SHORTLY before musician Penuel Kunene died he and longtime ally and partner Dan Tshanda exchanged hostile SMSes after their relationship soured, leading them to split.
At the centre of the messages were rumours, allegedly being spread by Tshanda, that Kunene was gravely ill in hospital during his tours outside the country, particularly in Botswana, where the sister group Matshikos had gone to perform. The group has a huge following in that country.
After every performance fans would scream, asking for Kunene, and every time Tshanda would deliberately mislead the crowd by allegedly instructing the master of ceremonies to inform them that Kunene was ill, close friends claim.
This was way before Kunene was hospitalised or fell ill. This, friends claim, resulted in Kunene suffering from depression, which led to his being hospitalised with a lung infection. He subsequently died at Chris Hani-Baragwanath Hospital in Soweto in May.
Family and close friends told Sowetan that the talented Kunene, of Splash fame, decided to leave the popular group because he felt exploited and underpaid despite his contribution to sister group Matshikos, a claim Tshanda denied.
"Matshikos is a success not because of Kunene but me, that's why the group continued to record even after his departure. I have always been the composer," Tshanda said.
He admitted there was an exchange of SMSes but insisted that he was merely responding.
"Yes, there was an exchange but those were not from Kunene because he would not say anything bad about me. Those messages were from his wife (Ivory Sikepe) because she's the one who was bent on destroying our friendship.
"I responded, telling her that I had no time to talk about Kunene and was going to Botswana to make money. Most of the times when I called to talk to Penuel she would answer the phone and bar him from talking to me.
"The allegations that I exploited or underpaid him are hogwash. I paid him according to what we agreed on," he said.
Some of the messages read: "You know Dan I always ask myself what I have done to you. You (are) always after my life. Tell the fans that I'm in hospital just like you always do."
And Tshanda responded: "Answering your SMS, I want you to know that I don't have time to waste talking about other people. Please erase my number from your phone because that is what I'm doing as we speak."