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Mystery surrounds the death of a Soweto teenager found hanging from a tree

Soweto teenager, 19-year-old Mmatshepo Malefane, found hanging from a tree.

Soweto teenager, 19-year-old Mmatshepo Malefane, found hanging from a tree.

Published Jan 17, 2022


Soweto teenager, 19-year-old Mmatshepo Malefane, found hanging from a tree.

The family of a 19-year-old young Soweto girl, whose lifeless body was found hanging from a tree, have dispelled rumours that she committed suicide and say they suspect foul play.

Images also circulated on social media.

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However, Police spokesperson Mavela Masondo, said the police have opened an inquest docket into the death of Mmatshepo Malefane and are awaiting a post-mortem to determine the cause of death.

Sunday Independent spoke to the distraught family of the teenager a day after she was buried and they were desperately trying to find answers as to what led to her brutal death.

Mmatshepo’s body was found hanging from a tree in Mapetla, Soweto, on the morning of January 5, and although there is a lot of speculation surrounding her death, according to her brother Lebohang and uncle Motebang Malefane, the family is determined to see justice being served.

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“The events around Mmatshepo’s death have been misconstrued, so much so that there are even allegations that she committed suicide but when you follow the series of events, you will realise that it is not true. Even media reports have alluded to a suicide note at the crime scene, but the family has not seen it.

“I last saw Mmatshepo at her boyfriend’s place in Moletsane on a Tuesday morning when she did not sleep at home the night before,” said Lebogang. “I saw her with my own two eyes. The pair was sitting, watching a series or something when we got there and it seemed like they had just finished eating breakfast.”

Mmatshepo, who had taken a gap year to upgrade her Mathematics in order to pursue her goal of going into the health faculty in 2023, had only been dating her boyfriend for six months, the family said.

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According to the family, their nightmare started on the evening of Sunday, January 3 at around 22h30 when Mmatshepo claimed to have a tummy ache and needed to use the outside toilet. Upon discovering that she had in fact sneaked out, the panicked mother sent her son Lebohang a voice note an hour later, informing him that she was not in the yard and seemed to have run away.

“Because she has never done this before, we were extremely worried but waited it out until the morning as it was already late,” said Lebogang, who described Mmatshepo as someone who would never sleep out, and also knew to report when she left home. But the brother also admits that things started to change after his sister met the said boyfriend.

“After a brief family meeting on Tuesday morning, we agreed that our top priority was to make sure that she was safe and that the first place to search was at her 25-year-old boyfriend’s place in Moletsane, Soweto”.

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Not wanting to aggravate the situation after they found her there, they left Mmatshepo and regrouped to map the way forward but an uncle ordered them to go back and fetch her.

“My mother, brother, and aunt went back and we were met by the boyfriend’s mother, who confirmed knowing Mmatshepo, and that she had seen her around. But the lovers were not there although her overnight bag was still in the room. But the boyfriend confirmed, over the phone, that he was with Mmatshepo and would return her,” said the family.

After a long wait, the two families agreed that the teenager would be returned to her family home as soon as they arrived. But instead, two hours later the boy’s parents allegedly visited the Malefane family to ask for confirmation if Mmatshepo had returned.

“What was strange is that the parents made a second visit after their first one, where they promised to come back with their son but did not. Instead, they still asked the same question, ‘has Mmatshepo returned?’. That’s when we knew something was wrong,” explained Lebogang”.

Then on Wednesday, Mmatshepo’s family was awoken by a neighbour who asked them to come identify a body that was hanging on a tree.

“It was around 08h30am when I got there and found my sister’s body hanging from a tree. A lot of things did not make sense to me, like the fact that her clothes were dry although it was raining heavily the night before and that when we checked her, she had mud at the back of her clothes and on her hair. Her right foot was balanced on a rock. I couldn’t make sense of it all.”

Sunday Independent