My blood instantly ran cold.


Ananias Mathe looks over his right shoulder‚ his lips pursed as he smiles almost cheekily. He’s wearing his orange prison-issue jump suit and has metal chain around his waist as he stands in his cell at the Kokstad C-Max prison.

This picture‚ taken by multiple award-winning photographer Thuli Dlamini‚ was probably the last ever snapped of Mathe‚ who died in a Durban hospital on Tuesday.

The first thing I noticed about the Mozambican national when I met him for the first time was his eyes. I don’t scare easily‚ and I didn’t feel any unease as I walked into the cold‚ echo-filled bowels of C-Max – until our gazes met as he looked out of his cell on a rainy morning in March 2015.

My blood instantly ran cold.

When he was convicted in December 2009 on 64 charges including rape‚ indecent assault‚ attempted murder‚ aggravated robbery and housebreaking‚ the judge described his behaviour as “vicious”. Vicious. It seems an entirely appropriate word.

Thuli and I went to the prison in October this year‚ just weeks after he tried to escape for a second time. The same haunting eyes met us.

When Thuli asked him to pose for a photo with just his eyes looking through the gap in his cell door‚ his reply was terse: “Go away. You just want to make money out of me.”

We wanted to go back early in 2017 and take Mathe lunch‚ to talk to him‚ to find out what makes him tick. We won’t ever get that chance.

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