South Africa has an unimaginable high rate of violent crimes in comparison to other countries. Most emigrants actually state that the high crime rate is one of their main reasons for leaving the country. Furthermore, the violent crimes committed have an extra barbarous and brutal feel to them. It has been argued that weak infrastructure, a less robust economy, rapid urbanization and crowding makes society more vulnerable to serial murder. In South Africa, serial murder can be attributed to poverty, crime, violence, the disbanding of families and the tribal ways. Many households are run by children as the parents have died or abandoned them. Thousands live in shanty towns close to the major cities where murder and rape is a part of daily life. Despite the abhorrent crime statistics, the public will always revel in the horror and elevate the most prolific murderers to infamous levels. Like the Jeffrey Dahmer’s of America, South Africa has its own list of extremely violent and cruel serial murderers.
10. Johannes Mashiane (The Beast of Atteridgeville) Murdered 13 victims
Johannes Mashiane claimed his first victim (his girlfriend) in 1977 and was sent to prison for 5 years. Having spent his time, he was released and started his reign with a vengeance. After being released in 1982 he immediately started raping and murdering. Favoring young boys, he would sodomize them repeatedly before stoning or strangling them. He would kidnap the children while they were walking home from school or convince them to walk to an isolated spot with promises of candy or money. One victim survived the horrible assault and could give a statement that led police to Mashiane. In October 1989 Johannes Mashiane committed suicide by jumping underneath a bus as police were chasing him. He was positively linked to 13 murdered boys.
9. Elifasi Msomi (The Axe Killer) Murdered 15 victims
In South Africa, the Zulu people firmly believes in the Tokoloshe a tiny hairy, evil spirited, half-human/half-animal. If ever you were to see him and look in his eyes, you would die immediately, yet no man can refuse his wishes. Murder, robbery and rape can be overlooked if the perpetrator can convince his community that the Tokoloshe made him do it. Elifasi Msomi was a weak and feeble sangoma (shaman and medicine man). Whilst seeking guidance from another sangoma, he claimed a Tokoloshe possessed him. In his “possessed” state he went on an 18 month killing spree. After initially raping and murdering a young girl in front of his mistress, he had to go on the run as his mistress alerted the police – crediting his escape to the Tokoloshe’s powers. After the mutilation and murder of 5 children, he was finally caught, but managed to escape again. Body parts serve as main ingredients in many sangoma treatments and it is suspected that Msomi sold various body parts for financial gain. A month after his escape, he was arrested for petty theft and the many items belonging to the murdered victims were discovered. In his trial, Msomi claimed he was innocent as the Tokoloshe murdered, raped and mutilated the victims. Two psychologists disagreed – claiming Msomi derived sexual gratification from inflicting pain. He was found guilty of 15 murders and sentenced to death by hanging. Local Zulu chieftains asked to stand by and witness his hanging to ascertain the departure of the evil spirit.
8. Jack Mogale (West-End serial killer) Murdered 16 victims
Mogale claimed to be a Zion Christian Church preacher and prophet. In this role as preacher and healer it was easy to lure women to the West-End brick and clay factory close to his home in Westonaria, south of Johannesburg, where he would proceed to rape and murder them. From the two women to survive his attacks, the police could learn a little bit about his modus operandi. One woman testified that he gave her a ride, claimed to be prophesying over her, then proceeded to an isolated area where he viciously attacked her. Most of his victims were linked to him by his methods, victimology and location and were all either strangled or beaten to death. On 17 February 2011, Mogale was convicted on 52 of 61 charges. He received 16 life sentences, which are to run concurrently, without the possibility of parole.
7. Jimmy Maketta (The Jesus Killer) Murdered 16 victims
Jimmy Maketta is described as a psychopath that has no remorse and cannot be rehabilitated. During childhood he often fought with others, set things alight, ran away from home and was involved in acts of bestiality. While living on the streets he got the word “Jesus” tattooed on his upper lip, the ultimate characteristic his victims would remember him by. He would stalk his victims like an animal, often sitting on a hill where he had a good view of the local farms and houses. After dark he would break in, rape and kill by hacking victims into pieces with an axe or bludgeoning them with a hammer. Bodies were then thrown in dams. 5 victims were between the ages of 60 and 70. He was eventually captured after he left his cell phone at a crime scene. In various letters to his family he detailed his crimes and confessed to a lot of murders and rapes the police didn’t know of. Convicted of 47 charges including 16 counts of murder and 19 counts of rape, Jimmy Maketta will be eligible for parole 2031.
6. Elias Xitavhudzi (Pangaman) Murdered 16 victims
Elias Xitavhudzi murdered 16 women and men in Sunnyside and Magnolia Dale (Gauteng Province) in the 1960’s. As he murdered only white males and females in the strictly isolated “apartheid-era”, his murderous reign caused communal concern on both sides of the race spectrum. Waiting for his victims at various “lovers-lane” spots, he would accost the unsuspecting couple and brutally murder them. Shortly before his arrest, he acquired the nickname “Pangaman” (panga being a local word for the machete/long broad-bladed knife he used to hack his victims). Being swiftly tried and convicted of the murders in November of 1960 he was sentenced to death by hanging.
5. Christopher Mhlengwa Zikode (The Donnybrook Serial Killer) Murdered 18 victims
Zikode launched his serial-career at age 19. In July 1995 he was arrested for the first time on a charge of attempted murder. Granted bail, he went on to commit at least five more offences. Zikode’s modus stayed the same throughout his career. He attacked families and single women travelling alone in and around the small rural town of Donnybrook, KwaZulu Natal. He would typically break into a home and shoot all the male members in the house. He would then take the remaining females into nearby fields/plantations and rape them continuously – in one instance for more than five hours. Uncooperative victims would be shot and Zikode would proceed by committing necrophilia. He was finally arrested in September 1995 and convicted on 21 charges including eight murders, five rapes, five attempted murders, and one indecent assault (all committed between April and September 1995) Zikode was sentenced on January 7 1997, to a prison term of 140 years. It has to be noted that Zikode is also considered to be responsible for at least 18 other murders and 11 other attempted murders.
4. Sipho Thwala (The Phoenix Strangler) Murdered 19 victims
Sipho Thwala began his year-long rape and murder spree in 1996 in the province of KwaZulu Natal. He lured women seeking employment into the sugarcane fields of Mount Edgecombe with promises of available positions as domestic servants in hotels. Once inside the sugarcane fields he would attack, rape, strangle and beat them to death. In efforts to destroy evidence he would always set the sugarcane fields alight afterwards. Thwala, acquitted of rape and murder in 1994, was arrested for the serial killings in August 1997 after DNA taken from the sugarcane victims matched the DNA taken from him during his previous arrest. Shortly before he was sentenced, a rumor spread through his village that he had been seen near his home. Angry villagers locked his family inside their home and set it alight. Luckily a neighbor came to their rescue and the family fled to the police station. On March 31, 1999, the High Court in Durban found Thwala guilty of 16 murders and 10 rapes and sentenced him to 506 years in prison.
3. Norman Afzal Simons (The Station Strangler) Murdered 22 victims
Simons can speak 7 languages including English, Afrikaans, Xhosa, French and he plays various musical instruments. As a 5th Grade teacher, he was well-known and loved by his community. He also knew exactly how to manipulate situations and influence young children. In 1986 a series of murders started in the Mitchell’s Plain area. Young boys would disappear from the train stations and be found face down and tied up in shallow sandy graves, sodomized and brutally strangled with their own underwear. During 1994 alone, 11 bodies were discovered. Profilers confirmed that the killer had to be someone children would trust even after many boys were being found murdered. Identified by one would-be victim after his friend was found dead after helping Simons to carry boxes – he was finally apprehended. Simons claimed his older stepbrother raped and sodomized him as a youngster and that he heard voices commanding him to kill the victims. Simons was convicted and sentenced to life in prison for one murder due to his confession. In 2010 police confirmed the cases had been re-opened. All DNA collected from the various crime scenes that were never tested are now being tested and compared. The inquest is ongoing.
2. Cedric Maake (Wemmer Pan Killer) Murdered 27 victims
Cedric Maake was unique in that he had no victim or weapon preference. As long as he could mutilate, rape and kill, any person of any race, sex and age would do. Maake is known as the “Wemmer Pan Killer” because it was in this area of Johannesburg that he targeted most of his victims. At first favoring shop owners and taxi drivers – Maake would rob them and beat them to death. He progressed to couples and women, killing the men while the women watched and raping and killing the women afterwards. Police at first thought they were looking for two separate killers. It was only when the investigations started overlapping that they realized it was one single killer. During his trial, Maake pleaded not guilty. Ghastly details emerged in court. Surviving female victims testified against him, looking back on how he would kick and scream vulgarities at them while they were lying crushed on the ground. Experts offered graphic accounts of how Maake used huge rocks to crush the skulls of some of the male victims. Maake’s conduct in court was equally horrific, emphasized by his screaming, crying and head-banging fits. He even threatened to rape and murder the female state prosecutor just as he did his female victims. On September 6, 2000, he was convicted of 27 murders, 26 attempted murders, 14 rapes, 41 aggravated robberies and other less serious offenses. He was found guilty of 114 of 134 charges and sentenced to 27 life sentences (one life sentence for each murder) plus 1159 years and 3 months imprisonment. In total, his sentence amounted to 1,340 years in prison.
1. Moses Sithole (ABC Killer – The South African Strangler) Murdered 38 victims
Sithole began raping women in his twenties. Apprehended and sent to jail, he himself was sexually abused by the other inmates. Shortly after his release in 1994 he started his reign of terror. Sithole found his victims by claiming to be a businessman who could help them find employment. Taking his victims through open fields he would overpower, rape and strangle them. In less than a year he killed 30 women. In some cases he was so bold as to phone the victims’ families and taunt them afterwards. Sithole preferred to keep his playground littered with bodies and all his victims were found within meters from one another. The profiler in the case could envision the killer leading his victim through the other bodies to paralyze her with fear before he raped and strangled her. One victims’ 2 year old son’s body was found within meters from her, having died of hunger and thirst. On 5 December 1997, Sithole was sentenced to 50 years imprisonment for each of the 38 murders, 12 years imprisonment for each of the 40 rapes, and five years imprisonment for each of the six robberies an effective sentence of 2,410 years. On being admitted to prison, it was discovered that Sithole had contracted HIV.