A brave grandfather and farmer who survived a vicious leopard attack last week in Peddie has told how he survived the ordeal that forced his community to trap and kill the animal on Friday.
Although he still lives in fear for his goats and family, Lindile Mbilana, 74, has been hailed as a hero for coming out alive with a few scratches following the attack that shocked the Ndwayana village last Sunday.
Mbilana had been looking for some of his goats which had not returned home, when he came face- to-face with the leopard.
“When I saw my dead goats I called home for the children to bring me a wheelbarrow to carry them. When I looked around I saw the leopard lying so close to me and it attacked as I tried to block it with my hand.
“It pressed me down and was loudly roaring over me trying to reach for my face during the whole time,” he said, adding that he also survived because the big cat had been missing a couple of teeth.
The leopard was then distracted by barking dogs that were with Mbilana’s daughter Phumla, 21, and grandson Thandolwethu, 13, who witnessed the attack.
“It was like a movie,” recalled Thandolwethu, who said he wanted to fight the leopard off his grandfather, but was stopped by Phumla.
The leopard finally got off Mbilana, who escaped with wounds to his chin, arm and back.
He immediately went to Settlers Hospital in Grahamstown, where he received stitches.
“I can still smell it even today,” he told the Daily Dispatch from the veranda of his home on Saturday.
Mbilana was attacked by one of two leopards that villagers said had been spotted in bushes near their homes in Ndwayana and Glenmore in June.
Mbilana said 16 of his more than 80 goats had been killed by the leopard in four months.
They also attacked cattle and donkeys. Villagers said more than 100 livestock had been killed by the leopards.
Mluleki Ngqila, of Glenmore, lost two cows to leopard attacks, and a third has not recovered from its injuries despite being treated.
Residents said nature reserve officials had told them that since the big cats were outside the reserves, residents should take responsibility for them.
The officials told them they would not compensate them for their losses.
But economic development, environmental affairs and tourism MEC Sakhumzi Somyo told the Dispatch yesterday that an investigation had been launched to establish the possible owners of the leopards on the loose.
He said when the crisis was reported to the department, a hunter was hired to look for the leopards but the process had been disrupted by the residents themselves when they decided to take matters into their own hands.
While residents claimed the leopards had escaped from the government-owned Double Drift Game Reserve, Somyo vehemently denied this, saying they did not have leopards at the reserve.
Mbilana’s wife, Nomisile said: “We are happy and relieved that the leopard was killed but we are still not free.
“Some villagers say the one left is a female and it was spotted with three cubs so that means we are still not safe. We want compensation because we don’t work and the livestock is like the bank to us, that is how we survive and send our children to school.
“We are pleading for protection, safety and compensation.”
The MEC said: “We can’t take responsibility for this hence we are looking for the owner. It is the owner’s responsibility to compensate the residents for the losses.” — firstname.lastname@example.org