'Identity theft' accused denies confessing to murder

Mahlangu, wife are suspects in murder of her ex-lover for insurance

Lerato Mahlangu and her husband Sibusiso Mahlangu face charges of murder, conspiracy to commit murder and two counts of fraud
Lerato Mahlangu and her husband Sibusiso Mahlangu face charges of murder, conspiracy to commit murder and two counts of fraud
Image: Herman Moloi

Early last year, the country was rocked by the story about a "dead man" being arrested when driving in a stolen car.

The random arrest at a police roadblock would open a can of worms as it helped solve a mysterious death in a house fire on New Year's Day 2022 in Soshanguve.

The man arrested by Hammanskraal police for car driving in a stolen car was Sibusiso Mahlangu, whose wife had pocked R626,718 in an insurance payout after his alleged death.

The dead man, however, was not Lerato Mahlangu's husband but another Sibusiso and former lover and her baby daddy, Sibusiso Sithebe. When Sibusiso Mahlangu was arrested in a roadblock, he was supposed to have died in a house fire in 2022. It later turned out that the body retrieved from the burnt house was of the "missing" Sithebe.

Lerato Mahlangu and her husband Sibusiso now face charges of murder, conspiracy to commit murder and two counts of fraud following their arrest on April 2023.

The couple from Soshanguve, north of Pretoria, are accused of killing Sithebe on January 1 2022, before burning his body.

Afterwards, Lerato is alleged to have obtained a death certificate under the name Sibusiso Mahlangu, her husband who was still alive but left for Mpumalanga to lie low.

Sithebe's family had reported him missing as he had failed to return home.

On Thursday, the couple appeared in the Pretoria High Court for the start of a trial-within-a-trial. 

According to the indictment, Sibusiso went to hide in Mpumalanga after Sithebe's murder while Lerato remained in Soshanguve, to claim from insurance.

A few days after Sithebe's murder, Lerato received three amounts of R551,250, R25,519 and R50,000.

The couple were arrested after Sibusiso was found in possession of a stolen car. His fingerprints were taken and revealed that he had "died".

During the trial, state witness Capt Fanuel Molefe testified how after Sibusiso was arrested for possession of a stolen car he later confessed to the murder of Sithebe.

However, his lawyer Nthabiseng Serabele said her client had been coerced into making the confession.

Judge Mokhine Masopa then ordered a trial-within-a trial to determine the admissibility of that confession. 

Sibusiso took the stand and claimed that he was coerced to implicate himself.

"It was Monday after lunchtime. They [police] called me and told me that there were people who are visiting. It was my sister and my brother-in-law. My sister was shocked and my brother-in-law was a bit far from me and did not want to come close," Sibusiso told the court.

"My sister asked who the person they had buried was and she started to cry. I was also shocked."

Sibusiso said after the two left, Capt Molefe asked him about the events of the day his house burnt down. According to Sibusiso, Molefe then told him that they had found a body at the house and that police think the dead person was him because when they ran his fingerprints on the system, they came back as those of a dead person.

Sibusiso said he told Molefe that on the day that the body was found, he was not home.

“I told the police that I cannot speak on something I don't know," said Sibusiso.

He said that Molefe told him to implicate himself to avoid getting into trouble.

However, Molefe told the court that Mahlangu was in his sober senses and he was "cool and calm" when he made the confession.

Speaking outside court after the trial, Sithebe's sister Nina said the family was calling for the couple to be sentenced to "death".

"There is no logic why they killed my brother... they are even pleading not guilty despite the evidence. What they did is very painful, what they did to my brother is very bad, for a mere 500-something thousand rand," she said.

The trial is expected to continue on Friday.

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