AN INQUEST into the death of a Zimbabwean game keeper killed by a tiger in New Zealand three years ago has been delayed over questions about his real identity.
Following the keeper’s death in Northland which made headlines around the world, thousands came to know him as Dalubuhle Ncube.
But a little digging by authorities in New Zealand has revealed Ncube may have committed identity fraud after it emerged he was also known as Clifford Mncube and Darlington Tembo, a pre-inquest hearing was told on Friday.
Ncube, whose body was repatriated for burial in his home village in Hwange, arrived in New Zealand on a passport that was in his much-younger brother's name.
Police inquiries after his death revealed he entered New Zealand on November 10, 2005, on a South African passport under the name of Clifford Mncube with a birth date of October 7, 1986.
This would have made him 19, when he arrived. In fact, he was actually about 27.
Before moving to New Zealand, Ncube worked at The Rhino and Lion Nature Reserve in Krugersdorp, South Africa, where he met former Zion Wildlife Gardens' operator Craig Busch and they became friends.
In October 2004, Busch sent a letter to Darlington Dalu Tembo, offering him a job at Zion. He obtained a work permit to work as an animal handler at the Whangarei-based park.
In her deposition to Whangarei coroner Brandt Shortland, police inquest officer Constable Andrea Magill said Ncube’s true identity had not been confirmed and was unlikely to be.
Magill said police enquiries revealed Ncube had told Zion operator Patricia Busch that his real name was Dalubuhle Ncube and he was born on July 13, about 1975-1978.
As a boy, he said his grandmother had used his younger brother Clifford's passport to get him out of Zimbabwe.
Magill said it was difficult to ascertain the truth about Ncube’s family, although it had been reported that he was raised by an uncle named Fati Mpofu.
It was also reported that his mother was Lucy Ncube who lived in Zimbabwe, had a five-year-old child, Darlington, who lived in South Africa, at least two brothers and one sister and has an aunt, Nomusa Mhindurwa, who is a nurse in Gisborne, north-eastern New Zealand.
"Immigration New Zealand believed it highly likely that the deceased entered New Zealand on a false passport," Magill told the hearing.
"Investigating police are satisfied that Clifford Dalu Mncube entered New Zealand under the name of Clifford Mncube and became known to his friends and family as Dalu Ncube," she said.
Ncube was mauled to death by a tiger while cleaning its cage in May 2009.
Coroner Shortland will release his findings on Ncube’s identity this week.