THE Van Breda family axe killings in the Western Cape has been one of the high profile murder cases that has drawn the attention of many South Africans.
It had all the ingredients of a crime thriller: a wealthy family killed in their own home in the most barbaric way, a surprise survivor with amnesia caused by brain trauma, and suspicion cast on the son who escaped almost unscathed.
Now, 18 months later, Henri van Breda has been charged with murdering his mother, father and older brother, and the attempted murder of his teenage sister.
Justice still has to run its course and the state has to prove its case, but the fact that Henri has been charged as the likely suspect brings conflicted feelings.
Obviously for those who believe he is innocent, it is the trauma of enduring a trial, while for the police task team and prosecutor, and for those who believe Henri is guilty, it is a step towards resolving the case.
Beyond that, however, is the sickening realisation that a son could have done this to his own family – to kill them, and in the most brutal, “up close and personal” way.
It is yet another indication of the utter depravity human beings are capable of, and not just in the blood-soaked USA or some terror-ridden corner of the world, but here in our own country, our own town, and perhaps in our own street.
It is a realisation that settles on one with a deep melancholy.
The Van Breda murders are not a stand-alone example of what one family member can do to another. Most of us are familiar with news stories of children being sexually abused by uncles or their own fathers, or of battered infants and neglected toddlers.
We hear and read about horrible things every day, but we shove it to the back of our minds and move on. Just when we come into a moment of peaceful reflection, however, those same reminders come back in the form of the latest tragedy.
Evil lurks in the hearts of people, and when we recognise our own capacity for doing wrong hopefully we aspire to do right.
That is why it was personally encouraging to hear ACDP leader Kenneth Meshoe speaking in Port Alfred last Friday. We do not endorse any political party, but Meshoe had such a positive vision for South Africa, while recognising its current failings, it was good to hear it.
We do indeed need leaders, who, while we may not call them godly, are exemplars of virtue and integrity, calling the nation to something better.
– Jon Houzet