TSONGA: Shifo-mhisi – the name of a famous poacher in the1940’s. He made his residence next to the banks of the Olifants River and for about five years, during the War, roamed around what was then a very remote stretch of country. He never cut his hair or washed – hence his name.
He usually went about quite naked and had a number of lairs secreted in the bush. He made particular use of ant-bear holes, which he enlarged and improved into reasonably snug retreats, provided that one fancied such places for residence.
He had apparently originated from Acornhoek area, west of the Kruger National Park, where some domestic upheaval had deranged him. He lived reasonably well on roots and venison. The Park tolerated him, if only because he seemed harmless, happy and, with the depleted staff in the war years, was very difficult to catch.
He was an expert at concealment. If detected, he bolted with the speed of tsessebe, leaping over bushes like an impala pursued by lion and seemed impervious to such things as thorns or fatigue. Unfortunately he developed a habit of raiding rangers’ picket posts and pilfering items such as knives, food, pots and clothing. A patrol of five African rangers was so irritated by one of his raids that they tracked him down to one of his hollowed-out anthills. At 02:00 they raided the place.
Shifomhisi was asleep behind a fire. The rangers threw in a blazing stick so that they would have more light. The man was up and away, charging right through the cordon of rangers, he simply vanished into the night. Then Ranger David Swarts sent an anti-poaching patrol down the right bank of the Olifants River. The patrol surprised the man drinking at a pool. He bolted, but this time he was out of luck. He tripped over a rock and injured his leg so badly that his flight was slowed to a hobble.
The rangers pounced on him. He lay on the ground, bound up and his eyes as full of terror as a captured wild beast. The rangers followed his trail back to his lair. It was a cave filled with spoils of many hunts and not a few raids on picket posts. He was tried for killing game and ended his days in a lunatic asylum.
Previous spelling: Shifomisi, Xifomhisi. Latitude 24:01:38 south, longitude 31:13:41 east. Creek, 11,5km south-east of Phalaborwa, tributary of the Olifants River.
Taken from ‘A Dictionary of Kruger National Park Place Names’ (2005) by JJ Kloppers and Hans Bornman. Available at selected Exclusive Books outlets.