Pretoria - He hated white people and he wanted their money.
This was the reason given by killer Knowledge Paulus Mandlazi, 26, for waging a reign of terror in the Brits area in 2014.
He embarked on a robbery spree among farmers in the area, killing five people in three months between March and June 2014.
Mandlazi chillingly described his conduct as merely “going to work”. He now has six killings under his belt.
Dressed in camouflage gear, with sunglasses and a hood covering his head, Mandlazi lazily stretched his arms behind his back and stifled a yawn as Judge Billy Mothle, of the high court in Pretoria, sentenced him to a total of five life sentences and an additional total of 195 years on a string of charges.
The judge ordered Mandlazi serve an effective life term behind bars, as well as 138 years, allowing some of the charges to run concurrently.
This is in addition to the 35-year sentence he is already serving in jail for a previous murder and robbery conviction.
The judge rejected his claim that his hatred for whites inspired his crime spree.
“You did this out of greed,” the judge told Mandlazi.
His accomplice, John Tivane, 31, a Mozambican citizen, was sentenced to three life terms and more than 100 years in jail. He effectively has to serve one life term plus 25 years. He denied his involvement in the crimes to the end and cried bitterly when he testified.
“Both of you are still young and you now have time to reflect on your deeds in prison,” the judge told the pair, in sentencing them.
Mandlazi earlier, following his conviction, casually put on his sunglasses, while he showed the court and his victims in the public gallery, the middle finger. He did this despite being watched by about six heavily armed Correctional Services guards.
One of the victims, Bennie Dercksen, who nearly lost his life when the two men shot at him and his family during a braai at his brother’s farmhouse, was not happy with the sentence.
“We are unhappy that the sentences are running concurrently. That means they will only have to serve one life term for all five murders. These people should never, ever be let loose again. They are a danger to society.”
Bennie’s brother, Danie, 44, was killed when they were shot at by the robbers.
“This has changed our lives. We are now terrified of having family gatherings and I have nightmares.”
He moved the day after the incident from the farm where he lived into the town of Brits.
Bennie was nearly paralysed by the shot, which exited through his back, millimetres from his spine.
One of the gang’s victims, Leander Dercksen (not related to Bennie and Danie) was 22 years old when he was shot in the head, neck and body and left to die in his farm fields while the robbers stole his vehicle.
About two weeks after this, Louis van Wyk, his wife Hester and son Louis jnr were attacked at their home on the outskirts of Brits. The 55-year-old Louis later died in hospital. His son managed to fire shots. In the ensuing frenzy, one of the robbers was shot – a death for which Mandlazi was charged and convicted of.
Less than a month later, in June 2014, Joshua Joubert, 70, was fatally shot by the gang while visiting family on a farm in Brits.
Judge Mothle on Thursday remarked that one could just be grateful that the police caught the gang after that last robbery and killing. He commended the police for their good work.
The judge referred to the callousness of especially Mandlazi’s deeds and the fact that he regarded embarking on the robberies and killings as “going to work”.
Mandlazi, in testifying in mitigation of sentence, said he was in the past attacked by white people that was why he targeted them. “They also had money, which he wanted,” the judge said.
The court found the aggravating factors to far outweighed the mitigating factors, but it was said that Mandlazi showed “some humanity” during the attacks, when he handed a crying child to his mother and offered one victim a cigarette during one of the robberies.
But the judge said the two had to remain in jail for a long time – for their own safety and that of the community.