In one case that has attracted international media attention, a South African taxi driver named Mziwamadoda Qwabe has been sentenced to 25 years in prison for the murder of Anni Dewani, a Swedish woman of Indian descent who was killed in Cape Town during her honeymoon in 2010.
Qwabe has claimed that the bridegroom, Shrien Dewani, a Briton of Indian descent, had paid him to shoot his wife and that Shrien even participated in the murder.
Two other South Africans, Zola Tongo and Xolile Mngeni, had also taken part in her murder, Qwabe alleged. Tongo, who claimed that Shrien Dewani offered him about $2,100 to kill Anni, has already been sentenced to 18 years in jail.
Shrien Dewani, who is in Britain reportedly suffering from mental problems, denied the allegations, but will face a trial in the UK in September. He faces charges of murder, conspiracy to commit murder, robbery with aggravating circumstances and obstructing the administration of justice.
In an even more brutal case, Amaro Jose Viana, a 12-year-old South African boy of Portuguese descent, was drowned in boiling water by the men who murdered his parents so that he could not identify the killers in court.
The shocking murders took place in October 2011 in Walkerville, about 40 miles south of Johannesburg.
According to court testimony in Vereeniging, the boy was forced to watch as three men -- Patrick Radebe, the family's gardener, Sipho Mbele, their housekeeper's son, and Sphiwe Motaung – tied up his father, Tony Viana, 53, and attacked with a panga (a hunting knife) and golf club, before killing him with a shot gun. Then, they raped his mother Geraldine, 42, and shot her to death with her husband’s own gun.
As a bizarre addendum, the assailants even cut the family dog’s stomach open.
"We went to the bathroom and turned on the tap," one of the defendants said in a statement, according to the Beeld newspaper. "We went to (Amaro) and gagged him because he was crying. We forced him into the bath face down, knowing that he would drown."
Radebe and Mbele pled guilty to three charges of murder and one charge of rape, while Motaung pled guilty to robbery.
South African media reported that the three convicts laughed as court officers returned them to their cells.
The attorney for the defendants claimed that they only sought to rob the Viana family in retaliation for the mistreatment they suffered at the hands of Mrs. Viana.
The defendants will be sentenced on September 6.
Despite such high-profile killings, the murder rate in South Africa – while still high – has actually been plunging over the past 15 years or so.
In 1995-1996, the country recorded almost 68 homicides per 100,000 inhabitants – that figure was down to 32 in 2010-2011. In contrast, the homicide rate in the United Sates is only 4.2