Manipulator who rejoiced in his control
Johan Kotzé presented hope to Sarita Venter, a lonely businesswoman diagnosed with cancer
Johan Kotzé was dubbed the Modimolle Monster for orchestrating the gang rape of his wife and murdering her son. He is in jail now serving two life sentences, plus 25 years for kidnapping her and torturing her, but his exwife Ina Bonnette wasn’t the only woman he terrorised. Find out more in this extract from
by Karyn Maughan and Shawn Swingler. “WHEN I leave a woman, she either ends up in an institution or she kills herself.”
Johan Kotzé had repeated that line so often that it had become his catchphrase, a motto that he said with emphasis and, as his friends would later observe, deep pride. Some believed that the boast was exaggerated or based on half-truths, a story told at the end of a drunken braai. But it was not.
Sarita Venter was found dead in her bedroom, surrounded by pill bottles, in November 2010 – a month after Kotzé married Ina Bonnette. Venter, a once successful businesswoman, had dated Kotzé for several months, a relationship that left her financially and emotionally devastated. At the time of her death, Kotzé owed Venter over R1 million.
She had met Kotzé on the Flirt SMS network in 2008. At the time, her health was very poor and she was desperately lonely. Kotzé presented himself as a romantic hero, a man who would help her as she struggled through hospital stays and depression.
Venter’s eldest son, Jonker de Vos, would meet Kotzé at Venter’s Free State guesthouse only sometime later – in early 2009. “(Kotzé) came and visited her because he was a new boyfriend kind of thing,” De Vos says. “I don’t know exactly how they met, some chat line or something.”
It was a whirlwind romance and Venter fell for Kotzé instantly, believing that he would change her life for the better. Venter was won over when Kotzé expressed his desire to look after her four children.
Her life had been difficult and defined by loss, challenge and disappointment. Her first marriage was to De Vos’s biological father, who was left blind and mentally impaired when a truck made an illegal U-turn on the N1 just outside of Bloemfontein and ploughed into his car. Venter divorced him soon after the accident. De Vos explains it this way: “The psychiatrists told her back in that time that this was the best way to do it for the children, because my mom couldn’t look after him and after us. I mean three sons … and she was still pregnant with the youngest one.
“She was pregnant at the time of the accident, and already had a son who was about a year and a half, and I was about three years old. This was 1989, so she was about 24 years old then.”
Venter soon remarried and had another son, Hennie. According to De Vos, the union was born out of Venter’s desperate need to find a provider for her family. In 2005, she divorced her second husband after years of abuse inflicted on her and her children.
Despite her difficult personal circumstances, Venter was a successful, highly intelligent and driven woman – even being named a runner-up for the annual Bloemfontein businesswoman-ofthe-year competition. She obtained an honours degree in labour law. But she lived for her children.
successful, highly intelligent woman. She obtained an honours degree in labour law. But she lived for her children
“Basically everything she did, she did for us. She did everything she could do. She always tried to uplift you. She was the best mom I could have asked for. All three of my brothers would tell you exactly the same thing,” says De Vos.
When Venter met Kotzé, her health had begun to deteriorate significantly. She was then diagnosed with a cancerous brain tumour. From the beginning of 2008, she required oxygen constantly.
Hennie, Venter’s youngest son, lived with her and initially liked Kotzé. But he was disturbed by Kotzé’s insistence that his mother take off her oxygen mask – and Kotzé’s increasingly obvious ability to make her do things that were not good for her. “I could see that he just went for women that he could destroy,” he says.
But for Venter, Kotzé represented hope. She would tell her children that Kotzé was teaching her to be more positive. According to De Vos, his mother “said she met this rich farmer and he’s going to look after her now, look after her finances, and he will sort all of her problems out for her”.
“She became weak,” De Vos continues. “She was basically thinking that she was dying. She just wanted someone to rescue her. She was worried about being lonely. She was obsessed about not being single. (It got to the point where) she couldn’t think for herself after that. He would criticise everything she did. Nothing she did was right according to him, so she was longing for that.”
Venter’s journal entries powerfully illustrate her anxiety over her worsening health – and her growing obsession with Kotzé:
“April 4, 2009: I think I’m not going to make it. God I am totally in your hands. I am ready to go to Your home, if that is Your will do it Lord! … I WANT JOHAN’S BLOOD!! “April 12, 2009: JOHAN COMING! “April 13, 2009: Johan… ? “April 18, 2009: Home! Johan in Bethlehem.
“April 19, 2009: Saw Johan. So grateful that he is standing by me. I know what I want from life… and I am prepared to wait… My inheritance is beautiful to me.”
“(Kotzé) got into her head completely,” De Vos says, adding that he and his brothers were deeply concerned about Kotzé’s motives for getting involved with their ailing mother.
“We wrote her a letter and everything,” De Vos continues, “but she didn’t… she was basically so trapped in his web that she couldn’t get out of it. I moved to Clarens by this time because I was gatvol, fed up with all of this in the Free State.
“In the beginning he was very nice, but later on he was very dominant towards her, basically telling her what to do and making fun of her.
“She was on oxygen and he would call her Snuifie because (she had an oxygen tube) in her nose. We were angry, we would swear at him the whole time, but she didn’t want to let go of him, so she chose him instead of us basically. I f***ing hate that guy.”
De Vos says Kotzé became increasingly controlling of Venter’s life. “She would go drink coffee with a friend and (Kotzé) would say, why are you doing this, why are you doing that. And he would promise to visit her and wouldn’t.”
Venter also entrusted her finances to Kotzé, celebrating her love and trust for him in her journal:
“April 21, 2009: Braaied so nicely together with Johan! *He can sing! Gave power of attorney to Johan on the Venter Property Trust. I realise I have no choice and I trust him 100 percent. Very tense. It is for me a man of my heart, that he said that he wouldn’t mind to have four sons. I am so grateful that I know him…
“April 24, 2009: There is a time and place for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven. Gave signature to Johan on Venter Property Trust. I realise that I’m not in a state to handle my own finances. Thank you to Johan.”
De Vos says his mother even gave her bank card to Kotzé. “We told her that he was trying to steal her money, but she just didn’t want to listen. She was just caught in his trap. She was under his control; he f***ing did anything with her. But before that she was never like that. She was a strong businesswoman. Men were scared of her actually; now basically this guy comes and he just took her.”
Hennie said he initially believed that Kotzé was doing his best to manage his mother’s finances. “He’d tell her he was using the money to buy more property, or sheep. But nothing came of it.
“He told her he was a farmer and he had two farms outside Bloemfontein and he had two farms in Australia. At that time, I believed him because he did have a beautiful farm outside Bloemfontein.”
Far from buying property for Venter, Kotzé was using her money to pay the municipal bills on his farm. Both De Vos and Hennie admit that they don’t know the full extent of what he took from their ailing mother.
Again and again Venter would express her gratitude for Kotzé in her journal. She believed that his presence in her life clearly showed that God was in control of her present and future.
The couple were never physically intimate, but Venter celebrated even the tiniest demonstration of physical affection by him. She would later directly address Kotzé in her journal entries, begging him to touch her. ● Love is War, The Modimolle Monster is published by Jacana Media at a recommended retail price of R195. It is also available in Afrikaans.
● For more see Weekend Argus tomorrow.
ON TRIAL: Johan Kotzé during an appearance in a Modimolle court. In the recently released book Love is War, The Modimolle Monster, the authors show the manipulative side of the man with his previous liaison.
ATTACKED: Ina Bonnette was just one of the women Johan Kotzé terrorised.