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SANParks chief takes special leave amid sexual assault allegations

South African National Parks (SANParks) has placed its chief executive, Fundisile Mketeni, on special leave after allegations of assault and sexual assault were made on Friday at Skukuza in the Kruger National Park. 

Luthando Dziba, the head of conservation services at SANParks, has been appointed the acting chief executive.

On Tuesday, SANParks’ board chairperson, Joanne Yawitch, said in a statement that Mketeni had asked for a special leave of absence because of the “seriousness of the allegations” he was facing. 

The special leave would be in effect until the matter was resolved and the law had taken its course, she said. 

“The board of SANParks views the allegations made in an extremely serious light and will allow the court proceedings to take their course and reach conclusions on the allegations. The board will, however, investigate whether the circumstances surrounding the allegations led to any improper or illegal conduct, which may affect the employment relationship,” Yawitch said. 

According to the SANParks statement, Mketeni appeared in court on Tuesday together with three other people facing similar charges — two men employed by SANParks and a woman who is not a SANParks employee.

SANParks communications manager Ike Phaahla said Mketeni was released on R2 000 bail. He is set to appear in court again on 2 June. 

“All of them with the other accused were granted R2 000 bail. Because the matter is still subjudice, we cannot reveal much details, because the board is handling the matter,” he said. 

Mketeni has been SANParks’ chief executive for six years.

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Chris Gilili
Chris Gilili is a climate and environmental journalist at the Mail & Guardian’s environmental unit, covering socioeconomic issues and general news. Previously, he was a fellow at amaBhungane, the centre for investigative journalism.

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