Sakhile Mokoena and Thabisile Khoza
A Mpumalanga man claims he fought a 3m-long crocodile at the weekend before killing it with a panga.
Alex Masinga, 58, of KaMhlushwa, near Malelane, claims to have killed the reptile in the Mlumati River after an epic five-hour battle early on Sunday morning.
But the self-proclaimed hero could face poaching charges if it is found that he snared the reptile before killing it.
Masinga said he was cutting trees next to the river to clear the bush for farming when he became thirsty and went to the river for water.
When he knelt to drink he felt something grab his right leg. Something began to pull him into the water.
When he turned he said he saw a crocodile had him by the leg.
"Fortunately I had a panga with me and I started fighting the crocodile in the water.
"I shoved the panga into its mouth and kept on thrusting until it swallowed the panga and moments later it died," said Masinga.
"I then left the dead reptile floating in the water and went to have a jug of sorghum beer at a local brewer's."
After a couple of drinks, Masinga said he told other patrons about his heroic battle and showed them the wounds he sustained on his leg and hand.
"They would not believe me until I took them to the river, where they found the reptile floating," he said.
Police were called to the scene. Masinga said he pulled the animal out of the water because he wanted to retrieve his panga.
"He has been complaining about losing his his new panga, which he says his employer bought for him for the job," said police spokesman Mzwandile Nyambi.
Though Masinga boasted to his friends, saying he was a hero and that it was not the first crocodile he had killed, Mpumalanga Parks and Tourism officials found his story hard to believe.
"The reptile had net remains around its mouth and there was a snare on the net," said Mfana Malindzisa, the Parks Agency's district officer.
"It is strange that the man claims to have killed it with a panga in the water."
He said if investigations revealed that Masinga had trapped the crocodile he could face a charge of poaching.
Other Parks officials said the scars on Masinga's leg were not proof of a crocodile bite.