September 30, 2005

S.African jailed for life for feeding man to lion

By Nokwazi Tshabalala

PHALABORWA, South Africa (Reuters) - A white South African
farmer was jailed for life on Friday for feeding a black worker
to lions, ending a racially charged case which highlighted
abuse of rural black laborers.

Witnesses said Mark Scott-Crossley -- who got married in a
tearful ceremony just before being sentenced -- got life and
black laborer Simon Mathebula 15 years, partly suspended, for
their role in a murder which shocked the crime-hardened nation.

The grisly killing of 41-year-old farm worker Nelson
Chisale provoked an outcry in South Africa where, more than a
decade after the end of apartheid rule, some white farmers are
still accused of abusing and exploiting black workers.

"Their crime, of beating him to the point of death and then
throwing him to lions was one of the most cruel and despicable
acts ever to have been inflicted on a worker by an employer and
deserved nothing less than the maximum sentence," trade union
federation COSATU said in a statement.

Chisale's niece Fetsang Jafta said the family was "much
relieved" after the sentences were handed down in a packed
courtroom in Phalaborwa, near the Kruger National Park.

"That's what we expected. They are fair," she said.

Scores of people inside and outside the court greeted the
sentences with cheers and verbal abuse for Scott-Crossley.

"You're going down, Scott-Crossley," shouted one person.
Another said "You're going to rot in jail."

The men were convicted of murder in April.

"In the jungle the lion sleeps," read a placard held by one
of a crowd of people outside the court, echoing Africa's most
famous melody "The Lion Sleeps Tonight," composed by a South
African migrant worker in the 1930s.


Little more than Chisale's skull, shards of bone and a
finger were found at an enclosure for rare white lions after
the murder early last year.

The incident was apparently sparked by a dispute between
the deceased and his former employer Scott-Crossley,
highlighting the plight of poorly paid farm workers who often
lack the education and legal knowledge to challenge illegal
physical abuse, exploitation or eviction from their homes on

In testimony earlier this year, the court heard that
Chisale was assaulted when he returned to collect his
belongings from the farm where he previously worked.

It heard that Scott-Crossley had kicked a wound Chisale had
received in the attack, aimed a gun at him and told him to

A few hours later, the prosecution maintained, Chisale was
thrown alive over the fence of a lion enclosure. A post mortem
showed the cause of death as being "mauled by lions."

The court ruled in April that Scott-Crossley had held a
grudge against Chisale after he complained to the labor

Chisale had also lodged a case of malicious damage against
Scott-Crossley with the police for burning his property after
his dismissal.

In a bizarre twist, Scott-Crossley was married privately in
a neighboring courtroom moments before he was sentenced.
Witnesses said Scott-Crossley and his new bride, named by SAPA
news agency as Simonetta Strydom, wept at their wedding.

A third employee arrested in connection with the death
turned state witness against his former employer and

Another suspect is expected to face trial separately in
November after he was judged too ill to stand trial earlier.

(Additional reporting by Ed Stoddard and Alistair Thomson)