Rabbi brings kindness to Joburg
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.