Community rejects family of lion man's killer

The community of Acornhoek has evicted the family of Simon Mathebula, who was found guilty in April of killing farm worker Nelson Chisale, the Phalaborwa Circuit Court heard on Wednesday.

Chisale was thrown to lions at Hoedspruit in January last year.

Traumatised at the murder, the community had demanded that Mathebula’s wife, Joinah Nyathi, and his nephews Jabulani and Aubrey Mathebula be expelled, Limpopo health and welfare department probation officer Thandy Mathebula—not related to the accused—submitted in a pre-sentencing report.

“The community seems to be confused [at] not knowing the person whom they thought that they [knew] better, therefore they have lost trust in him,” Mathebula wrote in the report handed to Judge George Maluleke, who is hearing the case with assessors Kate Choshi and Elphus Seemela.

Mathebula (43) was convicted in April of acting in concert with Mark Scott-Crossley (37) in committing the premeditated murder of Chisale (41), who was viciously assaulted before being thrown over a fence into an enclosure of lions.

The trial of a third accused, Richard “Doctor” Mathebula (41), no relation to either of the others, was separated from that of Scott-Crossley and Simon Mathebula after he fell ill with suspected tuberculosis and was hospitalised.

His trial has since been set down for November 29 to December 2 in the Tzaneen Circuit Court. A fourth accused, Robert Mnisi, who turned state witness, has been indemnified against prosecution.

Intention was ‘not to hurt’

The probation officer told the court Simon Mathebula insisted that Richard Mathebula had intimidated him into helping to hold Chisale and tied his hands.

“His intention was not to hurt Chisale, but to secure his job,” she told the court through her report.

He had told her he was afraid of Scott-Crossley, his employer, and described him as “an evil man” with whom he did not have a good relationship because of the bad treatment he meted out to him and his co-workers.

Mathebula had been “tense and with a quivering voice” when sharing his experiences, the probation officer continued.

“He mentioned that he was [destroyed] by the consequences of the whole matter. He is distressed by the fact that his family doesn’t have a place to stay.”

Mathebula’s nephews had been teased about his reputation to such an extent at school that they were forced to drop out.

Chisale’s niece, Fetsang Jafta, told her that the family was still grieving and that her uncle’s three children were finding it hard to deal with their loss, the probation officer testified.

Questioned on her report by Judge Maluleke, the probation officer told the court that, based on the information before her, she believes that at the time of the incident, Mathebula had to have been able to make rational decisions.

His humbleness and quietness, described by those who knew him, indicate that he was protecting himself from making any decisions and from embarrassment or failure, she told the court.

She recommended that he be sentenced to correctional supervision for his part in the murder of Chisale.

Earlier on Wednesday—when sentencing deliberations resumed after a month-long adjournment—Johann Engelbrecht, counsel for Scott-Crossley, handed to the court the report a neurologist had compiled on Scott-Crossley’s epilepsy.

The hearing continues.—Sapa

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