Snake: healer’s fine suspended

2011-11-15 00:00

PIETERMARITZBURG snake expert Mark Enslin yesterday welcomed a suspended sentence of R40 000 (or two years’ imprisonment) coupled with payments totalling R15 000 to animal welfare organisations imposed on Mafakathini traditional healer Mduduzi Manqele for his illegal possession of an endangered African rock python.

Manqele entered into an agreement with the state to plead guilty to one count of contravening the National Environment Biodiversity Act for his possession of the python, a threatened and protected species.

The python was found in a dungeon when police searched Manqele’s Mafakathini homestead on January 28.

He admitted in his plea before regional court magistrate Rose Mogwera yesterday that he did not have a permit to keep the python and that his possession of it was unlawful.

Manqele stood impassively as he was sentenced to a wholly suspended fine of R40 000 on conditions that he does not commit a similar offence within the next five years. He was aslo ordered to pay R7 500 each to the Pietermaritzburg branch of the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals and the Animal Anti-cruelty League by today.

His advocate, Martin Krog, said the defence is satisfied the sentence is just and fair.

The Witness reported in February that the python in question was humanely put down by Enslin — who is also a member of the Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife crime working group — after it was removed by police.

Enslin said at the time that the snake was starving and disease ridden and failed to respond to treatment.

Enslin said the 1,7 metre snake was “far from what a healthy snake of its size” should look like.

It appeared to have been deprived of food and water, was covered in ticks and lice, suffered from abscesses and was infested with worms.

The python was discovered when police searched Manqele’s homestead in connection with an investigation into the discovery of the severed head of a missing youth, Loyiso Jokweni (19), in a freezer in France township, Imbali.

Manqele was initially charged with Jokweni’s murder along with Roger Thusi, but the state withdrew the murder charge against him in May.

Thusi is set to stand trial in the high court in March next year.

Manqele’s homestead was seriously damaged when an enraged mob set fire to it in the wake of his arrest, but he has reportedly rebuilt it since his release.

Enslin said Manqele’s sentence showed that this type of offence is being taken seriously and will hopefully help to deter other healers from keeping pythons for muthi.

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