Tutume family mourn sister burnt to ashes
For the Masekelakufa family in Tutume, the sight of a 12,5kg mealie meal bag that contained the charred remains of 26-year-old Pini Masekelakufa will remain etched in their memories forever.
The young mother perished under mysterious circumstances on 30th April this year when a thatch hut she was sleeping in was ravaged by fire in the wee hours of the night.
The hut was locked from the outside and Pini’s boyfriend, Thopo Mazereku, the father of her ten-year-old daughter, was arrested on suspicion of murder.
Three months have passed since that fateful night but for Pini’s heartbroken older sister, Othophile Masekelakufa the pain is still devastatingly raw.
“All that remained were a few bones and ash that we buried in a 12,5 bag of mealie meal. It didn’t even look like human remains, I had never imagined my sister in a little white bag!” said the 29-year-old Othophile, who cannot lean on her parents for support as they are both late.
Speaking from her modest house in Tati Siding where she stays with her live-in boyfriend, the distraught lady says her family still have a lot of unanswered questions following Pini’s passing and Mazereku’s subsequent arrest.
At the height of her frustrations is what she sees as the police’s indifference towards the case.
“I saw my sister two days before she died. She and Thopo were inseparable and were always drinking together in shebeens,” revealed Othophile, briefly smiling at the memory before her face clouds over and she queries angrily, “How come she died alone in the fire that night?”
Answering her own question, her voice quivering with emotion, Othophile said, “Our suspicion is that she was killed and then carried into the house by her boyfriend who then set the house on fire.
“The traditional hut had two shooter, the internal and the external one. What was observed was that the external shooter was locked. Now how does my sister lock the external shooter when she’s inside the house?”
“We need answers. We need help because we are very poor and have no one to turn to,” she continued, adding that she was only able to ‘keep going’ because of the support of her boyfriend, Barulaganye Keipeile, who she described as a ‘pillar of strength during the darkest time of her life’.
According to Othophile, the family only heard that Mazereku confessed to killing their sister but the police never came back to them after his alleged confession.
“What we gathered is that my sister’s bloody clothes were discovered at the river bank, but none of us was ever called to identify the said clothes.
“The police said they couldn’t use the burnt remains to identify if indeed the person in the hut was my sister. Her death certificate clearly states that cause of death is ‘unknown’. They said the remains were too badly burnt and couldn’t be used for DNA,” said Othophile, angry tears flowing freely down her pained face.
The little hole the family dug to bury the burnt bones of her sister is still vivid in her mind.
“We are not even sure whether the skeleton was hers since the DNA was inconclusive,” she added, dabbing at a tear with her knuckle as Keipeile tenderly squeezes her arm in support.
“The police have kept us in the dark. We don’t know what happened to Muzeruku. If he’s in jail, we need to know why he’s in jail. We deserve to know what he told the police because we need closure!”
Othophile is now taking care of Phini’s young daughter, who she says is a constant reminder of her late sister.
“She’s 10 years old but she’s yet to start school. Her mother was a drifter, she didn’t even have an identity card, but I need help to care for this precious soul,” pleaded Othophile, her eyes filling with tears once again as she contemplates the difficult future ahead of her.
Meanwhile, The Voice contacted Tutume Station Commander, Jerry Halahala, who confirmed that Muzeruku has been charged with the murder of his girlfriend and was currently on remand in jail awaiting trial.