Cape Town – The man accused of killing three-year-old Courtney Pieters should die in jail, Minister of Police Fikile Mbalula said on Thursday.
“He is defended by the law and the child is burned. And we know nothing will bring Courtney back,” Mbalula said.
“Hierdie (verdagte) moordernaar moet in die prison sterf [This alleged murderer must die in prison],” he said at a memorial service for Pieters in the Elsies River Civic Centre.
Pieters was last seen alive on May 4. Her body was found in a shallow grave next to unused railroad tracks in Epping Industria on Saturday afternoon.
The civic centre was filled to capacity with roughly 800 community members. Outside the building, community members peaked through open doors to try and hear what was being said inside.
Mbalula said the South African society is sick because of murders such as this taking place.
“The person doing this to your child could be your uncle, your friend your brother. We are a sick society, ons is baie siek,” he said.
During a visit to the Pieters’ family home on Thursday afternoon, President Jacob Zuma criticised the response of police to Pieters’ murder.
Better policing promised
Mbalula on Thursday evening promised that policing will be improved in the area.
“I want to say to you the people of Elsies River, the police station in Elsies River will never be the same again,” he said to cheers from the audience.
He promised that a satellite police station will be built in the area.
“We will make it unbearable wherever they are. Their lives must not be easy,” Mbalula said.
“We serve our people; it is not a favour, it is our job.”
Western Cape social development MEC Albert Fritz echoed Mbalula’s statements, saying police should always be ready to help communities.
“When we come to the police station with a case, please whether we are poor, acknowledge us, take up our concerns,” he said.
Fritz said organised communities will combat violence against women and children.
“You know, during the 1980’s, at the height of the uprisings, when people stood up against apartheid, the gangsters disappeared because we the people were organised, the people were united,” he said.
Mortimer Saunders was arrested on Sunday evening for Pieters’ murder. He is accused of raping her twice before killing her. He is believed to have rented a room in Pieters’ family home.
Members of Courtney’s family, Aaron Fourie, Andrea and Juanita Pieters (Courtney’s mother), at the memorial service. (Romantha Botha, Netwerk24)
Ward councillor Charles Esau said Pieters’ death brought the world to a standstill.
“Courtney’s death brought us together. Courtney was not a child that came out of a mansion. She did not travel in luxurious cars; she came out of an ordinary family,” he said.
“Courtney’s death brought unity to Elsies River, I want to tell you for an ordinary child that was not well known in the community, this world – not this country – but this world was brought to a halt by her.”
He said a monument should be erected in her honour.
“I want to tell you that we have to erect monuments for Courtney. We have to erect monuments there where people that still want to do this can look at the monuments and say ‘we won’t do it’,” Esau told the audience.
Community member Damian Koetzee agreed with Esau, saying naming public property after her will help spread awareness.
“Our children can then write essays over the issue of Courtney so that our history and legacy of Courtney is not forgotten,” he said.
Trauma counsellor Wilde van Reenen told the audience that 65 family members have been counselled in the Western Cape since January for family violence.
“We cannot continue counselling, and debriefing, and waiting for the next child to die. We refuse to do that. We refuse to see our mothers go out in search parties, to look for children when they should be at home for their own children,” she said.
Van Reenen said they are in talks with Western Cape Premier Helen Zille to establish a commission of enquiry into the safety of children in communities.
“How do we prevent another Courtney, how do we prevent another memorial?” she ended her speech.