June 11 2009 at 06:56AM
By Botho Molosankwe
The man who tortured his victims with a hot iron will spend the next 154 years behind bars.
In addition, Mzwandile Twala was sentenced to life for the murder of a former police officer.
Twala was on Wednesday sentenced in the Johannesburg High Court after being found guilty of 20 charges ranging from murder, attempted murder, robbery with aggravated circumstances, assault with the intent to do grievous bodily harm, attempted rape, acts he committed during a two-month crime spree in 2007.
Twala terrorised his victims in the south of Joburg by gaining access to their homes through the ceiling, assaulting them, stealing their money, possessions and torturing them by burning them with a hot iron.
He and his accomplice, who is still at large, also assaulted a former police officer, Hendrik Kotze, until he died. They also assaulted Kotze's quadriplegic son Gerrie, while Twala tried to rape his wife Johanna, but failed.
Other victims testified how the pair tortured them with a hot iron. Naresh Munga, who lives in Winchester Hills, testified that the pair attacked him twice in three weeks.
They took his possessions the first time and demanded more during the second robbery. When he told them that there was nothing to give as they took everything three weeks earlier, they burnt him twice with a hot iron on his thigh.
Handing down the sentence at the Johannesburg High Court, Judge Nigel Willis said the circumstances under which Twala committed the crimes amounted to most people's worst nightmares because they were attacked in the sanctity of their bedrooms.
"They were brutally awoken in the dead of the night, physically abused and (had) numerous insults hurled at them. The lives of all the victims in this case have been irrevocably damaged and they will never recover," he said.
Twala's victims were whites and Indians, and Judge Willis said the evidence in court regarding racial abuse seemed clear that Twala had a special hatred for white people.
"As a white person myself, I find it difficult to sit in judgment in such racial apathy. I accept that the accused might have been changed by our history.
"Nonetheless, I would ask him that during the many years he will spend in prison, to reflect on one of his victims, an 80-year-old woman who supplemented her pension by baking pastries.
"That is an example of an honest day's work. It also provides an excellent example that it is simply not true that every white person sits on ill-gotten wealth and can therefore be abused in a manner that the accused thought it was his right to," Judge Willis said.
Kotze's son, Neels, who is a lawyer, said they had waited two years for this day and were glad that Twala had been removed from society.
This article was originally published on page 2 of The Star on June 11, 2009