GUILTY. This word was repeated 36 times by South Africa’s worst serial killer in 15 years as he admitted to murdering 20 women and children.
The courtroom silence was occasionally broken by sobs as people heard him admit to killing their relatives and friends.
Bulelani Mabhayi, accused of 36 criminal charges, 20 of which are murder, pleaded guilty to all charges against him.
The other 16 charges include rape.
At least nine murder victims were children.
One count of rape was withdrawn by the prosecution yesterday morning as the Mthatha High Court sat in a special hearing in the Butterworth Magistrate’s Court this week.
The court was tense yesterday, but calmer than when Mabhayi first appeared on Monday when at least 30 police officers surrounded the court.
Each charge against Mabhayi was read out to him, and he was asked whether he was guilty or not guilty.
Mabhayi, a slight man dressed in a khaki jacket with a blue hood, meekly answered “ndinetyala” (I am guilty) to each charge.
Mabhayi looked straight at the court interpreter as he spoke.
While listening to the charge, Mabhayi would frown slightly while chewing his lips and staring into the middle distance.
Mabhayi’s defence read a statement from the killer, wherein he detailed how he committed his crimes.
In most cases, the statement read, he broke into people’s homes armed with an axe or panga.
All his victims were women and children, and he largely targeted homes where women were the head of the household. After breaking in, Mabhayi would attempt to rape the women and girls in the house before killing everyone by chopping them to death with the axe or panga.
Noxolo Mxunyelwa, dressed in her school uniform, burst into tears and had to be removed from the courtroom when Mabhayi answered “ndinetyala” to whether he had murdered her mother, Nomandla.
Mabhayi pleaded guilty to murdering both Noxolo’s one-year-old son and her mother, and to raping and murdering her cousin Lukhanyo, 13.
Later in the process another woman burst into tears, and was also led out of the court. Several others cried quietly as the trial progressed.
Mabhayi neither looked up nor acknowledged the women when they were led out weeping.
Nineteen of the murders took place in Mabhayi’s home village, which became known as the “village of death” as a result of his attacks.
In his statement, Mabhayi further said he knew all his victims, and they knew him. He said this was why he had murdered them.
Butterworth police spokesman Captain Jackson Manatha said Mabhayi’s guilty pleas were the result of excellent police work.
“I am still struggling to find the suitable word to describe how relieved we are as the South African Police Services that the accused pleaded guilty to all the charges levelled against him,” he said.
Mabhayi said he murdered a 20th woman after he met her while travelling.
Mabhayi said he told the woman he loved her and had consensual sex with her, but decided to murder her anyway.
He directed police to the site where her remains were buried, said prosecutor Advocate Ndoyisile Lamla.
The defence asked for an adjournment to look at the psychological and social circumstances reports.
Arguments in mitigation of sentencing will take place today.
After the hearing, Noxolo told the Dispatch that her heart was broken after losing her mother.
“She was everything to me and I was everything to her,” she said.
“It is still very difficult living without my mother and son, but I’ll be okay.”
Read more on this story in the Daily Dispatch.
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