OK! I’ve found the identity of our nocturnal monster insect. Its a sulpugid of the order solifugae – more commonly known as “haarskeerder” or “jag spinnekop”. Its not a spider, but it is an arachnid – which essentially means “it has eight legs”. Scorpions and spiders also belong to this class.
The afrikaans names translate like this: “Haarskeerder” means “hair shaver” as they are rumoured to have the ability to cut hair with their sharp claws. “Jag spinnekop” means “hunting spider” because it looks awfully spider like, and its very aggressive in its habits.
Just to remind you – here is the beast itself:
Here are some quotes about solpugids. This one from Trek Nature, Gerhard Theron writes:
They are very agile animals and swift when fleeing, resembling small balls of thistle blown by the wind over the sand and as a consequence they are also known as “wind spiders”. Because they have the tendency to avoid heat they tend to run from shadow to shadow. Frequently the shadow of man is also chosen, causing great concern, since this gives the impression that they are giving chase.
And this lovely description of its claws (jaws?), or chelicerae from the same source:
It is said that solifugids have the most formidable pair of chelicerae in the animal world. Each chelicera consists of two segments or fangs. The fangs have strong teeth, which like the blades of shears, move against each other in a vertical plane. The prey is held and passed to and fro through the chelicerae with the help of the pedipalps until it is chewed to a soft pulp. While chewing the whole front part of the body moves in rhythmic motion. There are no internal venom glands or ducts and the bite of a solifugid is not venomous, only painful because of its severity.
There is a whole website devoted to this order.
Well! At least I now know what it is.