There’s no room to move. There’s a small cement courtyard outside and you’re among people who don’t speak your language. There’s nothing to do and there’s nowhere to escape to.”
She had to get used to cold showers but she learnt to enjoy them as they provided her only bit of privacy.
Although the other prisoners were mean to her at first and called her a murderer, they didn’t assault her.
Once a week she saw a psychologist and she was put on antidepressants. The unhealthy diet and the medication made her gain weight.
She learnt to do needlework, and read the books and did the crossword puzzles Mike sent her. But most of the time she read her Bible and prayed. “In the afternoons I’d pray in the shower, and again in the evening. I had my own prayer, ‘Forgive me Father, for what I’ve done. Lead me and protect me, for You are my protector’. ”
At night she cried herself to sleep because she could not be there for Morné.
She could phone him for 10 minutes twice a week and for 30 minutes on Saturdays. She lived for these calls, she says.
“We had this thing – we’d tell each other, ‘I’ll see you in dreamland by the tree.’ If I got there first I had to wait for him. We’d always said that to each other at home.”
With his father working abroad and his mom in jail in Mauritius, Morné was left in the care of an au pair. Marietjie is grateful to Mike and the au pair for looking after her son so well.
She struggled a lot with feelings of guilt. “I think everyone deserves a chance. I’ve prayed about it and I believe I deserve a second chance.”
THE trial started in December and it emerged there’d been epilepsy medication in Mundolene’s stomach at the time of her death. The pill hadn’t been absorbed so it must have been taken less than two hours before her death. Neither Mike nor Marietjie was aware Mundolene had epilepsy and Mundolene’s mother declined to answer YOU’s enquiries.
The autopsy report – which YOU has in its possession – shows the girl died of “massive subarachnoid haemorrhage” or bleeding on the brain. The report indicates a slap in the face couldn’t have caused the extent of the bleeding.
Bloodwork indicated the girl hadn’t been using epileptic medication chronically. When she collapsed about 8m from where Marietjie had slapped her, Mundolene’s bladder had emptied and her eyes had rolled back in her head.
Marietjie accepts the slap could have caused an epileptic fit but there had been no way of knowing it at the time.
She also accepts, hard as it may be, that Mike doesn’t want to be with her anymore.
She’s lost a lot, she says – time with her child, stability, her husband. And she misses Mundolene. “I miss her jokes. I even miss seeing her straighten her hair for hours at a time. She was like a daughter to me too and I loved her a lot.”
The biggest lesson she’s learnt is to watch what you say in an argument. She sometimes thinks that if she’d known what she knows now she’d never have become involved with a man who had kids.
“People are quick to judge but they don’t know the whole story. I’m not the monster I’ve been made out to be.”
She plans to go to Margate soon to fetch her belongings and see her son.
Marietjie knows there’s a long road ahead of her as she tries to pick up the pieces of her life. “But I believe the worst is over. I’m out. I’m free.” S *Names have been changed to protect minor children.
‘Everyone deserves a chance. I’ve prayed about it and I believe I deserve a second chance’
For now Marietjie is staying with her brother in Springs on Joburg’s East Rand. He’s prepared a room specially for her, and his Great Dane puppy, Max, “protects” her at night.
Marietjie ‒ who’d been in prison for 18 months in connection with the death of her stepdaughter, Mundolene, while on holiday in Mauritius ‒ was reunited with her brother Jan Jacobs at Johannesburg’s OR Tambo International Airport.
Mike Vosloo, Marietjie’s estranged husband, accepts she didn’t cause the death of his daughter (ABOVE), but despite having previously supported her has now told her he wants a divorce. |9
Marietjie with Jan, one of the few people who supported her during her nightmare in jail.