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Animal rescuer shot by employer

Attempted murder case opened in May but victim says Malmesbury police have done nothing since

Photo of a man
Skholiwe Mambjinja accuses the Malmesbury police of failing him after he opened a case of attempted murder against his former employer four months ago. Photo: Tariro Washinyira
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Skholiwe Mambjinja accuses the Malmesbury police of failing him after he opened a case of attempted murder against his former employer, Andre Charles Verbiest.

“Verbiest was arrested on a Friday … By Monday he was already free,” says Mambjinja.

Struggling to sit on a chair inside a shack in the informal settlement of Los Angeles in Driftsands, Khayelitsha, where he now lives with his cousin, the 34-year-old told GroundUp in a faint voice that Verbiest shot him with an unlicensed firearm in May.

Mambjinja has a long wound down his abdomen which is oozing and another wound where the bullet entered near his shoulder blade. He walks bent and with great difficulty. He can no longer work. “The pain is unbearable,” he says.

Medical records from Tygerberg Hospital show he was hospitalised for five weeks.

Mambjinja had known Verbiest since 2006 through their work at Uitsig Animal Rescue, Fallen Angels, and Lucky Lucy Foundation. Verbiest then formed his own make-shift animal rescue shelter, Human and Animal Welfare Koinonia (H.A.W.K.), and persuaded Mambinja to work for him.

Mambjinja claims that he and other workers, three Malawians, worked without contracts or payslips. They worked long hours – from 5:30am to 10pm. He worked for Verbiest for 18 months. He was paid R6,000 per month.

On the day he was shot, he says his employer accused him of mistreating the dogs at the shelter and told him he was fired. When Mambjinja asked for UIF (Unemployment Insurance Fund) forms and R3,500 owed in leave pay, “fuck off my property” was the reply he got. There was an argument and a fight and then Verbiest shot him, says Mambjinja.

In February 2017, Gayl Basson, the owner of the farm in Malmesbury where Verbiest had set up H.A.W.K. had him evicted after a protracted court battle that started in 2015. 

Basson told GroundUp, “During the eviction court case, when I testified, I asked police to take the gun from [Verbiest] … He lied that he had destroyed it. Later on we heard he shot Mambinja with it. We hope Mambjinja gets the justice he deserves.”

After the eviction, Verbiest relocated to Riverlands, outside Malmesbury. Mambjinja says he continued to help Verbiest up and until the shooting.

Mambjinja claims Verbiest would disappear for days, leaving him to take care of Verbiest’s disabled grandson.

Constable Henry du Rand of Malmesbury police station confirmed the incident. He said that Verbiest was arrested on 14 May, charged and appeared before Malmesbury Magistrate Court on 15 May 2017.

Du Rand said: “The case has been postponed until the complainant was released from hospital. The case was again reviewed by the National Prosecuting Authority and it was decided that the investigator, Constable Nondabula, will interview the complainant and also get from him the medical report of what injuries he sustained during the incident. An interview was being done with the complainant at his home in Cape Town but up until now the complainant cannot produce any medical report. The case is still under investigation and the complainant will testify as soon as the NPA decide on a date.”

Eric Ntabazalila, Regional Communications Manager National Prosecuting Authority, said the NPA was awaiting the J88 [medical report] and a ballistics report on the bullet. “The matter is under investigation and charges were provisionally withdrawn pending finalisation of the investigation. Once the investigation is finalised, the charges of attempted murder, illegal possession of a firearm and ammunition will be reinstated,” he said.

But Mambjinja insists that the police have never followed up on his case, and because of his injuries he has not been able to get to the police station in Malmesbury himself. His cousin has been calling the police but with no result, he says.

GroundUp contacted Verbiest via Facebook. He gave us his contact number, but didn’t reply to this. Nor did he reply to emails.

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