A police informant is smiling all the way to his bankers after his golden tip-off enabled the KwaZulu police in South Africa catch their most wanted criminal – a one-armed serial rapist. named Mhlonishwa Elias Mathebula.
Mathebula, 33, who was jailed 315 years lasted week admitted raping 18 women, aged between 14 and 40 within five years – 2008 to 2013.
The handicapped rapist, who dragged his victims from several KwaZulu Natal South Coast towns into bushes and sugarcane plantations before raping them, was sentenced by the Scottburgh Regional Court last Friday.
Before his arrest last year Mathebula had give the police a ran for its money. Despite the assistance of SAPS Crime Intelligence, an active and efficient informer network, tip-offs from the public and assistance from their NGO crime-fighting partners, he repeatedly managed to escape the net cast around him.
Mathebula’s scarlet pimpernel escapades left Detective Warrant Officer Alexander Mfanafuthi Ngcobo of the Umzinto Child Protection Unit, leading the search for groping in the dark with sleepless nights
Now happy with his feat in bringing the serial rapist to book, Ngcobo, 47, has likened the elusive rapist to a “springbok” for not staying in one place for long.
“It’s just that he was mobile, and kept on moving and stayed in various places. I had to make pamphlets and offer awards that whoever gives us information of his hiding (place) would get a R20 000 reward,” Ngcobo disclosed.
He said he had called community meetings, went to schools and visited taxi ranks to hand over at least 1 000 copies of pamphlets with information and a picture of one of KZN’s most wanted criminals.
“I went to all the areas where he committed the crimes and even in other far areas in the South Coast,” Ngcobo said.
“It was the last resort (the reward) that we had to take.
“I put my contact details on the pamphlets and would wake at night after a tip-off, mobilise members and go to the identified place.”
Ngcobo said this was the only strategy that finally worked for the police to catch Mathebula in Oshabeni, about 23km away from Port Shepstone.
A police informant eventually snared the R20 000 reward for revealing Mathebula’s hiding place.
Ngcobo said: “And of course we are going to hand over that R20 000 to the person (who gave the tip-off).”
He compared Mathebula to Thozamile Taki, the infamous KZN serial rapist who was given 13 life sentences and 208 years’ imprisonment after he robbed, raped and killed 13 women and dumped their bodies in sugar cane plantations in Umzinto on the South Coast.
Mathebula had also accosted women, between the ages of 14 and 40, on the South Coast, mainly Umzinto, Hibberdene, Dududu and Msinsini. He dragged them into bushes and sugar cane plantations and raped them.
At the time of his arrest last year, he was wanted for 18 cases of rape, the last having been committed in January 2013 in Mehlomnyama.\
The first case of rape against Mathebula was registered with the Umzinto police in July 2008.
Ngcobo said Mathebula’s limb was amputated after an injury sustained when he was making an illegal electricity connection at the age of 13.
KZN police spokesman, Colonel Jay Naicker, said police had heaved a sigh of relief when Mathebula was finally arrested on March 8 last year by a specially established SAPS task team.