Allegations against husband shock mourners as BTV star laid to rest
The controversy surrounding the mysterious death of former BTV sports presenter Mpho Sephuma (nee Maleka) deteriorated into a bitter row as family members claimed that her estranged husband wanted her dead.
The remarks added fuel to the on-going quarrel between the families that had already forced her parents to hold a funeral ceremony without a corpse last Saturday.
Angered over allegations of foul play Mpho’s estranged husband’s family had refused to release her body, instead burying the popular TV personality in a private ceremony in Gaborone.
Family spokesman claims Mpho’s husband wanted her dead Threat to kill case had been set for court hearing
Grieving Maleka family members paying tribute to their daughter sang funeral songs and placed flowers around her father’s grave whilst the place beside him reserved for Mpho at the Sikwane cemetery remained vacant.
In an emotionally charged speech detailing Mpho’s life, family representative, Chiliboy Kgoroba apologised to the gathering of around 100 mourners for the unusual ceremony that he said was meant to lay Mpho’s spirit to rest.
Explaining the circumstances surrounding the occasion Kgoroba told the gathering: “To be here without a corpse might appear like it’s foolishness, but it is not.
We know that the Sephumas have a legal right to bury Mpho.
We also know and understand that according to Setswana culture it was proper that the Sephumas should be the ones in charge of her funeral, but there is a reason why we wanted to lay her to rest in Sikwane.”
There was the briefest of pauses before Kgoroba added – his chilling words triggering a murmur of shock from stunned mourners.
“Her husband Thapelo wanted her dead.”
Holding out his hands to regain the silence, he continued: “We were told that her funeral will be held at Phomolong in Phakalane tomorrow, but let me take this opportunity to correct those words.
What will happen tomorrow in Phomolong as far as we are concerned will not be a funeral.
“The Sephumas will simply be putting Mpho’s body underground and covering it with dirt.
They will be burying her body and not laying her to rest because there is no way they can lay her to rest when their son wished her dead.
That is why we have seen it fitting to conduct this ceremony to lay her spirit to rest because even the Bible tells us that a person is made of both the spirit and the body.”
Meanwhile in Gaborone it was more drama on Sunday as Mpho’s estranged husband, Thapelo Sephuma and his family buried her body in a private ceremony where the Malekas and Mpho’s teenage daughter were conspicuously absent.
A message read on behalf of her husband at the Phakalane funeral attended by a limited number of people said: “It is only the two of us who know that in the last four weeks we were planning to get back together.”
Mpho, 39, was found dead in her house in Phase 4 two weeks ago in an incident that sparked tension between the two families as rumours that the small screen queen could have been murdered started spreading like veldt fire.
The tension deteriorated into a fully-fledged power struggle over the corpse after The Voice newspaper last week revealed that the Malekas had reported their suspicions to the police.
They had initially demanded to have an independent coroner present during the post-mortem, but later decided to put their trust in a government pathologist after advice from doctors.
Following the Voice story the Sephumas insisted that the two families institute a joint lawsuit against the paper for publishing the article headlined ‘Foul Play?’ which they found offensive.
Relating details of the background to the row Kgoroba told mourners in Sikwane that “On Thursday the Sephuma’s demanded that we refute the article that appeared in The Voice concerning Mpho’s death, and that we should agree in writing that we will share the costs in suing the paper.
They also demanded that we write and sign that we do not suspect any foul play in Mpho’s mysterious death.”
Kgoroba further revealed that after refusing to agree to the demands of the Sephuma’s representative Reuben Kamushinda, he informed them that the family had reversed their initial decision to let the Malekas bury Mpho in her home village.
Instead they decided to conduct a private funeral in Phakalane.
Explaining why they couldn’t agree to the Sephuma’s demands Kgoroba said: “There was no way we could agree to write a letter stating that we do not suspect foul play when we were the ones who reported our suspicions to the police.
Instead we told the Sephumas in clear terms that although we had nothing to do with The Voice article, there was no way we would agree to sue that paper when we don’t see the need to do so.”
Fuelling even deeper controversy Kgoroba further told shocked mourners of an earlier incident involving Mpho’s husband, Thapelo Sephuma.
“Thapelo called Mpho’s mother last year October informing her that he was going to kill Mpho and I remember there was one time he reported a fake case implicating her in murder threats against him at the G-West police station.
He had a big knife wound on his hand and lied to the police that he was cut while catching a knife that Mpho was trying to stab him with.
He later withdrew the case and confessed to having cut himself. How do we trust such a person?” Kgoroba asked.
The Voice has since established that a threat to kill case was registered to go to court in October 2012, but was later withdrawn.
Results of the post mortem are expected for release over the next two weeks – meanwhile police investigations are continuing.
Thapelo Sephuma refused to comment both on the comments from the Malekas and on the incident in general.
Side bar story
MPHO DEATH THREATS
“We suspect Mpho did not die a natural death. It’s just our suspicions and we have the right to express those suspicions to the police and that is why we told the police that we wanted a forensic autopsy to establish whether her death was from natural causes or not.
“On Sunday when my aunt (Mpho’s mother) arrived at the funeral house in Gaborone she didn’t collapse and weep uncontrollably as we had imagined she would because she had already dealt with the loss last year.
She said: “To me my child died in October 2012.
“I cried for 11 days and mourned her after I got death threats from her husband.
When I finished crying I accepted that my daughter was gone. It was only a matter of time. She was a moving corpse as far as I was concerned.”