Police seeking help from Shisane's relatives

Published Feb 12, 2004


Limpopo police appealed on Thursday for any direct relatives of sacked worker Nelson Shisane, the man who was allegedly thrown to lions in a labour dispute, to come forward to help them with DNA tests to identify him.

A skull and legs, believed to be the remains of Shisane, and pieces of clothing were found in a lion enclosure after neighbours at his home in Acornhoek, near Hoedspruit, reported him missing earlier this month.

Shisane was allegedly beaten at the Engedi Game Farm in the area, then loaded onto a vehicle and thrown into the lion camp at the Mokwalo White Lion Project 15km away.

Police were due to conduct a post mortem on Thursday to try to establish exactly how he died - whether he was alive or dead before being thrown into the lion enclosure - and still had to positively identify him, Superintendent Ronel Otto told Sapa.

"We are looking for a father, a mother, a brother," Otto said. "It is very important that we find any relatives because although we suspect they are his remains, we must be 100 percent sure. It is important that we find them for DNA testing."

Otto said police think Shisane came from Johannesburg with Mark Scott-Crossley, one of the men arrested in connection with his death, and that he lived in a shack in Acornhoek with a girlfriend. Police have been given two addresses - one in a village in Brits in the North West and another in Soweto, Johannesburg - but the people living there did not know of him.

Scott-Crossley, who police say uses that farm as a base for a construction company, and three of his employees - Simon Mathebula, Richard Mathebula, and Robert Mnisi - were arrested after the discovery of Shisane's remains and appeared in court on Monday.

Otto said that at the moment police do not think he was from a neighbouring country as neighbours say they saw his South African ID book.

However, she said it has emerged that last year Shisane laid a charge of malicious damage against Scott-Crossley because he allegedly burnt some of his belongings after he was fired.

"We can't say for sure, but his ID book might have been destroyed in the fire."

Asked whether his name was correct she said: "That is the name we were given."

Relatives are asked to go to their nearest police station and to ask them to contact the Hoedspruit police to assist with the investigation.

Meanwhile, farmers' representative body Agri South Africa has issued a statement to clarify that the four men accused of throwing Shisane to the lions are not a farmer and farm workers.

Agri South Africa chief executive Hans van der Merwe said the organisation was "disappointed" by reports that Scott-Crossley was a farmer as it placed farmers' lives in danger.

An angry Van der Merwe told Sapa: "Whenever a crime is committed on a farm or in a rural area the immediate conclusion is that the perpetrator is a farmer. A study conducted last year has shown that this sends the message that farmers were brutal, and that retaliatory attacks could occur because of hate."

Otto said Agri South Africa had been in touch with them and it had since been established that the farm is owned by Scott-Crossley's brother who lives in Gauteng and that Scott-Crossley and the three other men - the two Mathebulas and Mnisi, who police initially thought were farm workers Nused the farm as a base for their construction work.

She said the land was a pocket bought from the surrounding Wits Rural Facility.

The African Christian Democratic Party's agriculture spokesperson, Cheryllyn Dudley, echoed Agri South Africa's concerns, saying mistaken impressions placed the farming community in further danger, and was also "destructive in terms of nation building in general".

Meanwhile, the department of labour is conducting its own investigation into the labour aspect of the case.

Department spokesperson Snuki Zikalala said that not having Shisane's ID book was making it difficult, but allegedly none of the construction workers were registered with the Unemployment Insurance Fund, a legal requirement.

"Now we need to find out why they weren't registered," he said.

The department had hoped to establish whether Shisane was registered so that they could arrange for death benefits for his family.

Zikalala said they had only been able to speak to the owner of the land, Scott-Crossley's brother, who had been very co-operative during the investigation. - Sapa

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