Ananias Mathe – a South African tragedy
Seven years of murder and mayhem
Seven years of murder and mayhem, rape and robbery, came to an end in a South African courtroom early in December 2009 when notorious murderer, rapist and violent robber Ananias Mathe was sentenced to an effective 54 years in maximum security.
Judge Geraldine Borchers, in sentencing Mathe in the Johannesburg High Court, said, “Rehabilitation cannot take precedence because he is dangerous.”
He was taken away under exceptional security to begin to serve his sentence in a maximum security prison in the remote town of Kokstad in kwaZulu-Natal province.
Mathe's reign of terror
Mathe, a 33-year-old Mozambican, began his criminal reign of terror in 1999 when he began by violently taking goods from people's homes. He first raped a woman in June 2003, a 19-year-old Johannesburg resident. He was arrested and mysteriously released, to continue his criminal activities.
He was arrested again in April 2004 in Pretoria and after appearing in court was released on bail of R500 (less than US$100). In January 2005 he raped another woman in Johannesburg, was arrested again, and this time escaped from a police high risk facility.
Mathe was arrested again in November 2005 in connection with yet another rape. He was then detained in the high-security C-Max prison in Pretoria, but again managed to escape, apparently with inside help.
He was again arrested in December 2006 when he was found driving a stolen car.
Mathe was charged with a total of 64 counts, including seven of rape, four of attempted murder, 28 of housebreaking, two charges of escaping from custody, and additional counts of being in unlawful possession of a firearm and ammunition, theft and attempted theft. He was also charged with the killing of 11 dogs.
He was sentenced by Judge Borchers to a total of 455 years in jail, with many of the sentences running concurrently. In passing sentence the judge said, “It is my view that the court should not impose hundreds of years because no human being can live long enough to serve such sentences, and this makes a mockery of the justice system.”
Because Mathe was regarded as such a high escape risk he was taken from the court by helicopter to fetch his belongings in Pretoria's C-Max before being flown in a chartered plane to his new prison home in Kokstad.
In Kokstad Maximum Security Prison Mathe will be under 24-hour guard. He will only be eligible for parole after 43 years, by which time he will be 76, and presumably no longer a threat to society.
The rest of the story
Mathe became notorious and feared in South Africa because of the viciousness of the crimes he committed and his apparent lack of remorse.
As Judge Borchers said, if Mathe had felt any remorse he would have pleaded guilty on all counts against him.
Instead, she said, “He watched as the State was obliged to call witnesses to testify against him. He watched as the rape victims and their families testified in tears.
“Mathe did not testify in court to express remorse on his own,” she concluded.
Mathe submitted a report by a clinical psychologist in which he claimed that his childhood had been disrupted by his joining the Mozambican Army during the civil war in that country, but the judge did not entertain this as being evidence of remorse.
Mathe's father, Zephanias Mathe, 82, has lived and worked in South Africa since 1957. He worked on the mines until 1997 and had 11 children, all dead except for Ananias and his brother Nitu. Mathe senior has 11 grandchildren, seven of them Ananias's.
The Sowetan newspaper sent a reporter and a photographer to Mozambique to look up the family there. They took the old man with them.
In Chicumbane they met Mathe's wife Felista and his children, as well as his brother Nitu who lost a leg in a car crash in 2003.
The newspaper team also met a neighbour of Mathe's, Thomas Sithole who told them that Ananias had come to South Africa in 1995. Both Sithole and Nitu said that Ananias had not been involved with the army in Mozambique.
The family plans to try to get Mathe sent back to Mozambique to serve his sentence there.
Crime and punishment
I find it difficult to feel any sadness for Ananias Mathe. I think he has richly deserved the punishment of a long, long time in jail. He is obviously a cruel, unfeeling person with little understanding of the effect on others of what he has done.
One of the women he raped was a virgin before the incident. Others have left South Africa, unable to stay in the country where they were violated.
One cannot but feel dreadfully sorry for these victims. And, I admit, very angry at Mathe for his lack of empathy, his heartlessness, his lack of feeling for others.
And most especially I feel angry and sad that the children he has fathered are left behind in poverty, some of them not ever having seen him. His wife is left to cope. That is almost unforgivable.
I look at the photo of the children and I just feel so angry that this man has done this to them.
Children deserve fathers who are kind and gentle, who look after them and make sure that they have all they need to get started in life. What chance do these beautiful young people have now?
One can only hope that the African philosophy of uBuntu will work, and that they will find comfort and help in their extended family and be supported by their neighbours.
Surely Ananias Mathe deserves to be punished, but do his wife and children also deserve punishment? I don't think so, but that's what they are getting. This is yet another African tragedy in the making.
The text and all images on this page, unless otherwise indicated, are by Tony McGregor who hereby asserts his copyright on the material. Should you wish to use any of the text or images feel free to do so with proper attribution and, if possible, a link back to this page. Thank you.
© Tony McGregor 2010