News and Information

SA lions den murder trial begins
January 24, 2005

The victim was dumped at a white lion breeding project

The trial of three men accused of feeding a black former farm worker to South African lions has been adjourned after one of them admitted involvement.

Mark Scott-Crossley, Richard Mathebula and Simon Mathebula, pleaded not guilty to murder, but Richard Mathebula acknowledged assaulting Nelson Chisale.

The three are accused of tying Mr Chisale up and throwing him into an enclosure used for breeding lions.

The post-mortem examination found that Mr Chisale was mauled to death.

Richard Mathebula, 41, told the court in the courthouse in Phalaborwa, on the edge of Kruger National Park: "I followed instructions given to me by my employer [Mark Scott-Crossley]."

He also alleged that Mr Scott-Crossley threatened that he would also be thrown to the lions if he told anyone.

Highlights abuse

His surprised lawyers then asked for, and were granted, an adjournment.

Trade union leaders say the case highlights the widespread abuse of farm labourers in South Africa.

Mr Scott-Crossley is white, while his two alleged accomplices, and the victim, are black.

Protesters waved placards outside the courthouse on Monday.

"We are here to make sure that justice is being done," said Bethuel Rasekhotoma, a youth leader of President Thabo Mbeki's African National Congress party.

"We want three life sentences plus 100 years," added Abitha Malatji. "All three of them must rot in jail," she said.

Remains found

A fourth man arrested with the accused has agreed to testify against them.

The court papers say Mr Chisale, a father of three, had returned to the farm from where he had been sacked two months earlier, to pick up some personal belongings.

It is claimed that attackers set upon him with knives, bound him up with rope and electrical wire, and drove him to Mokwalo White Lion Project at Hoedspruit, about 400km (250 miles) north-east of Johannesburg.

He was then allegedly thrown over the fence into the lion enclosure.

Police recovered his skull, body parts and the remains of his clothes more than a week later.


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