The family of Louis Coetzee, who is accused along with Jaco Kemp and Gericke van der Westhuizen of the murder of Dumisani Phakathi, believes he is innocent. That is why it was a big shock for them when he was refused bail on Thursday.
“Our hearts are broken, we have spent so much money trying to get him out of the cells and every time it is in vain. It is bitterly unfair. He has nothing to do with the murder of Phakathi,” says Anette Coetzee, Louis’ mother.
Coetzee’s family was still present at every court appearance and had to watch again and again as he was led to the cells by the police.
“Every time we go to court with the expectation that Louis can come home this time and every time our hearts are broken all over again,” says Anette.
“We are not allowed to talk to him, we cannot touch him, we just have to sit and watch as he is repeatedly taken back to that horrible place.”
The family cannot understand why no one gives Louis the chance to explain that he is innocent. “Why has he been behind bars for more than a month now for something he didn’t do?” Anette asked crying.
“The whole thing hits us really hard. The investigating officer told us that everyone deserves the fair chance to get bail. If we had the money to appeal the public prosecutor’s decision to oppose bail, we would have done it.”
Louis initially applied for free legal aid. However, when a legal representative repeatedly failed to show up at court, his family scraped together money to appoint a legal representative.
At the time, Coetzee was caught with Kemp in the bakkie, in which Phakathi’s body was found. Gerda du Plooy, Coetzee’s sister, says this does not mean he was complicit in the murder.
“My brother has always been very honest, even if he did something wrong, he would admit it and tell us about it. We believe him. We know he was in the bakkie with Jaco when Phakathi’s body was found, but as far as the murder is concerned, he is innocent.”
She says their father takes it especially hard. “He doesn’t eat, he doesn’t sleep, he doesn’t understand why Louis has to be behind bars while Van der Westhuizen is at large.”
According to the family, Louis was working for Van der Westhuizen at the time of the murder and he and his wife lived on Van der Westhuizen’s land.
“This is one of the worst things our family has ever had to go through, but we stand firm in our faith and we will continue to pray that the full truth comes out, that Louis can come back home. That’s all we can do now.”
A father ripped away from his children
Phakathi’s family has also attended every court appearance so far.
Lungelo Phakathi (25), Phakathi’s son, says he does not know what he will do without his father.
“It is so unfair that he was taken from our lives in this cruel way. We had a very close bond. Now he’s just gone, it’s hard to come to terms with that.
“I hope the people responsible for this sit behind bars for the rest of their lives. They destroyed an entire family. They took my father, my best friend, of his life. Who does that?”
Phakathi says he is grateful that at least two of his father’s three alleged killers are behind bars and that they have been denied bail.
“I hope the third suspect is also behind bars soon.
“We will show up every time. We will be at court every time the accused appear. We will continue to fight for justice for my father.”
Phakathi was buried in his home town a week after his murder in KwaZulu-Natal.