ANRY: Sipho Mthandeni Dube. Pic. Alon Skuy. 16/08/2006. © The Times.
ANRY: Sipho Mthandeni Dube. Pic. Alon Skuy. 16/08/2006. © The Times.

IT WAS a random call from Leeuwkop Prison last week that I answered.

The other end of the line was Sipho Mthandeni Dube, who told me he was one of South Africa's most feared serial killers.

He said he wanted to talk and asked if I could visit him. I quickly read up on him. And a cold and heartless monster who raped, sodomised and killed children with impunity, emerged.

He was the notorious Johannesburg mine dump serial killer, who had terrorised the area for nine years.

In 2004 he was finally caught and two years later Dube was sentenced to 10 life terms and 114 years imprisonment. Judge Seun Moshidi found him guilty of 31 crimes, including the murders of six children and a woman, 11 kidnappings, three rapes, six indecent assaults, one assault with intent to cause grievous bodily harm, one common assault, one robbery and one theft.

On the way to the prison I wondered what awaited me. I had a sinking feeling when a warder called his name and Dube entered the visiting room.

As he approached, a chill ran down my spine. There was no going back.

He looked just like his court pictures - clean-shaven with a joining moustache and a goatee. He looked slightly tired in the orange prison uniform but I could feel his stare.

After exchanging greetings, with a soft voice, he started talking. For almost an hour he told me the story so far.

"Firstly, I want to apologise to the families of my victims and to everyone that I have hurt," Dube said. "I understand that I do not have a chance of being released, but I want to bring some healing to those I have hurt. I know people are still asking 'why was I a serial killer for nine years'. I started in 1995.

"I will talk to you but those who are affected and really want to know what happened to their loved ones and why I did what I did, can come see me," Dube said.

"To be a serial killer is sparked by something small. It does not take a psychologist to explain it," he said.

"Yes, I am generally an angry man but it does not show. When I kill, I'm smiling - that is a serial killer. I have a short fuse and not having someone to confide in is part of the reason I ultimately became this serial killer that so many fear. When anger boils up inside and I have no outlet to cool me down, I lash out.

"So, I would also like to apologise to Judge Moshidi for shouting and swearing at him in court. I must tell you that I was charged with many crimes and convicted for some that I still maintain I did not do.

"But I do acknowledge 32 crimes that include murder, rape and robbery. I will give a blow-by-blow account in future. But you must know that some of the murders were actually hits. I was paid to kill. Other murders were because I was suspicious, from the way the person would look at me, that they knew something."

"I will not reveal much now. I first want to let people know that a man can change,"

Dube said he had 13 children, "some the product of rape. They are still scared to come see me."

As we spoke he hardly flinched, answering questions with the hint and polite gestures.

He said he missed his freedom. Life in prison was too rigid. But he had accepted he would die in prison.

Dube said some inmates were afraid of him, He did not understand why. As we said our goodbyes, he said he would see me soon.