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By Chris Steyn*
Action Society SA is being swamped with unsolved murder cases, including the killing of Pastor Liezel de Jager. The NPO’s Ian Cameron shares details of some of the worst cases of police incompetence their investigators are trying to deal with.
Almost nine out of 10 murder cases in South Africa are not solved.
One of those cases is the 2021 murder of Pastor Liezel de Jager whose father has spoken to BizNews about the trauma of waiting for her killer to be arrested.
Her case is one of many taken up by the NPO Action Society SA whose Ian Cameron says: “It almost seemed like Liezel was just a number to them. And it just feels like there’s a total loss of compassion and empathy for not only the families, but the victims; giving them a sense of dignity, even though they have passed on, and giving the family some kind of closure. It’s just as though that’s completely lost.”
Cameron describes how Action Society SA “really went the extra mile” and even offered to build a docket on behalf of the police, but “then they either don’t show up or they never come back with feedback or they have got some kind of excuse”.
He blames incompetence, a lack of interest, and corruption for the poor performance by the police in solving murder cases.
“I can literally walk out, we can shoot and kill someone, and if I don’t hand myself over to the police, chances are that I’ll walk free… Have we come to the point where we can kill people in South Africa and if that victim is not politically connected, they have no justice whatsoever? You know, I actually wanna go as far as saying that the family is lucky that they got a case number. We’ve got a few investigations where a month passes and the family don’t even get a case number.”
Cameron shares details of the some worst cases of police behaviour Action Society SA is dealing with. One of those involves a person who was murdered with a firearm that was handed back to the suspect after a previous arrest when he got bailed. “They gave the firearm back to him after he had used it whilst committing a crime. And whilst out, he committed a murder – and the police then tried to persuade the victim’s spouse to open a case against the deceased to insinuate that the deceased had posed a threat to her. And she said ‘No’. And then the police picked her up at her house. They took her to the police station and they said: ‘You will open a case’. She just stood, she said ‘No. I will not open a case. This is a matter of principle. I will not, I will not give in’. This is cold-blooded murder. And the police to this day have done nothing. He was murdered two months ago.”
Cameron has this advice for victims who want to improve their chances of justice: “They need to speak. Speak, speak, speak, speak, make it known, expose corruption, say their names. And I say this carefully because I would have previously said ‘No, be careful’. But it doesn’t help to be careful in South Africa anymore. If you don’t say it, if you don’t expose and embarrass those that are corrupt and criminal, then nothing happens.”
He also calls on communities to organise themselves. “They need to have community safety structures to be preventative. It’s the only way that we’re going to do this. We need to accept that we have to undergo a lifestyle change in South Africa; that we can’t just rely on the state.”
Revealing what inspires him personally to keep fighting on behalf of powerless victims, Cameron says: “I believe God gave me an opportunity to make an impact. So that God motivates me and I stand firm with that…If we’ve got a community, we need to be guardians and custodians of that community. We need to protect people. We need to speak out if there’s injustice.
“I just know that South Africa would be a very different place if more people, not just men, stepped up in times when they could. If they go to court, if they attend the hearing, if they speak up as witnesses…I know there’s intimidation. We face it every single day. But I don’t buy the fact that that outweighs the calling that we have to bring justice.”
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