Cape Town – President Jacob Zuma arrived two hours later than scheduled to see the family of murdered three-year-old Courtney Pieters on Thursday afternoon.
Disgruntled Elsies River residents had been waiting in the street in front of the family’s home from 12:00, when he had been expected to arrive. Several children had taken the day off school to be there.
Zuma’s motorcade finally pulled up in front of the home at 14:00. His spokesperson Bongani Ngqulunga said he was in a caucus at Parliament.
Resident Ursula Lightburn shouted that she did not believe Zuma would solve violence against women and children on the Cape Flats.
“He does nothing. He needs to act stricter because [these are] his people of his nation that does these things. He's wasting our time,” she shouted. Neighbours nodded their heads in agreement.
Pieters’ mother Jaunita did not speak to media and stayed behind the burglar gate in her home. She wore large black sunglasses every time she came outside. She was visibly distraught.
About 30 security guards accompanied Zuma and the street in front of the house was closed to traffic. The crowd celebrated his arrival and he waved back. He spent about 20 minutes talking to the family inside.
Outside the double-storey home, Zuma unveiled a plaque in remembrance of Pieters.
Her body was found in a shallow grave next to disused railway tracks in Epping Industria, about 2km from her home, on Saturday. She was last seen near her home on May 4.
“You brought the community together, sleep sweet baby girl,” the plaque reads.
“I hope the country will realise that on the issue of crime we are facing a serious matter. There is negativity in the country. There is something that has gone wrong,” he said.
Western Cape police on Wednesday told News24 they would probe reports of “inefficiencies” in the investigation into her murder.
Pieters’ alleged killer, Mortimer Saunders, 40, rented a space in the Pieters’ home.
Mitchells Plain crisis forum co-ordinator Joanie Fredericks said police only visited the home with sniffer dogs 10 days after Pieters was reported missing.
If these allegations were true they were unacceptable, Zuma said. The first thing police should have done was to search the house.
“They could’ve found the body, they could’ve found the blood. They didn’t come, instead they did not react as if this is a serious matter.”
Zuma said he would discuss his concerns with Police Minister Fikile Mbalula. He said he would send the chairperson of his foundation to meet the family to discuss what could be done.
Before Zuma’s arrival, Fredericks warned residents not to turn Pieters’ death into political affair. A neighbour was asked to remove an ANC banner which he had hung from his roof.
Fredericks said she welcomed the visit of Western Cape community safety MEC Dan Plato on Thursday morning.
“He always came here without any fanfare and without saying which party he is from,” she told the crowd.
Plato said he would support the family and community to improve residents’ safety.
“Though the law will take its course, no verdict will be able to reunite a mother and her child,” he said in an email.
“It is time for the silent majority to speak out and be the helping hands in our communities.”
Saunders would make his next appearance in the Goodwood Magistrate’s Court on Wednesday.