Mavis Mathebula left behind three children, Zacks (26), Mulalo (18) and Elijah (13). Photo: Godfrey Mandiwana.
The skeleton of a 39-year-old woman, Tirhani Mavis Mathebula of Xigalo village who was secretly buried behind her lover’s house, received a proper burial on Tuesday.
Mathebula, a mother of three, went missing without a trace in November 2015 when she was visiting her Mozambican lover at Basopa Village. The locals, together with the police, searched for her without any success. A missing-person docket was later opened at the Malamulele Police Station.
The Mozambican boyfriend was questioned by the police but was released because of a lack of evidence linking him to the case.
The case gained some momentum in 2017 when one of the boyfriend’s neighbours told the Mathebula family members that he saw the suspect digging a pit behind his house during the night. The Malamulele police exhumed the remains of a skeleton found in the pit, and the bones were sent away to be analysed in Pretoria. The results only came back three weeks ago, seemingly confirming that they were those of the late Ms Mathebula.
No communication occurred between the police investigating officer and the Mathebula family until the Limpopo Show Foundation (LSF) intervened. The managing director of the foundation, Mr Lytton Mabalane, said he first met with the new investigating officer of the case before organising a proper burial. “Mbavhalelo Funeral Services gave a helping hand for Mathebula to get a proper burial. They gave us the coffin, tombstone and transport,” he said.
“My only worry is that the suspect is still walking free, although he had allegedly pointed out where he had buried her. The investigating officers never bothered to give a case number to the Mathebula family. When the mortal remains came back from the autopsy, nobody in the Malamulele Police Station informed the family. We as organisation dug deep to get the information until we found out that the bones were already stored at the Tshilidzini Hospital Mortuary. The entire community will be happy if the police can arrest the suspect,” said Mabalane.
The deceased’s younger sister, Ms Elsie Hobyane, said they were concerned about the fact that the suspect was still walking around freely. “When the bones came back from the laboratory in Pretoria, police didn’t tell us. We got the information from the Limpopo Show Foundation. My sister was the firstborn in the family of eight. Her mother, Mphephu Maria Mathebula, died of a heart attack in 2020 because of this case,” she said.
“Mavis left three children, Zacks (26), Mulalo (18) and Elijah (13), in sorrow. The youngest, Elijah, is still doing Grade 6 at Tshiseluselu Primary School,” she said. Hobyane said that the suspect appeared to be a very kind man and not someone whom one would suspect of being a criminal. “I am happy that we buried my sister at last, although the bones were very few,” she said.
The manager of Mbavhalelo Funeral services, Mr Archibald Tshisikule, said that they decided to give a decent funeral to the Mathebula family as a way of ploughing back into the community.
The spokesperson for the police in Limpopo, Brigadier Motlafela Mojapelo said he would check with the Malamulele Police why they had not yet arrested the suspect. “He must be arrested as he is linked with the case,” he said.
Date:18 September 2021 - By: Godfrey Mandiwana