PODCAST: SA’s War on Women: Remembering Anene Booysen
EWN revisits the town of Bredasdorp, the scene of several heinous crimes against women.
Episode four: Hope in the darkness?
In the fourth episode of this special Eyewitness News report, we ask whether any progress has been made in addressing the underlying issues that drive the levels of violence in Bredasdorp and surrounds. Seven years after the Anene Booysen case made global headlines, has anything really changed for the women and girls of the rural
The Overberg town of Bredasdorp lies about 180km away from Cape Town and some 30km north of Cape Agulhas, the southernmost tip of Africa. Situated at the foot of the Heuningberg Mountain, the close-knit community was founded with the building of a Dutch Reformed Church in 1838.
The small town is clean and peaceful, the kind of place one would flee to, to escape the busy city life. Tourist attractions include many historical churches, art galleries and craft shops. Bredasdorp is also home to the Shipwreck Museum, which holds the stories of more than a hundred wrecks along the nearby Agulhas Reef.
Sadly, its beauty and rich history is not what Bredasdorp is known for.
Eyewitness News visited the town in the heart of the Western Cape’s winter season at the end of July. Still, Bredasdorp was covered by a clear bright blue sky. The warmth of the sun kissed one’s face.
But the heinous crimes against women and children that have taken place there, are shocking enough to send cold shivers down the spine, on even the warmest of days.
Bredasdorp was thrust into the international spotlight in February 2013, when one morning, a security guard found 17-year-old Anene Booysen on a construction site. She was on the brink of death after having been gang raped and disembowelled.
Wilma Brooks holds a picture of her slain niece, Anene Booysen. Picture: Kaylynn Palm/EWN.
Anene’s aunt, Wilma Brooks, sat down for an interview with Eyewitness News during this visit.
“We still think of her a lot, and it brings bad memories, because she was our little one, and she was always around us, and suddenly she was ripped away brutally and we still can’t make peace with it…Every year on 2 February, we think about that, and we talk about her,” said Brooks.
Before she died, Anene told police five or six men had attacked her. Detectives only ever made three arrests and only one of those suspects was found guilty.
The teenager was last seen alive at a local shebeen, with the man convicted of her rape and murder, Johannes Kana.
He confessed to raping Anene but denied killing her. He was, however, convicted of both crimes and is serving two consecutive life sentences in a Free State prison.
But seven years into his sentence, Kana wants his case reopened.
Anene's funeral card. Picture: Kaylynn Palm/EWN.
Speaking to Eyewitness News from prison, Kana stressed he wasn’t responsible for the crime. He said his conviction rested on hearsay, with no direct evidence linking him to the murder.
“Even the witnesses who testified, they testified I was there at different times. How is it possible that they can find someone guilty on hearsay evidence and no-one can say he killed this person... there’s no DNA evidence... there’s no fingerprints in that place so I ask myself how was I found guilty when there is nothing to support that finding. Even my lawyer... when I asked him... he said this is a hearsay thing and the State didn’t have enough evidence to sentence me.”
Kana said he pleaded guilty to raping the teenager because he didn’t know any better.
Anene’s relatives too, are skeptical. They do not believe the right person is being punished for the crime.
“We just got that feeling that it wasn’t him. I think he’s innocent… then who killed Anene? I don’t know... but there’s a saying: what you do in the dark will come out in the light. Somehow, it’s going to come out. Maybe 10 years. Maybe 20 years, but it will come out,” said Brooks.
SAPS Overberg Cluster Commander Donovan Heilbron. Picture: Kaylynn Palm/EWN.
When probed about Kana’s plea for the case to be reopened, SAPS cluster commander for the Overberg Region Donovan Heilbron said there was indeed evidence linking Kana to the crime.
“He has the right to call for a retrial, he has the right to question certain elements that was used in the investigation, but the justice will not find a person guilty with a double life sentence if there was no sufficient and substantial evidence against him. We had enough evidence to place him on the scene, we had forensic linkages where clothing, semen, as well as blood were found on the scene. It was compared, it was matched hence the decision,” Heilbron said.
Following Anene’s murder, Blade Nzimande, who was the Minister of Higher Education and Training at the time, opened a multimillion-rand skills development center in Bredasdorp, named in the teenager’s memory.
Theo Van Dieman, a facilitator at the Anene Booysen Skills Development Centre in Bredasdorp. Picture: Kaylynn Palm/EWN.
One of the facilitators, Theo Van Dieman, said while he has not been working at the center for very long, he is already seeing the effects of the deprived backgrounds his students come from.
The story of the dark side of Bredasdorp doesn’t begin or end with Anene. Several other cases have shaken this sleepy part of the country. Two years after Anene’s death, five-year-old Kayde Williams disappeared while walking to her grandmother’s house one Sunday. Her body was found among bushes in the area, days later. The child had been raped and murdered.
A weathered wreath, laid for little Kayde Williams, another victim of violence in Bredasdorp Picture credit: Kaylynn Palm/EWN.
Williams’s grandmother Chrisna Prins, took Eyewitness News to the scene where the little girl’s body was found. While walking to the spot, Prins spoke fondly of her first grandchild who she referred to as “Ouma se blompotjie”.
“She was like my own child. I took care of her. It’s very hard even walking past this place... looking at it… it brings back all the bad memories. The last conversation I had with her was about a birthday present she wanted to buy me… a pair of Reebok sandals,” a shaken Prins said.
The grandmother of Kayde Williams, Chrisna Prins, holds one of the only pictures she has left of her granddaughter. Picture: Kaylynn Palm/EWN.
Shortly after the little girl was found dead, the body of a man police suspected to have been linked to her murder, was found hanging from a tree in a cemetery in the area. Since then, there has been no other potential suspects identified by police.
In April 2016, the body of Sulnita Mahno was found in Zwelitsha, an informal settlement in Bredasdorp. The 23-year-old mother had been raped and beaten with a brick. A rope was also tied around her neck.
In 2018, the small town was rocked by yet another gruesome murder, when 16-year-old Jodine Pieters’ burnt body was found in a reservoir near a Lime Works factory, not far from her home. It’s not clear who she was with before she disappeared. Her uncle, Sarel Pieters, also sat down with Eyewitness News for an interview. He said Jodine loved singing and had the voice of an angel.
“Our children want to be like Whitney Houston or Mariah Carey and Jodine had the ability to reach those high notes just like Whitney. Our Jodine was really killed brutally. Her attackers used a brick to beat her over the head, they raped her and left a burning crate on her body,” Pieters said.
Jodine Pietres’ uncle Sarel remains haunted by her brutal murder. Picture: Kaylynn Palm/EWN.
The teenager’s death haunts her uncle to this day.
“It’s difficult. I still haven’t worked through this. I feel it every day. The people arrested in connection with the crime have been released due to a lack of evidence, but the family has been filled with a new sense of hope as we have a new head of investigations in our area. Recently, she’s visited us twice and we’ve been invited to the station, so the case is still wide open. We know someone out there knows something.”
Pieters said the family’s prayer is that those responsible for taking Jodine’s life, will face the full might of the law, so that they can find closure.
“I can’t believe that in a community like Bredasdorp, there are people capable of pulling off these violent crimes,” he said.
A week before Pieters’ death, the man who killed another teenager from the same community, was punished in the Western Cape High Court.
Gift Sibondo was in a relationship with 15-year-old Elda Japhta, who he had beaten to death. The child’s body was found under his bed at the home they shared at a local informal settlement. Sibondo was handed a life sentence and an additional 23 years, ordered to run concurrently.
The dusty streets of Bredasdorp's suburbs. Picture: Kaylynn Palm/EWN.
He was convicted on three counts of kidnapping, two counts of statutory rape and one count of murder.
The 29-year-old pleaded not guilty to all the charges.
In one of the latest cases reported in the region, residents in Bredasdorp’s neighbouring town of Elim were left reeling following the rape and murder of six-year-old Delvina Europa last year. The child was last seen alive by her aunt on 24 March 2019. She was meant to stay over at a neighbour’s house to catch a lift with them to visit her father in Cape Town the following day, but Delvina never left the community. Her body was found among bushes behind a school in the area, hours before police arrested her alleged attacker.
Reagen Zietsman, who was known to the deceased, appeared in court in absentia in April this year, in line with government regulations to curb the spread of COVID-19. The accused is expected to appear in the Western Cape High Court on Tuesday, 11 August.
According to the National Prosecuting Authority, there is a possibility that Zietsman may enter into a plea and sentencing agreement with the state.