Nellie Tembe and AKA. Picture: Instagram
Nellie Tembe and AKA. Picture: Instagram

AKA denies he and Anele Tembe had a toxic relationship but the signs were there

By Marchelle Abrahams Time of article published May 24, 2021

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When rapper AKA, real name Kiernan Forbes, sat down with eNCA journalist Thembekile Mrototo for an exclusive interview over the weekend, he gave some details into the workings of his relationship with fiancée Anele “Nellie” Tembe.

While describing the events that led to her death, Forbes revealed that “things could get quite volatile” between the couple.’

When asked what he would say to someone watching the interview and who found it hard to believe that theirs were normal couple disagreements, Forbes said: “Everything that encapsulates myself and Anele’s relationship is privy only to us, only we know the full story.”

In the moments leading up to Tembe’s death, Forbes admitted that the two had been arguing, saying: “When things took a turn, I decided that I should remove myself from the situation.

“I decided that I would book myself into another room and, hopefully, things will simmer down.

“I left the room but went back because I had taken her phone, and we argued and then Anele had kind of threatened to kill herself, to jump off the balcony,” said AKA.

Since Tembe’s death, the couple’s relationship has been a hot topic and up for debate. Social media was abuzz with discussions on their age gap. Since the release of video footage and images showing Tembe in distress while visibly afraid of her fiancé, Forbes denied any allegations of physical abuse during their two-year relationship.

But when asked if he accepted that it was possible to be in love with a person while being in a toxic relationship, he answered: “I think that’s possible, yes."

Forbes did, however, say that was not how he would describe his relationship with Tembe.

Funeral of the late Anele Tembe, fiancee of rapper and entrepreneur Kiernan Forbes known as AKA. Picture: Nqobile Mbonambi African News Agency (ANA)

“We absolutely adored each other… to label it toxic? No. Did we have difficulties? Yes,” he said.

Relationship experts may beg to differ.

“Toxic relationships are more prevalent today than ever before,” says Durban-based relationship coach Kas Naidoo. “Arguments, demands, unrealistic expectations and poor communication leave many couples in despair about whether to stay or leave the relationship."

Forbes described his relationship as sometimes "volatile“ and ”tumultuous“.

“We get into a relationship in a state of ’falling in love' and assume that will be enough to create a sustainable, happy relationship,” Naidoo said.

“Weeks or months into the relationship, when we start to see the differences in our beliefs around what the relationship should be, how we want to be treated and the needs that we want our partner to fulfil, that’s when conflict arises."

Laura Copley, a licensed professional counsellor, said all couples are affected by how early attachments inform their adult relationships.

While chatting to, she spoke about how a traumatic background affected the bonds.

Some people may not even know they are in a toxic relationship.

Depending on the nature of the relationship, signs of toxicity can be subtle or highly obvious, said author and clinical psychologist Dr Carla Marie Manly, PhD, to

Naidoo clarified: “In a healthy relationship, we are able to accept our partner for who they are and support their dreams and their journey through life. In toxic relationships, we try to control and manipulate our partner to be what we expect them to be.

"When in a toxic relationship, you may not recognise some of the signs, but there are red flags to watch out for.“

Naidoo lists the questions to ask yourself:

  • Does your partner talk down to you and make you feel like you have to constantly watch what you say?
  • Are you being forced/manipulated into spending less time with your family and friends? Are the two of you isolated?
  • Do you have to give up your dreams and goals to be with this person?
  • Are you constantly not communicating your thoughts and feelings for fear it will lead to an argument?
  • Do you have to check in a few times a day to tell them where you are and what you’re doing?
  • Do they go through your phone?
  • Do they ignore you, sometimes for days, when you say or do something that they don’t like?
  • Do they give you ultimatums? Do what I want or… followed by a threat ( they will leave, tell your family and friends about you, commit suicide)

“You need to take back your power, get help from a professional and if the problems persist; you need to get out of that relationship. Work on your own sense of self-esteem, self-love and sense of worthiness," said Naidoo.


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