A woman who was allegedly sexually assaulted by SA National Parks (SANParks) CEO Fundisile Mketeni (55), and beaten up by Mketeni’s colleagues, is in hiding because she fears for her life.
The 35-year-old woman is an employee at Kruger Shalati, a concessionaire lodge offering accommodation and a restaurant within the park. Mketeni allegedly sexually assaulted the woman in his home in Skukuza on May 6, after she had rejected his advances.
When she ran out of his bedroom, two Kruger Park employees – 53-year-old Xola Mkefe (head of socioeconomic transformation) and risk manager Danny Thwala (29) – allegedly entered the fray and helped their boss beat her up.
She told City Press this week that she only started working in the park in October and had not known many people when the incident took place.
“In two weeks from now, I must go back to work. I’m trying to figure this out, but it doesn’t seem possible. I have to go through the Skukuza gate and I’m scared of what’s waiting for me there. I’ve been in hiding and I can’t go back,” she said.
Her son, who is a pupil at a school within the park, has not attended classes since May 6.
“I fear what might happen to him because I don’t know who’s working for whom there,” the woman said.
She had not known who Mketeni was when a friend introduced him to her at a restaurant in Skukuza.
“I was told: ‘Let’s show up at the CEO’s house, because he’s prepared drinks for us.’ I went with my friend,” the woman said, adding that she had not known the people at Mketeni’s house when she arrived there.
What allegedly happened at Mketeni’s house was summed up in the woman’s police statement, which she said captured the incident “in a nutshell”.
Mketeni has been charged with sexual assault, while Mkefe and Thwala face charges of assault with intent to do grievous bodily harm. They have been released on R2 000 bail each.
The police said the woman was dining when her friend told her that Mketeni wanted to talk to her. He then told her his name and asked her if she knew who he was.
When she said she did not, Mketeni allegedly told her to google him, which she did. He then invited her and her friend to his house, where they came across other guests in the lapa, drinking wine. Mketeni asked to talk to the woman privately and she agreed.
He offered her wine and they went to his bedroom, where he allegedly began touching her inappropriately and trying to kiss her.
She pulled away, but Mketeni allegedly pulled her towards him. When she again resisted, he allegedly insulted her, telling her she was “useless” and “ugly”, according to her statement to the police.
He then allegedly began beating her up and she fled from the bedroom and told her friend to ask her (the friend’s) boyfriend to take her home. Mketeni came and stood in front of them and one of the guests allegedly told him: “Boss, relax, we’ve got this.”
The guest then allegedly warned the woman not to report the matter to the police, because Mketeni was powerful and no one would believe her story. According to the police statement, the woman then ran to the boyfriend’s car and entered it, but the boyfriend dragged her out of it.
She was then kicked all over her body and left on the ground. She said she phoned a colleague, to whom she gave her location, while still lying there.
“I remember seeing her car lights in the dark. I stood up. She helped me a lot by taking me to a doctor and arranging a place for me to sleep,” said the woman.
About her friend, she said: “I’ve blocked her on WhatsApp as I’m trying to deal with this myself. This is a very hard situation for me and I’m looking at the world differently now.”
She said she had gone to hospital and her employer had organised trauma counselling for her. Her bladder had been damaged in the assault.
“I’m waiting for the law to take its course,” said the woman.
She added that many people had been calling her to offer support, but she no longer knew who to trust.
The SANParks board placed the accused employees on special leave and its chairperson, Joanne Yawitch, said an internal investigation had been launched.