No clarity on repatriation of slain SA aid worker, family

2014-12-01 21:01
Werner Groenewald and his wife Hannelie. (Nelius Rademan, Beeld)

Werner Groenewald and his wife Hannelie. (Nelius Rademan, Beeld)

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Johannesburg - The government was unsure when the bodies of murdered SA aid worker and his children would be repatriated, but said it was working on an emergency visa for his wife, according to reports.

Werner Groenewald, who was a church pastor at Dutch Reformed Church in Moreleta Park, was shot dead with his two children by the Taliban  in Afghanistan at the weekend.

Groenewald was accused of being a missionary trying to convert Muslims to Christians.

The department of international relations said it was helping to secure an emergency visa for his wife Hannelie so that she could return to South Africa.

"An emergency visa is given by the department of home affairs, but we are facilitating the process," spokesperson Nelson Kgwete said on Monday.

Kgwete told eNCA they have instructed the mission in Islamabad to issue and emergency visa so that Hannelie could return home, and hoped to have clarity over the next few days on when the Groenewalds’ bodies could return home.

Earlier Groenewald's sister-in-law Riana du Plessis, who lives in Pretoria, told Sapa: "They shot Werner in his office in the leg and then he ran upstairs to go try and protect his children [Rode and Jean-Pierre]."

Minutes later the family was dead.

Du Plessis burst into tears on the telephone as she spoke of her family, who had moved to Afghanistan years ago.

The attack happened on Saturday at the offices of the Partnership in Academics and Development (PAD) in Kabul, where Groenewald lived and worked.

"Three of them [the insurgents] entered the house and they were disguised as policemen - one was a suicide bomber - and the other two had guns in their hands," she said.

They first shot Groenewald in the leg before he ran upstairs, and then randomly fired shots in the basement, where other staff members were. The attack by the Taliban went on for four hours.

"They took people hostage... and then they went upstairs after Werner again. They shot Werner again and the children. That's where they died," said Du Plessis.

After that the house was set alight.

According to PAD, the other staff members emerged with injuries.

‘He did great work’

Du Plessis said: "They thought Werner was a missionary trying to convert Muslims to Christians, but Werner was not. He was an aid worker there to uplift Afghanistan. He did great work.

"They lost a great person in Afghanistan. I don't know what legacy he will leave behind."

Hannelie was at a clinic in Kabul where she worked when the attack happened.

"When she got to the house, she saw the three bodies [of her family] taken out of the house and put into the ambulance," said Du Plessis.

Her sister was still in Afghanistan trying to sort out the repatriation of the three bodies and "logistics". She could not provide any further details relating to Hannelie for security reasons.

Du Plessis described her niece Rode, 15, and Jean-Pierre, 17, as people who got along with everyone.

"I WhatsApped the children about an hour-and-a-half before the incident," she recalled weeping.

"They were great children, like my own children. JP loved technology, he wanted to become a pilot... They were very nice children, easy people to get along with."

Du Plessis said she would be making arrangements for their funeral to be held at the Dutch Reformed Church in Moreleta Park, where Werner Groenewald used to be a pastor.

The church's CEO Pieter Breytenbach said he was saddened by the news.

"He [Werner] was really a loveable guy. He was a committed person and felt he was called [by God] for the upliftment of the Afghanistan people."

Read more on:    taliban  |  afghanistan  |  pretoria

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