Speaking to reporters‚ a senior prison official in KwaZulu-Natal said the convicted rapist‚ murderer and house robber was suffering complications from an apparent “digestive issue” over the past three months. At between 4.30pm and 5pm on Tuesday‚ the Mozambican national died in the King Edward VIII Hospital.
“Three weeks ago he was taken to hospital not feeling well. Twice (in that week) he was taken to a hospital in Kokstad‚ they would look at him and bring him back. Once‚ he was even taken in the middle of the night and brought back early that morning‚” the official said.
He was reportedly suffering from severe constipation and could not urinate.
At first suspicious‚ officials thought that Mathe was trying to get to hospital as part of an elaborate escape plot‚ especially since he has twice tried to break out of the ultra-secure C-Max prison in Kokstad where he was being held and had been part of several audacious escapes from other facilities across South Africa.
But as Mathe’s conditions deteriorated‚ he was taken for further medical attention in mid-December‚ this time at the Edendale Hospital in Pietermaritzburg. There he underwent surgery and was‚ again‚ taken back to Kokstad.
Then‚ on Christmas Eve‚ he was again admitted. Because of security fears‚ he was transported to Durban.
“He was there for three days‚ listed as critical. He was operated on twice for the same problem‚ to do with things not being well in his stomach. It seems like a digestive issue‚ but I wouldn’t know 100%‚ medically-speaking. We are waiting for an autopsy. At about 4.30pm to 5pm‚ he succumbed from his illness‚” the prisons official said.
At this stage foul play is not suspected.
“I think it was a genuine sickness. Not so long ago he was caught trying to escape‚ and when this happened we thought it was another attempt‚ especially because it is the festive season (when escapes are most common). But he has been ill‚” the official said.
In September‚ Mathe – most of whose crimes were committed in Gauteng‚ but who was transferred to Kokstad because he was classified a “problem inmate” – attempted to escape by removing the metal frame of his cell window and using his sheets and blankets to drop 10m to the ground below.
It was the second time Mathe had tried to escape from Kokstad‚ regarded the most secure prison in the country. The first was in exactly three years earlier‚ in September 2013‚ when he used a makeshift object to try dig a hole through his cell wall. This would‚ ultimately‚ have been unsuccessful because he would only have succeeded in burrowing into the cell next to his.