NATIONAL NEWS - It has been nearly a month since a Kruger National Park ranger mysteriously disappeared, with the latest lead of his whereabouts seemingly hitting a dead end.
Checkers Mashego was last seen on patrol on the evening of 17 November in the Stolsnek section of the park. He was wearing his full uniform, carrying a rifle, a radio and had his cellphone.
The 51-year-old experienced ranger had been working at the park for more than 10 years.
This is the first time a ranger from the park has gone missing.
Despite efforts by the police, South African National Parks (SANParks) and the community of Mdlankomo to trace his whereabouts, the search continued.
“He still hasn’t been found,” said SANParks spokesman Isaac Phaahla.
More than three weeks after his disappearance, rumours circulated that Mashego was spotted in the nearby mountains at the weekend, prompting a massive manhunt with the assistance of a police helicopter.
“On Saturday, another search was conducted by the members, in partnership with other stakeholders, where a chopper was used to compliment the search. But there was no trace of him,” said police spokesman Colonel Donald Mdhluli.
“The search was carried out after information was received that the man was seen in the mountains around the Kruger National Park but those were just rumours,” he said.
But the family seem to suspect foul play, accusing the park of not providing enough assistance in their search.
According to reports, they suspected Mashego could have been kidnapped by poachers.
SANParks, however, said it was working with the family and could not speculate about the case.
“SANParks is focused on finding the missing ranger,” Phaahla said. “We are not going to start speculating at this stage. The police have to be given the space to investigate and bring finality.
“We are working with the family closely and want to keep it that way until our employee is located.”