THE WARDEN THINKS ABOUT . . . . . PART 3
Very little can be said about the old days that does not include the native field staff.
They wore a uniform and their rank was proudly displayed on the sleeves. Their postings were at that of the Ranger with many others in the outside pickets where their main task was patrolling doing checks on water supply, game condition and numbers and . . . . prventing poaching. They were armed with assegais or spears and also often with Martini Henry or the long barrelled Lee Enfield and Lee Metford rifles of .303 calibre ( the Union Defence Force granted approval for the issueing of firearms in 1927) 24 Martini Henrys were first issued and later replaced with the latter mentioned.
Native rangers were recruited from the surrounding areas, this had the advantage of them knowing the language and were also addapted to the conditions. Native Rangers were often related to known poachers, however being related did not refrain them from doing their duty with the required agility.
They were accomodated in wood and mud houses similar to those of the white rangers, rations were issued and meat was game supplied by either the Ranger or obtained themselves.
Rangers were normally well built and fit but Mfitshane Koza was not - his eagerness to join cased his appointment. While on patrol Mfitshane and his fellow Rangers came across a group of poachers from the Portuguese territory who had just killed a Waterbuck. Upon Mfitshane's call to them to surrender, the poachers turned upon the Rangers with their assegais. Some of his fellow Rangers fled, so did the poachers but in the opposite direction, Mfitshane followed, tripped and fell and was stabbed through the lungs as he lay on the ground. Mfitshane was found and carried to the picket, fortunately he recovered sufficiently to return to duty and continued his duty, now more determined than ever to combat poaching. MFITSHANE's end came while one day pursuing poachers up the stony thorny slopes of the LEBOMBOS, the exertion was too much, he ruptured an artery near his assegai wound, he collapsed and died - with his boots on . . . . .
In 1926, Corporal CEMENT Mathlali was leading a patrol in the SATARA area and they came across a group of Mozambican poachers who had just slaughtered a Kudu. The poachers took to their heels and the patrol succeeded in arresting one of the mob. The arrested poacher was handcuffed and the patrol set off for SATARA to where they intended taking their prisoner. That night they slept in the veld, while asleep the mob about twenty in total returned, freed their fellow poacher. One of the patrol members was killed on the spot and Corporal CEMENT had his head smashed in by a knobkerrie. The third member ran off and raised the alarm. Some hours later help arrived, the Corporal still alive, to manyothers these injuriies would have been fatal, but not to CEMENT.
The assailants escaped to their Mozambican territory but fortunately of them were recognised and reoprted to the Portuguese Authorities who immediately set out, the assailants were soon found, charged and suitably punished.
Galant Corporal CEMENT recovered and soon was out again . . . . . . . catching poachers.
Stevenson - Hamilton was of opinion that as native poachers shot from very short range they regarded the rifle sights as unnecessary and removed them, this was often the saving grace in many a fire fight between Field Staff and poachers.
Harry Wolhuter's life was saved by the efforts of his native fellow Rangers, after his encounter with the Lion at Lindanda, when they bound his wounds and carefully transported him on a ltter of branches to Komatipoort, where he could be medically attended to.
One of the native Rangers, Mafuta Shabangu worked with Stevenson-Hamilton. The Warden had to go to Pretoria on business. Before leaving he armed Mafuta with a Martini Henry carbine and handed him with a few rounds of amunition, with the instruction to keep an eye on things, together with his alloted assistant. Should there be a Lion problem to keep them at bay untill the Warden's return.
Mafuta was a good shot and had already accounted for quite a few Lions.
There was a group of workers out in the veld a little distance from Kemp's Cottage who were often bothered by Lions who visited their compound at night.
During the first morning of the Warden's absence, Lions were heard, roaring in the distance, Mafuta set out on his own armed with the Martini Henry and his axe. . . . . He never returned. Later the day two people went out to investigate. They never found anything. Help was called for from Sabi Bridge 20 km away. The following morning a search party set out, eventually they saw Vultures circling and in the trees about 5 km from Kemp's Cottage. They rushed to the spot and found MAFUTA's body practically untouched apart from claw marks, one thigh badly bitten bound around by his puttees in an effort used as bandages. The Martini Henry under a tree about twenty metres away.
The Warden went to investgate and he found a lot of blood under the tree where the rifle was found, with a blood spoor leading into the bush, 400 metres further on the searchers found the body of a Lioness now a reduced to bones by the feeding vultures. Underneath the body was knife blood covered the full length of the blood. There were nail scars on the trunk of a tree in the area with a pair of boots in the branches.
Stevenson - Hamilton concluded that Mafuta found the Lions, he shot and wounded the Lioness, Mafuta followed. the Lioness layed up in some scrub and when Mafuta appeared, charged, Mafuta shot, he then climbed up the mentioned tree. The Lioness must have pulled him from the tree and during struggle Mafuta managed to stab the Lioness with his knife. During the struggle Mafuta was clawed and badly bitten on the thigh, which severed an artery. Having killed the Lion Mafuta bound his wounds best he could and set off for help. Weakened by bloodloss he rested under a tree after about two hundred metres, where he died later the day. An explanation about his body not being found under the tree is that the Lions returned to their fallen comrade, followed the blood spoor of Mafuta. Finding his body, it was dragged about the twenty metres to where it was found the next day. The tracks were seen leading back into the bush . . . . . Lions are not man - eaters by nature. stevenson - Hamilton reckoned that MAFUTA had fired two, possibly three rounds during this ordeal. Three unspent cartridges were found under the tree, where he had died.
When MAFUTA faced death it was in a spirit of his shear courage that demands the highest admiration. He was dargged friom a tree, mauled by an enraged animal, he armed with his sheath knife won the battle. Then he collected his rifle and made a desparate effort to walk home after bandaging his wound as far as possible, he staggered on but the artery severed ran out of life.
Corporal Mpanpuni Ubisis was the longest serving of the native Rangers, he was couragous and experienced, he had also given account of many Lions, one day saw from the door of his hut that Vultures were settling in a tree some four hundred metres away. He went to investigate, only armed with a stick. crossing the dry river bed he suddenly became aware of a Lioness
growling and tail waving signs of her trying to chase off an intruder. Mpanpuni made the mistake of turning around and walking away, instead of facing her or climbing up into one of the trees - the Lioness immediately charged, caught the now running Mpanpuni as he crossed the dry spruit.she seized him by the leg, pulled him down and inflicted a few severe bites, and left him. Mpanpuni in defence slashed her on the nose using his pocket knife.
Corporal Mpanpuni was attended to by his wife while help was coming from Ranger McDonald who arrived within the hour, took him to Komati Poort where he was despatched to Barberton Hospital by train. Unfortunately Corporal MPANPUNI died from shock a few days later.
Natives are very superstitious and more often than not, believe that happenings similiar to what had overcome Mpanpuni were not natural but the result of a spell cast, the person then becomes the victim of a Lion or Leopard attack. It was believed that Mpanpuni's wife with whom he had a strained relationship had the week before visited a woman who was a well known " keeper of Lions " and hired the Lioness from her for five pounds. Mpanuni's wife returned from the Lion keeper the morning of his death. The killing of cattle by Lions occured in the area, the Lion keeper said that she could not recall the Lioness unless she was paid a further five pounds. This continued untill Ranger Mc Donald shot an old Lioness in the vicinity. Stevenson - Hamilton beieved that the power of the "mtakati " entirely rules the mind of many natives and therefore rule and directs much of his course through life.
However Mubi was different, his complection was darker, his features bore some Arabic or Semitic resemblance he was wiry of build and also somewhat shorter than average. Mubi was completely fearless, utterly unscrpulous and was capable of the greatest feats of endurance. The Warden met Mubi after the latter had been caught for shooting a Zebra. Stevenson - Hamilton applied the principle of " employing a thief to catch a thief " and enrolled him. Mubi shared his knowledge of the veld with hs fellow native Rangers, he was rrspected by them and eventually also was promoted to the rank of Corporal, he was very successful applying Law and Order. Eventually Mubi started getting into trouble, he was once charged for someones hut alight, although acquited it was thought it better, getting rid of him.
Mubi was missed and eventually reappointed, he worked his way up to his previous rank. His crerr moved from periods of excellent service to lapses leaning towards the opposite. Poaching instances totally disappeared within his sphere of control so sometimes te Warden turned a blind eye as the positives outweighed the negatives.
A characteristic tale about Mubi is that arriving at a village while on patrol, he was told that a Leopardess with cubs had taken occupation of a thicket not far away and when a change in diet was required helped herself to the odd chicken or goat from the pens. The women of the kraal challenged Mubi to solve their problem. Mubi accepted the challenge, picked up his assegai, called his little dog and set off. All hell broke loose in the thicket and when quiet returned, Mubi returned - dragging the Leopard by the tail. The Leopard was speared through the heart with Mubi without a scratch.
Stevenson- Hamilton was only aware of one similiar incident but also quite diffrent - a Ranger called OFFICE was out in the bush searching for a wounded Leopard, when charged by the Leopard, it was summarily dispatched of in similiar fashion.
The Warden thought highly of Mubi although many a yarn was spread about Mubi and his exploits, some not very refined or honest, many of them most probably not very distant from the truth. That he was intelligent was true, no matter how often a clever defence lawyer tried to shake Mubi in the witness box under cross examination, they never succeeded.
When Mubi became to old for duty in the PARK, he settled with his five wives to a peaceful life, it was sometimes hinted that he hired out of his carefully concealed firearms . . . . . . .
I participate because I care - CUSTOS NATURAE
Convenor of the AIKONA Group.
No to Hotels in and commercialization of our National Parks.
Done 142 visits to National Parks.
What a wonderful privilege.
Last edited by gmlsmit on Tue Mar 31, 2009 4:28 pm, edited 2 times in total.