1663: Corfitz Ulfeldt, in effigy 1781: Tupac Katari

1960: Phineas Tshitaundzi, the panga man

November 14th, 2011 Headsman

On this date in 1960, South Africa conducted a mass execution of 15 miscellaneous criminals (14 black, one white) in Pretoria Prison.

The headline attraction was one of the 14 blacks: Phineas Tshitaundzi, the “panga man” or any number of related headline-worthy nicknames — the panga slasher, the panga maniac. (“Panga man” can also just be any old fellow with a panga, like an agricultural worker.)

A panga is a machete, and Phineas Tshitaundzi wielded this intimidating instrument during a 1950s spree terrorizing white lovers’ lanes around Johannesburg. “He would assault the men and rape the women — to whom, it was said, he then gave bus fare home,” wrote Jean and John Comaroff in Law and Disorder in the Postcolony.* “There could hardly have been a more intense figuration of the dark, erotically charged menace that stalked the cities in the white imagination.”

The assaults were non-fatal — panga man was the only one of the 14 blacks hanged this day not on the hook for murder — but the many survivors whose affairs were on the illicit side had injuries to cope with beyond those inflicted by the blade.

Tshitaundzi was finally caught as a result of fencing some of the proceeds of his crimes, whereupon it transpired that the terrifying perpetrator had been so difficult to capture because he’d been working as a mild-mannered 40-year-old “tea boy” at police headquarters itself, a position that allowed him to stay wise to various attempts to ensnare him.

The terrible “panga man” was installed in a kitschy exhibit in the police museum opened by his employes turned captors.

* The full chapter from this anthology can be read in pdf form here.

On this day..

Entry Filed under: 20th Century,Capital Punishment,Common Criminals,Crime,Death Penalty,Disfavored Minorities,Execution,Hanged,History,Mass Executions,Murder,Racial and Ethnic Minorities,Rape,Serial Killers,South Africa,Theft

Tags: , , , , , , , ,

4 thoughts on “1960: Phineas Tshitaundzi, the panga man”

  1. I am a descendent of phineas panga man Tshitaundzi .He was from the Zoutpansberg. Tswaing.What about Alfred Taylor, Who killed Madumetsa Sebola in Soutpansberg?chief madumetsa was assassinated by Alfred Taylor during those years and nothing was done to him by the then government. That angered Panga Man.

  2. Johnny Burger says:

    Bring back the death penalty then police murders and major crime will decline nothing else will help our country

  3. Irish says:

    Here’s one for you Headsman, I don’t see her here. A real piece of work. Forgive me if you have blogged about her and I have simply missed it.


  4. Irish says:

    Don’t turn them into martyrs please. The saying “Don’t do the crime if you can’t do the time” applies here as well. Well, it did anyway. About the white man, his identity was withheld to protect his family (that’s the official story, I have no idea why). He was also on the hook for a non-murder. He raped his 6 year old daughter and was executed for it. Good, I’m glad.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


November 2011
« Oct   Dec »



Execution Playing Cards

Exclusively available on this site: our one-of-a-kind custom playing card deck.

Every card features a historical execution from England, France, Germany, or Russia!