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Mthatha - For five years, Bulelani Mabhayi terrorised the rural villagers of Tholeni in the Eastern Cape, preying on vulnerable women and children, who he raped and, in some cases, hacked to death.
On Tuesday, Mthatha High Court Judge Noluthando Conjwa sentenced him to 25 life sentences for 25 crimes committed between 2007 and 2012. Each of the sentences are to run concurrently, amounting to 625 years.
“Mr Mabhayi, you are definitely not a person that society needs… Between 2007 and 2012, the community of Tholeni lived in fear because there was a predator living among them. It’s not clear how (you were) able to escape capture for such a long time.”
As the judge handed down her sentence, Mabhayi remained silent and avoided eye contact with the families and relatives of his victims sitting in the public gallery.
“His modus operandi involved stalking his targets, who were mostly vulnerable. It mattered not how young the victim was. No one was spared,” Judge Conjwa said.
She reiterated the evidence that Mabhayi “went for homes where there were no menfolk”.
Murmurs occasionally erupted in court as the judge reviewed the postmortem results revealing the severity of the wounds Mabhayi inflicted on his victims.
“The common trend that runs through these wounds show (the use of) violent force. He (Mabhayi) would kill more than one victim in one house. I can’t begin to imagine what was going through the minds of his victims while he was killing others.”
Judge Conjwa occasionally glared at Mabhayi during her hour-long delivery of sentence.
“While (Mabhayi) has apologised, he hasn’t disclosed the details of his crimes. To this day I remain in the dark as to what drove him to commit the crimes,” she said, reiterating how he had also preyed on unsuspecting people he worked for.
“He was well known and liked by people of that community. He took an unfair advantage of his knowledge of the homes he worked for. The deceased were attacked in the sanctuary of their homes where they expect to be safe…
“If what the social worker said (is true), he doesn’t seem to realise the enormity of his actions. In fact, he agreed that had he not been caught, he would have continued with his crimes.”
In a prelude to her sentencing, Judge Conjwa said the retribution would “hopefully restore the faith of the community in the justice system”.
The sentence sparked a frenzy of celebrations, led by Eastern Cape Social Development MEC Pemmy Majodina.
“Twenty by 20! Phambili nge 20 life sentences phambili!” she shouted to loud cheers.
“Today justice has been served, and we hope that the people of Tholeni will live in peace. We have similar cases in Mthatha, King William’s Town and Mthatha. We hope this will serve as a deterrent to other (would-be) perpetrators.”
Among those celebrating the sentence was Noxolo Mxhunyelwa, one of the many residents of Tholeni, near Butterworth, whose loved ones were murdered.
Mabhayi killed her mother and 13-year-old sister after raping them, before turning on her 15-month-old son, hacking him to death. Her 12-year-old brother survived the attack but has been left brain damaged.
Noxolo, who has had to abandon her studies, said she was satisfied with the sentencing.
“It won’t help the pain go away but at least I know that the killer is in jail.”