Sunday Times stands by Trevor Noah story

Johannesburg - Sunday Times editor Phylicia Oppelt on Monday said she stands by an article claiming comedian Trevor Noah's cousin was murdered and buried in KwaZulu-Natal at the weekend.

"We had several interviews with Mr Noah's grandmother at her home in Soweto. We attended the funeral in KwaZulu-Natal at the family's invitation," she told News24.

The newspaper reported that Cebisile Happiness Khoza disappeared a day after travelling from her home town of Msinga to Greytown, where she was preparing for a ceremony to receive her postgraduate certificate in education.

Farmworkers found her burnt body in a sugar-cane field in a village near Wasbank. She had been stabbed several times.

According to the article, Nomalizo Noah had been emotional on Saturday when talking about Khoza's death. She believed the women in her family were cursed.

She reportedly told the Sunday Times she received news of Khoza's death via a phone call from a relative in Pietermaritzburg.

"How do you explain this?" she reportedly asked. "It is a curse, I believe the family is cursed."

She was quoted as saying Trevor and the murdered student had not been close as they lived in different provinces, but that they knew each other.

On Sunday night, Trevor Noah tweeted: "Thanks to some crafty journalism my family and I have spent the whole day trying to figure out which one of us died #awkward".

'I don't know that person'

On Monday afternoon, the 88-year-old told News24 she did not know any relatives named Khoza. She snapped and vented her frustration when she learnt about the claims made in the article.

"They don't know each other. We ourselves [as a family] don't know that person," she told News24.

She said her grandson was honest about not knowing who Khoza was.

"He's telling the truth. Even I don't know that person. I was surprised. Now they want to use Trevor and I on their front pages? It's silly."

She said they had relatives in KwaZulu-Natal, but were not aware of any funeral that happened over the weekend.

"I don't even know Wasbank [a town in the Umzinyathi district municipality]. My relatives are right at Margate. The ones in Durban are the ones who are working there."

She said her children, including Noah's mother Patricia, had warned her to turn journalists away from her Soweto home.

"Just now my kids called me saying, 'Send those reporters away. Don't speak to them anymore because they are writing lies'."

'Tell granny not to talk to all these reporters'

The comedian had asked his mother to ask her to stop speaking to reporters.

"Tell granny not to talk to all these reporters because they are making news out of nothing," he had told his mother, she said.

She said her grandson's fame was his and she did not want any part of it.

"I am so sick of reporters because they interview me about one thing, and then in the papers they write something else. I am tired of these reporters.

"Give me a break, please give me some space. I am sick and tired."

KwaZulu-Natal police spokesperson Thulani Zwane, on Monday confirmed Khoza's death, but said he had no knowledge of any family link to Noah.

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