A senior ranger at the world-renowned Kruger National Park has been suspended, following the completion of a probe into allegations of racism and the torture of black employees.
SA National Parks (SANParks) hired Analytical Forensic Investigation Services (Afis) about five months ago to probe the matter, after black rangers began speaking out about their suffering at the hands of white colleagues.
They alleged that their colleagues often accused them of rhino poaching and subjected them to apartheid-style torture methods, smothering and beating them in order to coerce them into confessing to the crime.
The black employees claimed that they were handed over to police and detained, only to be released later in court because of insufficient evidence against them.
SANParks’ management would nonetheless charge them internally and subject them to a disciplinary process.
SANParks has repeatedly refused to make the findings of the investigation public and has been cagey about releasing any details of the allegations.
According to documents City Press has seen, Don English, a ranger in the Marula region, has been implicated by a few black rangers in their testimony to Afis for allegedly torturing them.
In sworn statements the workers made to Afis investigator Advocate Boyce Mkhize, they painted a gruesome picture of how English and his colleagues assaulted them in an attempt to force them to confess.
When approached by City Press, English would only say: “You will have to speak to SANParks spokesperson Isaac Phaahla. We are not allowed to speak to the media.”
Following the suspension of English, Phaahla said there was a possibility that more suspensions would follow: “This is part of an ongoing investigation around allegations that remain just that: allegations. However, as part of good governance and respect for all our employees, suspensions are a necessary part of the process for investigations to happen effectively and with transparency.
“An independent investigation by Mkhize has been conducted as well as interventions by management, human resources and SANParks’ CEO, and are still in progress,” he said, adding that disciplinary matters were treated with strict confidentiality in keeping with SANParks policy.