Tebatšo’s funeral was all over the news. Her death had shocked the whole country. The Premier and most municipal leaders attended it at the local soccer ground.
I was relieved because all the charges against me had been dropped, thanks to my parents. They had proved that I was in Joburg, writing my exams, when she was murdered two years ago.
The university also helped me, for the story was all over the news. I guess they didn’t want to see the name of their university being smeared due to a horrific scandal. They wanted to prove that they produced responsible graduates. They even said that in their media statement the day I went for the bail hearing.
The evidence came from all sides, proving my innocence. It was as if Tebatšo was helping to solve the case herself.
The beads that they found on her grave and the cigarette butts and boxes that were in the cave helped the police to track the culprit. Tebatšo’s parents had confirmed that Ledimo had had a bead necklace like that and that it had disappeared at the time their daughter went missing.
The DNA on the cigarette butts and fingerprints on the cigarette boxes also matched his. When he realised that he was caught, Ledimo confessed.
I still couldn’t believe that I nearly went to prison for a crime I hadn’t committed. Thank God it didn’t happen and there I was, attending the funeral as the guest of honour. I was the talk of the country again. Not as a heartless suspect who raped and murdered a school girl, but as a hero, a gifted medium who helped solve a mysterious case.
The funeral was televised by almost every news channel. It was the biggest and most talked about funeral we had ever had in Khutšong.
The marquee was filled to capacity, with some people standing outside, watching on a big screen. I looked at the casket on the stage at the front of the tent, not believing there were just bones inside it. It looked expensive.
Tebatšo’s parents wanted to give her the best send-off they could. They sat at the front holding hands, surrounded by family members, all wearing black with a touch of red. They said black represented the two years they’d spent in darkness not knowing where their daughter was. Red was for her spilt blood.
There were different members of political parties and human rights activists, all wearing their organisations’ regalia with a black armband. The programme was long and I felt tired and hungry already.
Finally, my time came and I was called to the front to say something. I heard people murmuring that they wished I would explain how she had died as I shuffled to the front, next to the casket. My heart was throbbing nervously. I stole a look at the family members and saw one young girl, who could be Tebatšo’s age, smiling at me. Her smile was welcoming, like Tebatšo’s, and it gave me courage.
I decided to speak about Tebatšo’s death, as Ledimo had already confessed. His confession matched exactly what he had told me in the dream.
My speech made the mourners’ hearts boil with anger. They started shouting insults about Ledimo, calling him a monster who should rot in jail. Seeing the commotion in the tent, I started singing my song, using the technique that Tebatšo had taught me in my dream.
The song had a gospel vibe and everyone shouted, “Yes!” as I sang the first line of the chorus that said, “no evil will go unpunished”. They loudly sang the whole chorus with me as time went on. I felt like a spirit was inside me, controlling my hands as I beat the djembe drum. My slaps were gentle but powerful, like Tebatšo had taught me.
A group of Apostolic Church members stood up and started dancing to the beat of my drums, making hissing sounds as they add their version to the song. Some were wearing green and white uniforms, while others had blue and white ones on.
Finally, the Premier stood up and gave his speech. He spoke like a real politician, promising that they would ensure that Tebatšo got the justice she deserved. Ledimo would serve as an example to all the other beasts still out there in the country who wanted to hurt women and children. The crowd erupted in loud cheers, clapping their hands. They started chanting freedom slogans as he went down.
Then the pastor prayed and we all went to the graveyard.
As I pushed my way through the crowd, I felt someone holding my fingers. The hand reminded me of Tebatšo’s touch. I turned my head and met a girl’s smile. It was the girl I saw earlier on sitting with Tebatšo’s family.
“Hi!” she greeted me, still smiling, “my name is Hlompho, Tebatšo’s cousin. Thank you for helping us find her remains.”
I grinned and squeezed her hand gently. There was something about her. Something that reminded me of her cousin. Her voice, smile and eyes were like Tebatšo’s.
“I hope she is resting in peace now,” I murmured, not knowing what else to say. Her beauty captivated me, just like when I first met Tebatšo in the bush.
“She definitely is. Thanks to you.”
We both walked out and she asked for my phone numbers, which I gave her with a wink. I watched her as she got into one of the luxurious family cars and I couldn’t help wondering if it wasn’t Tebatšo’s spirit in that body.
After the funeral, I went straight home. I wanted nothing else than to rest. While I was busy preparing my bed, my cellphone rang. I checked the number – it was an unknown number. I’d been receiving a lot of those since the discovery of Tebatšo’s remains. It was probably one of the journalists wanting to make an appointment, I thought, ignoring the call.
The phone stopped ringing for a second and started again. Annoyed, I picked it up, holding a pillow in one hand.
‘Hello,” I answered, impatiently.
“Gift, monna. This is DJ Fantastic,” a man said and paused. “Do you still remember me, bro?”
I kept quiet for a second, trying to remember.
“Fantastic, boy. We shared a room at university when you were doing your first year,” he explained.
“Ohhh! I remember now. You were doing your last year right?”
“Sure, bro. I saw you on TV, boy. You’re a celeb now, mos,” he chuckled.
“Argh! Not really,” I said, shyly.
“That’s cool, man. That’s cool,” he paused. “Look, mfo. I saw you when you were performing your song, bro. That was dope, jo! I loved it.”
“You’ve such a unique voice, monna. I think you should audition for Idols, bro. Just like I did two years ago. That helped put me in the spotlight. Look at me now. I’ve got my own recording studio. I make my own music.”
“Yes … That talent show on TV. It’s coming back. I think you can win it. I can help you with a few songs for your auditions. What do you think?”
That was the good news I’d been dreaming of. I jumped at the offer and we made an appointment for the next meeting to discuss how I’d get to Joburg.
Tired from the funeral and overwhelmed by the bright future ahead, I wanted nothing but to rest. I dropped the phone and slid into bed.
It didn’t take long before I had another dream, sitting with Tebatšo under the marula tree where I had nearly committed suicide. She looked happy and relaxed. Her eyes were no longer dark, but glittering like silver. We chatted and held hands with joy. I didn’t want the moment to end.
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