Rabbi brings kind­ness to Joburg

Saturday Star - - FRONT PAGE - KEVIN RITCHIE

AT THE cor­ner of Rivo­nia Road and Sand­ton Drive in Jo­han­nes­burg, just out­side Sand­ton City, there are two words, one on top of the other.

Be Kind, they say. They’re the first in what David Mas­in­ter hopes will ul­ti­mately be a se­ries of 18 art in­stal­la­tions around Jo­han­nes­burg.

It’s a project to break the spi­ral of neg­a­tiv­ity – par­tic­u­larly in the City of Gold.

“I’m tired of peo­ple say­ing this is a crime city, that there’s noth­ing worth cel­e­brat­ing. I want to mo­ti­vate them to think dif­fer­ently, but most of all just to be kind.”

The art­work fol­lows a poster board cam­paign that ran for three months last year, be­ing sus­pended over De­cem­ber and Jan­uary, and which will restart in Fe­bru­ary.

The cam­paign, stark in its sim­plic­ity, merely in­junc­tions to driv­ers and passers-by: “Tell some­one They Look Great” read one; “Just Be Kind” in­structed an­other; “Com­plain Less, Smile More”, “Make Some­one A Cof­fee” and even, “Call Your Mom”.

“We are just try­ing to bring the art of kind­ness to Jo­han­nes­burg,” says the Chabad House Rabbi who was the ar­chi­tect of Acts of Ran­dom Kind­ness, the lit­tle yel­low plas­tic arks that have been dis­trib­uted to Jo­han­nes­burg­ers for the last five years for them to fill up with un­wanted change and given ran­domly to those in need.

Mas­in­ter is a firm be­liever in the over­whelm­ing hu­man­ity and com­pas­sion of peo­ple – es­pe­cially South Africans.

“There’s a teach­ing,” he says, “that if some­one does bad, speaks it or even thinks it, a neg­a­tive en­ergy is cre­ated. On the other hand, if one does good, speaks good, a pos­i­tive en­ergy is cre­ated.”

So far, 700 000 arks have been dis­trib­uted since 2014, with Mas­in­ter’s goal be­ing a mil­lion.

Added to that, 140 000 un­der-priv­i­leged chil­dren have ben­e­fited from the par­al­lel Chabad House lit­er­acy pro­gramme that es­tab­lishes town­ship li­braries and trains teach­ers.

The art project and the bill­board cam­paign hope to build on this.

“We’re not sell­ing any­thing. We’re only ad­ver­tis­ing kind­ness,” he says.

“All we are hop­ing to ac­com­plish is to fos­ter an in­crease in acts of good­ness and kind­ness in our city and be­yond – and, by do­ing that, change the world for good.” Ritchie is a me­dia con­sul­tant. THIRTY years ago, the last of Gert van Rooyen’s six known vic­tims dis­ap­peared.

On Novem­ber 3, 1989, 13-year-old Yolanda Wes­sels, the niece of Van Rooyen’s part­ner Joey Haarhoff, was last seen and since then the po­lice and arm­chair sleuths have tried to es­tab­lish what hap­pened to Wes­sels and the other five girls.

It has be­come per­haps South Africa’s most fa­mous cold case and now, on the eve of the 30th an­niver­sary of the case, an un­usual ini­tia­tive has been launched to put pres­sure on the po­lice to find the girls.

An on­line pe­ti­tion has called on Po­lice Min­is­ter Bheki Cele to ap­point a new in­ves­ti­gat­ing of­fi­cer to probe the case.

“We de­mand that the par­ents get an­swers. Many peo­ple have frac­tured in­for­ma­tion and it is time that we get an in­ves­ti­gat­ing of­fi­cer who can put these puz­zle pieces to­gether and give these age­ing par­ents peace of mind,” the pe­ti­tion reads.

The pe­ti­tion was started on Jan­uary 2 on the web­site Pe­ti­tions24, and by Thurs­day 629 peo­ple had signed it.

And while the pe­ti­tion hasn’t gar­nered a lot of sup­port as yet, crim­i­nol­o­gist Pro­fes­sor Ru­dolph Zinn of Unisa be­lieves it could have an in­flu­ence in the case.

“What it should achieve at least is for the com­mis­sioner to look into the mer­its of what peo­ple are say­ing, to find out if this in­ves­ti­ga­tor is not do­ing what he was sup­posed to do, if he is not giv­ing feed­back to the fam­i­lies, and if found to be rea­son­able, then he can change the in­ves­ti­ga­tor. That is fairly nor­mal prac­tice in the po­lice,” said Zinn.

The cre­ator of the pe­ti­tion said she planned to send it to Cele once there were enough sig­na­tures. She did not say how many sig­na­tures needed to be col­lected be­fore the de­ci­sion would be made to for­ward the pe­ti­tion.

Zinn added that while the SAPS did not have ded­i­cated cold case in­ves­tiga­tive units, as in some other coun­tries, the pro­ce­dure was for older cases to be re­viewed pe­ri­od­i­cally.

“A mur­der case that is not solved re­mains open for­ever. These open cases are sup­posed to be brought for­ward, and this is usu­ally done on a year ba­sis, but in prac­tice it is a three- to five-year pe­riod. The in­ves­ti­ga­tor will then look at the case docket again and fol­low up new leads,” said Zinn.

Van Rooyen is be­lieved to have ab­ducted the girls be­tween Au­gust 1, 1988 and Novem­ber 3, 1989. The builder is be­lieved to have used Haarhoff to ap­proach the girls.

On Jan­uary 11, 1990 Haarhoff ab­ducted 16-year-old Joan Booy­sen and took her to Van Rooyen’s house in Pre­to­ria. Booy­sen was later able to es­cape and alert the po­lice, and when Van Rooyen dis­cov­ered Booy­sen had es­caped he shot and killed Haarhoff and then killed him­self.

Since then the search has fo­cused on find­ing where Van Rooyen dumped the bod­ies of his vic­tims. In June 2017, SAPS foren­sic in­ves­ti­ga­tors ex­ca­vated a num­ber of sites around Blythedale Beach, north of Dur­ban, as it was sus­pected that the vic­tims were buried there. Van Rooyen was known to have spent his fi­nal hol­i­day close by.

As decades pass, the chances of lo­cat­ing the girls grow slim­mer. But some be­lieve there is still hope that the case can be solved. A pri­vate in­ves­ti­ga­tor who has solved cold cases be­lieves old-fash­ioned de­tec­tive work could point to where the girls are.

“You have to start from scratch. You’d start with get­ting the dock­ets, get­ting the state­ments taken back then. You’d build up a time­line and organogram on each child,” said the PI, who wanted to re­main anony­mous.

He said the in­ves­ti­ga­tion would in­clude de­tailed ex­am­i­na­tions of the lives of Van Rooyen and Haarhoff.

“Van Rooyen was a builder, it doesn’t take a rocket sci­en­tist to (de­ter­mine) where to start with the in­ves­ti­ga­tion. Those girls have to be some­where.”

Sunny and warm.DBN 20/26º CTN 15/19º

RABBI David Mas­in­ter stands atop the in­au­gu­ral ‘Be Kind’ art in­stal­la­tion out­side Sand­ton City.| Sup­plied SHAUN SMILLIE [email protected]

PAEDOPHILE and se­rial killer Gert van Rooyen with Joey Haarhoff.

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