He was considered the next big thing at Kaizer Chiefs. Emmanuel Letlotlo worked his way through the ranks of the top-flight club, but his star faded almost as quickly as it rose. After a mere five matches he was booted from the senior team.
Now the 23-year-old striker is clubless– yet it’s not his future in football that’s the talk of the town. Emmanuel is at the centre of a messy child maintenance battle. Two women, one the mother of twins he’s never made time to meet, are demanding he pay papgeld for the kids he fathered. He’s a deadbeat dad, his baby mamas say. Ntombi Gama says, “he has money to party and go clubbing, wear designer clothes, but he can’t maintain” their four-year-old daughter.
Neo Lebogo claims Emmanuel has not laid eyes on their two-year-old twins despite repeated promises to meet the little boy and girl. “I’m tired of protecting his reputation,” she says. “He needs to own up to his responsibilities.” The fed-up mothers have taken the fallen football star to court, but he says legal action “doesn’t scare” him.
He admits he’s struggling to support his children but recently took to social media to announce that his fiancée, Arantxa Maarman, is pregnant. “Children are a blessing, the more the merrier,” he tells DRUM. Emmanuel says Ntombi (21) and Neo (23) are just bitter because he’s found love with his new baby mama. “Those two are crazy, especially Ntombi,” he says.
“She speaks to me like I’m her child. They need to come clean that they’re jealous that I moved on and I’m happy.” The striker says he can’t do anything about being unemployed. When his contract with the Glamour Boys ended, he had no means of supporting his kids.
“But it’s not like I’m not trying to make ends meet. I just don’t have a team yet. I’m waiting to start somewhere else very soon. What do they want me to do, go work at Pick n Pay? Never.”
He’s had lots of free time since Amakhosi cut him loose but hasn’t visited his young children because he fears their mothers. “What if they poison my food or drug me when I go see the kids? No, I’m not going there. If they want me to see the kids, they must drop them off at my parents’ house.”
Both women have reached out to Emmanuel’s family for help. “His grandmother is the one who advised me to take him to court if he’s not stepping up as a father,” Ntombi says. “I don’t want to bad-mouth them, but he does as he pleases.”
She met Emmanuel when she was in Grade 8 at the high school they both attended. “To think that guy was my first love.” For a while they were happy, but she noticed changes in their relationship when she became pregnant.
Still, Ntombi was shocked when she found out her high school sweetheart had been unfaithful. “Maybe it’s the money that changed him. He was unapologetic about his cheating, so I let him be.”
His serial cheating continued into her pregnancy; she says. “When I gave birth, he put money in my mother’s account when it suited him. I would nag him that I need money for his child, and he would ignore my messages.”
Ntombi, a makeup and beauty student at The Pyramid Beauty School, relies on her street-hawker mother to help raise her child. She hasn’t received a cent in child support since April. “I depend on my mom’s money to take me to school, pay my bills and take care of his child,” she says. “It’s draining me.”
Ntombi ended things with Emmanuel in 2016 when she found out he was dating Neo. “Neo contacted me on Facebook telling me to stay away from her man and I did because I was tired of the cheating. He also confessed to being with her and I let them be. I don’t want a relationship with him,” she says.
She just wants what’s due to her daughter. Neo understands Ntombi’s battle. It’s not the first time she’s hauling Emmanuel to court over child maintenance, having squared off with the football player in August 2017.
“He told the court he could afford R4 000, but he gives me R2 000 when he feels like it. I haven’t received anything for the past six months,” she says.
Neo, a clerk at a pharmaceutical company, gets up at 4am to get the twins ready for preschool at 7am. “My dad drops them off at crèche and I have to have a nanny ready after crèche. Those expenses are covered by me and my parents.”
“My expenses are about R11 000 a month, I earn a little less than that. My parents have to help me out and that’s not fair on them.”
Neo’s mother works as a receptionist at a pharmaceutical company and her father is retired.
“Imagine my father having to spend his retirement money on me instead of enjoying it,” she fumes.
She met Emmanuel in 2015 on social media after she added him as a friend on Facebook. “Within an hour he sent me an inbox asking for my number. I wasn’t a groupie, so I was sceptical. I didn’t know if it was him or a fake account.”
They carried on chatting on social media and she fell for him when they arranged to meet up. “He was my type of a guy, kind and giving. He spoilt me. He took me to Cubana for our first date and we spent the night together.”
Things were rosy for about six months. “I found out he was cheating with many girls. But he’d apologise and I would try to make it work.”
Eight months into their relationship, Neo became pregnant. “He changed even more when I was pregnant,” she says. “He would disappear for weeks and not call to check up on me.
“I decided to leave him in January this year because I realised the cheating would never stop. I was getting calls from different girls telling me to stay away from him. So, for the health of my kids, I stayed away.”
She hasn’t seen Emmanuel since. “It’s been a struggle to get him to see the kids, pay maintenance or make an effort to call.
“He wasn’t there when his children were born,” Neo continues. “He’s never seen the twins; they don’t know him or his Kaizer Chiefs money and they’re already two years old.”
Emmanuel tells us his children know he’s their father. “I know when my kids grow up they’ll come and find me without their mothers stalking me on social media.”
He’s blocked both Ntombi and Neo on social media. “I don’t like the way they speak to me and nag me. I want to provide for the kids but I’m not working. What should I do?” But Ntombi is tired of putting up with the once-promising player’s excuses. “How is any other soccer team supposed to take him seriously when he has such a bad reputation of not supporting his own children?”