By Justin Arenstein

Police have arrested a Limpopo game farmer and three alleged accomplices after they allegedly fed a "troublesome" worker to lions.

The unnamed men were arrested on Monday at the Engedi game farm near Hoedspruit after recovering 38-year-old Nelson Shisane's skull, part of his legs and bloodied clothing from the scene.

"Witnesses say the farmer first severely beat Shisane, before tying him up, driving him 15km to the (Mokwalo White Lion Project) game farm and throwing him over a fence into a lion enclosure," said police Superintendent Ronel Otto.

"The farmer and three workers then allegedly watched as a lion mauled him, before it dragged him into the bush."

The Mokwalo White Lion Project, on the gravel Guernsey road, is a lion breeding project that keeps groups of predators in enclosures of just 1 hectare each.

Local labourers and neighbours report that Shisane was recently dismissed from the farm after a dispute with its owner, who may not be named until he appears in the Hoedspruit magistrate's court on murder charges.

A security guard, who signed Shisane into Engedi, on Monday said the defiant worker returned to collect his clothing a fortnight ago. The farmer allegedly refused to hand over the clothes and other possessions, and instead burnt them.

Shisane allegedly returned yet again a week ago to collect some pots, but was never seen again.

"I saw two Engedi workers with blood on their shirts shortly afterwards and asked questions, but was ignored. I also asked why Shisane had not left the farm, and reported the matter to my supervisor," said the guard, who declined to be named for fear of victimisation.

Police only began investigating at the weekend, however, after Shisane's family became concerned at his disappearance.

"His family reported him missing. When we followed up on the information, witnesses led the investigating officer to the murder scene. Shisane's skull and other remains were recovered," said Otto.

She confirmed receiving unsubstantiated reports of labour unrest on Engedi, but was unable to comment.

"We are taking this issue very seriously, and have put a 10-man task team of our most senior detectives on the investigation. Shisane's remains have been sent to Pretoria for forensic testing," said Otto.

All four suspects are in police custody, and were due to appear briefly in the Hoedspruit magistrate's court for bail applications on Tuesday.