Nelli Tembe’s siblings pay emotional tributes – ‘Bringing her home was the hardest thing I’ve ever done’

There wasn’t a dry eye in sight when the siblings of Anele “Nelli” Tembe paid emotional tribute to their “baby girl” at a memorial service in KwaZulu-Natal on Thursday evening.

Family and close friends gathered to celebrate and remember the life of the 22-year-old who died on Sunday after apparently falling from the 10th floor of the five-star Pepperclub Hotel in central Cape Town.

Nelli was engaged to rapper Kiernan “AKA” Forbes, who was in attendance at the memorial.

Her siblings struggled to hold back their emotions as they took to the pulpit to share their fondest memories of Nelli.

Mbali spoke with a shivering voice when she recounted how heartbreaking it was to see her sister’s body on Thursday morning.

“Today we went to wash her. I tried to put make-up on her because she loved herself. She was a lady like that.

“What I saw was so painful and I don’t know how I am going to recover from that,” Mbali said.

Reflecting on the last time they spoke just over a week ago, Mbali said Nelli sounded content.

“She had plans, short-term plans and long-term plans. I don’t know what happened in between.”

Mbali said her baby sister quickly learnt how to get what she wanted from her siblings, and shared how Nelli received a star at school every day just so she could get sweets. When her teeth rotted, she shifted the blame to her sister, claiming she was the one always taking her to buy sweets.

“I’m so grateful to God that for the past four months, there was a shift in our relationship. It was not a sister relationship, but it was so deep and so spiritual,” Mbali added.

Zama Thonga urged mourners to take a page out of Nelli’s book and live life filled with love, gentleness and honesty.

“Bringing Anele home from Cape Town has been the hardest thing I’ve ever done.

“It hurts that she’s gone. It’s difficult to accept that she’s gone, but at least I know she’ll be at peace. I just want you to know that I love you, and sorry wherever we failed,” Zama said.

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US-based actress Nondumiso Tembe, joined the service via Zoom and said the hardest part of processing Nelli’s death was having to do it without her family close by.

Nondumiso said she was encouraged to learn that Nelli had Psalm 23 written on her social media bio.

She remembered how their grandmother used to make them recite the scripture, and said her profound wisdom had come through for Nelli in perhaps her darkest time.

She ended her tribute by assuring her family that Nelli wasn’t in pain in her last moments, but already in God’s presence.

Updated: April 16, 2021 — 12:20 pm

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