The neatly dressed Mhlabunzima Goodnews Zondi, 39, of Imbali, Pietermaritzburg, was described by Durban magistrate Lee Bonhomme as dangerous and a “wolf in sheep’s clothing”.
Zondi had pleaded guilty and was sentenced to life imprisonment for each of the 11 counts of rape, five years’ imprisonment for each of the 11 counts of kidnapping, 12 months’ imprisonment for theft and 24 months’ imprisonment for pointing of a firearm.
The sentences will run concurrently with that of life.
Zondi was arrested after one of his victims spotted him having lunch at a restaurant in Greytown.
After his arrest, police were able to link his DNA to 11 rape cases reported at different police stations in Durban, Eshowe, Melmoth and Pietermaritzburg between 2009 and 2013. His victims were aged between 13 and 26.
Chained from the hips to the legs, Zondi stood emotionless and quietly watched as the magistrate went through the sentencing process.
Zondi, a married father of three minor children, was self-employed and had supported his children and his unemployed wife before his arrest.
His wife was not in court. She will support their family with the money she collects from Zondi’s rented property and from the children’s social grants.
“Your victims must have trusted you and your mannerisms as seen in this court."
“Your portrayal of yourself was seen as the ‘gentle of the gentle’, meticulously dressed, your clothes always ironed to perfection."
“You could not be mistaken for a serial rapist and that is why I am making a wolf in a sheep’s clothing comment,” said Bonhomme.
Chilling details of Zondi’s reign of terror were revealed in the victim impact statements read out to the court by prosecutor Shayna Naidoo during sentencing.
The victims recalled how Zondi had offered them a lift, but instead took them elsewhere and raped them. He pointed a gun at one of the women.
A 13-year-old girl was a virgin at the time of the rape.
She said the fact that her virginity was taken by an unknown and older man had left scars that would never heal.
She has no social life and suffers from constant headaches because of an injury she sustained when Zondi punched her in the head.
Another victim said she had to relocate to Johannesburg as a result of the trauma. She feared for her life.
Others who were still in school have since dropped out.
A Grade 10 pupil said she had to repeat the year.
A Grade 12 complainant said her grades dropped from A symbols to H because she could not focus at school and suffered from low self-esteem.
The women said their dignity as females were impaired and they felt that people who knew about the rapes “looked at them in a funny way” and caused them to be embarrassed.
Bonhomme said that from the evidence and the similarities of the rapes, it was clear that Zondi had pre-planned the crimes.
It was also clear, he said, that Zondi had no respect for women and was a danger to society.
He said the court noted an increase in the rape incidents from 2011 and 2013.
“It appears that you became more confident of conducting these crimes by expanding to other towns such as Eshowe and Melmoth and you were becoming more dangerous,” he said.
He said the abuse of women and children was increasing and in Zondi’s case, he had violated women and children by forcing them to submit to him and raping them.
Bonhomme said rape was not only physical, but also a violation of the very core of a woman.
According to a social worker’s report, Zondi said he was not satisfied with the sex at home and admitted that he was unfaithful to his wife and was a “ladies’ man”.
Naidoo had successfully asked for an order placing Zondi on the sexual offenders’ register.
Advocate Moipone Noko, the provincial Director of Public Prosecutions, said: “I am pleased with the sentence, which will serve as a deterrent to would-be serial offenders.”