They started the day with a shopping spree. Then it was time to tuck into oysters over a leisurely lunch with friends at Cape Town’s V&A Waterfront. Kiernan Forbes and his fiancée, Anele “Nelli” Tembe, later headed out to a popular city nightclub where they set the dance floor ablaze.
A few hours later, Nelli was found lying naked and motionless outside the Pepperclub Hotel. She’d plunged to her death from the 10th floor of the five-star hotel where she and Kiernan were staying and those close to the rapper say he’s been inconsolable since.
Kiernan, better known as AKA, has gone silent on social media and “is keeping a distance from friends”.
Two months ago, he proposed to Nelli (22) with a giant sparkler. The young woman was thrust from obscurity into the limelight thanks to stealing the heart of one of SA’s biggest and boldest rappers. Suddenly she was in the fast-living, hard-partying lane occupied by the likes of SA’s A-list of entertainers.
Unlike his exes Bonang Matheba and DJ Zinhle, Nelli wasn’t a high-profile celebrity with a devoted fan base. A budding chef with big dreams, she preferred to keep her life private.
But her hopes of keeping a low profile were dashed when a video of her and AKA locking lips was leaked on social media about a year ago. The steamy clip outraged Zinhle’s fans, had the rapper cheated on her again after they reconciled?
Super Mega quickly set the record straight. He told fans he broke up with Zinhle, the mother of his child, before hooking up with Nelli.
He had now found himself a “queen” and wanted everyone to know it.
The gorgeous young woman started popping up in pictures on his social media feed. There were romantic candlelit-dinners, blissful baecations and gifts galore. Nelli also got along with AKA’s five-year-old daughter, Kairo, bonding over water gun games with the little girl in the backyard of the rapper’s Bryanston home.
After several messy public breakups, it seemed AKA had found in Nelli the perfect partner. He’d penned songs for her, proposed and taken steps to walk down the aisle.
Then it was all over. In two weeks, AKA (33) went from planning a wedding to planning a funeral.
He’s not okay, someone close to him says. “Kiernan won’t be okay for a long time.”
It's easy to see why the Fela in Versace hitmaker was attracted to Nelli. She wasn’t accustomed to the celebrity world but she didn’t seem overwhelmed by his world either.
Her father, Moses Tembe, is a prominent KZN businessman and a director of Durban International Convention Centre. Moses married Princess Ntandoyesizwe, the daughter of the late Zulu king Goodwill Zwelithini, after the death of Nelli’s mother, Lulu Tembe.
Nelli, who attended Glenwood Preparatory School and Durban Girls College, worked hard to make her dad proud.
They were very close, says family friend Jackie Cameron. “Nelli was daddy’s little girl. She used to call him Mo,” says Jackie, who has known the family for decades.
At school she excelled in ice skating, soccer, ballet and modelling. When she matriculated, Nelli was determined to carve out a career as a Michelin star chef. When Nelli enrolled at chef school 2018, she had never mopped a kitchen floor. Growing up the Tembe family employed a personal chef and domestic worker, yet that didn’t stop her getting her hands dirty and becoming one of the school’s top students. “She took it all on with open arms,” Jackie says.
“The Anele I knew was very independent and in control. She had a fire within herself. She was hugely competitive, stood her ground and had a great spirit.”
Nelli inherited her drive for success from her dad. Like him she could be strong- willed. She didn’t mince her words, but she was known to have a big heart.
In a letter read at her funeral, Moses said Nelli’s deepest desire was to get married and have children. “She fell in love with Kiernan and lobola negotiations were had just a few weeks ago.”
Moses had given his blessing to their union, but he had one condition before they said their I do’s: they had to attend premarital counselling.
“I knew Kiernan loved her, but they needed more than just love.”
The couple planned to attend counselling before the “misfortune”, as describes it.
In his letter, the devastated dad put paid to rumours Nelli had jumped to her death. She was a beautiful young woman with everything to live for. His daughter wouldn’t consider taking her own life, Moses said – she loved herself too much.
“Anele wanted to live more, rather than less.”
Media outlets report Nellie had tried to jump off a building a few months ago. Video footage shows her standing on a ledge near the top of the 19-storey Durban Hilton Hotel just before 8am on 11 December.
It took a team of first responders and hotel staff nearly an hour to get Nelli, who they described as aggressive and confrontational, off the ledge. “She turned around for a split second and started crying in her hands. In that moment, police officers grabbed her,” a hotel worker told TimesLive.
AKA was in the hotel but not at the scene, the witness added.
There were other signs of trouble. A month before Nelli was rescued from the ledge, City Press reported she and AKA were on the verge of laying charges against each other at a police station after an ugly row.
Police are investigating the cause of her death, but Moses blames his daughter’s sudden demise on drugs. “We must deal with the scourge that bedevils our youth – alcohol and drugs,” he said in his letter.
The businessman also had a message for AKA. “I know the pain you are going through,” Moses said. “My son, I invite you to turn to the Lord. In doing so, you will be assured of becoming a much better man.”
AKA didn’t speak at Nelli’s funeral. The rapper cut a lonely figure as he sat in front of the white casket draped with flowers at the Durban International Convention Centre.
His publicist says he’s in counselling to help him make sense of it all.
Extra sources: News24.com, timeslive.com, iol.co.za, thesouthafrican.com