INSIDE R5 000 FOR A LIFE
What rottweilers’ owners handed over after fatal mauling
Its horses are fed only top-quality products and treated like royalty, the exclusive La Maine Equestrian Estate on the KwaZulu-Natal North Coast boasts on its website.
But when one of its farm labourers was savaged to death by three rottweilers, the 21ha estate’s management offered his family a measly R5 000 as compensation for his life.
Khulekani Mthembu had the flesh ripped from his face, arms and legs during the attack on September 24.
His brother Collin said that when he went to La Maine the day after his brother’s death, manager Christine Cooper and paymaster Pauline Timms offered the family R5 000.
When he collected his brother’s belongings, he discovered an SMS from Cooper on his brother’s phone that read: “Where the f**k are you?” It was sent at the time of the attack.
To add to their pain, the devastated family received a call from a member of the estate management after the death, inquiring whether Khulekani, 33, was HIV-positive.
“I don’t know why she wanted to know that. She said it was for people who helped him into the bakkie that took him to hospital, but I don’t know if I believe that. They care more about the dogs,” said Collin.
Khulekani had worked on the estate for three months as a general labourer after his elder brother secured a job for him. Their duties on the estate — which is owned by a wealthy UK couple, property developers Mark and Rosemary Thomason — included releasing the rottweilers from their kennels in the evening and ensuring they were locked away before guests and staff arrived in the morning.
Collin quit his job after his brother’s death.
“I think they feel that the R5 000 was enough to pay for my brother’s life and for us to go away because after that they did not contact us at all,” he said.
On the fatal day Collin received a call from Cooper informing him that a farmworker had found Khulekani’s bloodied body. He was writhing in agony as he was taken to a state hospital 30 minutes away in a neighbour’s bakkie. Collin arrived at the Stanger hospital about two hours after the attack, in time to see Khulekani draw his last breath.
Cooper was nowhere to be seen.
Two years before killing Khulekani, the rottweilers, which patrol La Maine at night, savaged another person.
Domestic worker Nosipho Thusini was left disabled and scarred after skin grafts to her face, back, hands and legs. La Maine paid her R2 500 — and replaced her before she had recovered from her wounds.
Estate managers subsequently sent the animals for “training”.
Thusini, 30, who lives in Msinga, carries with her the trauma of the attack.
“I have been told to see a mental specialist because when I hear a dog barking or see a dog I just shiver and everything becomes black,” she said.
The mother of three is jobless, turned away by prospective employers because of her “disability”. “I’m told I’m disabled now because I’m limping. The last employers said I could not work in my condition,” she said.
She had been at La Maine carrying a plastic bag of clothes when she was attacked.
Thusini said La Maine paid her salary for two months while she was in hospital.
“They said they would pay for me while I was getting treatment. They paid for two months and then they just stopped.”
When she went back to claim her job, she said, she discovered another cleaner had been hired in her place.
Neither Cooper, Timms nor the Thomasons would comment.
This week the Mthembu family were still coming to terms with their grief at the family home, a modest rondavel in Wombane, a rural township outside Eshowe. Khulekani’s six-year-old son, who was at school, is too young to understand that his father is dead. —
Collin Mthembu, above with the three dogs that mauled his brother Khulekani Mthembu, left, to death in September.