By Everson Luhanga

This article was first published in May 2023.

Sibusiso Mahlangu died in a house fire on New Year’s Day in 2022. He then turned up to his own funeral in disguise and ate alongside his mourners. 

He and his wife, Lerato Mahlangu, who works for a funeral policy company, are now the main suspects in the death of the man who was in the coffin: Sibusiso Sithebe. 

The couple appeared in Soshanguve Magistrate’s Court on Thursday on charges of murder and defeating the ends of justice. They are accused of fraudulently benefitting from a life insurance payout worth millions of rands.

Mahlangu’s funeral was held in Tshwane eight days after his supposed death, on 9 January. Many of his friends and family arrived to mourn his death — and had no idea that it was the murdered Sithebe who was being laid to rest.

Nor did they know that Mahlangu was above ground, walking among those grieving for his loss. Scrolla.Africa understands that he was dressed in a hat, sunglasses and a false beard. Nobody questioned the presence of this mysterious stranger.

The family of Sibusiso Sithebe, meanwhile, had already reported him missing to the police.

More than a year later, the law appears to have caught up with the living Sibusiso. He was arrested on 16 April after he was found driving a VW Polo which had reportedly been stolen in Witbank, Mpumalanga. 

They discovered in his possession the identity document of the missing Sibusiso Sithebe.

When police tried to take his fingerprints, they found that they belonged to a dead man, and a case was opened.

He was charged with murder and defeating the ends of justice.

Since their arrest, another strange twist to their story has emerged: Lerato Mahlangu and the deceased, Sibusiso Sithebe, were once lovers and had a child together.

Lerato left Sibusiso Sithebe some time l UI ater for his namesake, Sibusiso Mahlangu. When the two got married, Sithebe moved on — and fell in love with another woman called Lerato.

Sithebe remained with Lerato Mphefo, with whom he had two children at the time of his death. 

However, neither Lerato Mphefo nor his children benefited from the insurance payout because he was buried as Mahlangu, and Lerato Mahlangu allegedly pocketed millions of rands after claiming the insurance funeral policy taken out for her husband.

Sibusiso and Lerato Mahlangu stand accused of benefiting from Sithebe’s death — but how did they get away with his murder for so long? To find out, read part two here.

Pictured above: The fake funeral of Sibusiso Mahlangu, who sits in disguise somewhere in this room

Image source: Supplied by family


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