Ananias Mathe unleashed a reign of rape, robbery and housebreaking terror and gained notoriety for his prison escapes. Picture: Sizwe Ndingane/Independent Media
Ananias Mathe unleashed a reign of rape, robbery and housebreaking terror and gained notoriety for his prison escapes. Picture: Sizwe Ndingane/Independent Media

Death was Ananias Mathe's last escape

By Thami Magubane Time of article published Dec 29, 2016

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Durban - Good riddance.That was the reaction following the news on Wednesday that notorious criminal and escape artist Ananias Mathe had died.

Mathe died at Durban’s King Edward VIII Hospital on Tuesday after a short illness. He had been admitted last Friday.

“It is considered impolite to speak ill of the dead. However, in the case of Mr Mathe, society is now free from a dangerous and malevolent individual,” said DA Correctional Services shadow minister James Selfe.

“The death of the notorious criminal and escape artist, Mathe, brings to an end a chapter for our prison system,” continued Selfe.

Mathe, a Mozambican national, was convicted of 64 charges, including rape, attempted rape, attempted murder, robbery and theft.

He also killed 13 dogs with poison before entering the homes of his victims with a torch in one hand and a gun in the other.

He would shine the torch in the faces of his victims before raping them, and disappear with their jewellery and cash.

Between 1999 and towards the end of 2002, Mathe specialised in breaking into people’s homes and violently removing their belongings, but did not rape his victims.

In 2003, he escalated to rape.

In 2006, he reportedly managed to escape from the Pretoria C-Max Prison by covering his body with petroleum jelly and sliding out of his cell window. However, he was caught a month later. Six prison warders were dismissed in connection with this escape.

Earlier, he had escaped while an awaiting-trial prisoner in 2005.

After being recaptured following the Pretoria C Max escape, he was sent to the super-max Ebongweni Prison in Kokstad, where he twice tried to escape.

In 2013, he chiselled a hole through a wall in his bid to escape, but was caught.

He tried again this year by breaking a window in his cell.

Escape artist Ananias Mathe in his cell in the Bongweni C-Max prison. File picture: Thami Magubane 

In September, when news of the failed escape bid leaked out, The Mercury visited C Max where it found prison officials searching cells looking for any contraband. Nothing was recovered.

Mathe had tried to escape by bashing the glass of his prison cell window and sawing off the steel on the window to make it bigger.

The attempt embarrassed and infuriated prison officials who said a thorough investigation would be conducted.

An official at the time remarked that Mathe seemed to have had high-level training. “He can use anything as a weapon. His hands are a weapon,” said the official.

“These incidents (of escapes) point not to Mr Mathe’s ingenuity or Houdini-like abilities, but rather to the depressing reality that offenders with large amounts of money made from the proceeds of crimes can bribe their way out of most situations,” said Selfe on Wednesday.

“It is a tribute to the Kokstad C Max staff, and the prison’s security measures, that he was unable to escape.”

Erickson Zungu, the NFP’s spokesman on community safety and liaison, suggested that if the death penalty was still legal in South Africa, it would have been suitable for Mathe.

KwaZulu-Natal Correctional Services spokesman Thulani Mdluli said Mathe’s family had been informed of his death, but would not elaborate due to security concerns.

Mdluli said Mathe had not been well for about a month.

“What we know is that he had a digestive problem.

“He was first treated inside our facility in Kokstad. At some point he was admitted to Usher Memorial (Hospital) in Kokstad. Thereafter, he was referred to Edendale Hospital in Pietermaritzburg where he underwent an operation and was later discharged.

“On December 23, he was admitted to King Edward VIII Hospital where he underwent an operation the following day. He died on December 27 of natural causes.”

Mdluli said it was awaiting the full autopsy report but the medical reports suggested his death was due to digestive problems.

During a visit to the prison following his latest attempt almost three months ago, one of the prison officials remarked that Mathe did not look well.

Ananias Mathe by numbers


, the year he came to South Africa.


, the number of houses he broke into.


, the number of provinces in which he committed crimes.


, the number of cellphones he stole during his attacks.


, the number dogs that died after Mathe poisoned them.


, the number of women Mathe raped.


, the number of women who emigrated after being attacked.


, the number of people Mathe shot after breaking into their homes.


, the number of charges for which Mathe was convicted.


, the number of police officers who died while investigating Mathe’s case.


, the number of witnesses who were supposed to have testified against Mathe but who disappeared before they could.


, the exhibits presented in court during Mathe’s trial.


, the number of people who testified against Mathe during the trial.


, the number of years Mathe was set to serve behind bars.

The Mercury

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