Shot dominee phoned wife

2006-09-17 13:08

Johannesburg - Melville's Dutch Reformed congregation is "numb with shock" at the murder of its minister Stefan Louw at his home in Westdene, Johannesburg, on Friday night.

"It's hard to realise it's actually reality," said Minnie Breedt, a congregant at the church for more than 80 years.

"(We're) in a daze," said her daughter-in-law Santa Breedt, tears welling up in her eyes as she remembered Louw as "such a beautiful person" filled with "so much love".

Louw, 34, was fatally shot in the chest during an attempted robbery at his home shortly before 23:00 on Friday night.

As he lay wounded in a bedroom, he phoned his wife, Brenda, in Cape Town, for help, but was dead by the time paramedics arrived.

Louw grew up in Namibia, obtained his Masters in Philosophy, and loved nature, using it to regain the energy he needed for his work.

He wrote several articles for the Vrye Afrikaan, a Cape Town publication focusing on contemporary issues.

He served the Dutch Reformed community of Sonstraal in Cape Town before moving to Johannesburg just over two years ago.

"One of the things Stefan was passionate about was the systemic problems within our community that would cause the kind of crime that resulted in his death," said chairman of the church board, Wynand Louw (no relation).

While physically protecting people was not the church's role, it was required to help people in times like this.

"The church is doing a lot to address the societal problems that could lead to crime such as poverty, unemployment and disintegration of the family," he said.

"The church is trying to get involved in... making society a better place as a whole, which is a fundamental crime prevention action."

Louw's wife was on her way back to Johannesburg with her parents, but did not want to stay in her home and would be taken in by the congregation. The couple had no children.

Louw's parents were expected back in the country on Sunday from Malawi, where they had been on a missionary outreach.

Funeral details would only be finalised once the family was back in the city.

Dutch Reformed churches throughout the country held a minute's silence before their Sunday services in memory of Louw, and in sympathy with his family and all victims of violence.

It was a way in which Christians could declare their dependence on God, said Louw.

The Melville Kruisgemeente (Melville Cross Community), as the church is known, was notified of their minister's death by SMS and phone on Friday night.

They had expressed "shock and disbelief", said Louw. That was fast becoming sorrow as they came to terms with their loss.

"It's terrible, terrible, terrible," said a congregant who did not want to be named.

"The whole day you feel so miserable. It's just so terrible," she said.

In the absence of their spiritual leader, the church's Sunday service was conducted by University of Johannesburg minister Ben Klut.

The reading, from Romans 8, bore the message that God was preparing to free people from their imperfect world. This was carried through in a sermon which instructed that even though things happened that people did not always understand, God was working in this world to establish His Kingdom.

"Stefan brought a lot of energy (to the church)," said Louw. He had been passionate about giving the church direction and a mission.

"He was also passionate about people who were living on the edge of society and to extend the love of Jesus to these people."

"He was very young, very enthusiastic, very positive," said Doris Botma.

"He had a soft heart and tried very hard to left us reach out in the community and not just stay in the church group. He had a soup kitchen going," she said.

"He lived what he believed."

On Sunday, roses, clivias, irises and wildflowers lay bunched on rocks and stones at the foot of a cross erected only last week to commemorate the changes the church had undergone in the past two years.

On a single lily stem, an orange bow held the note: "Brenda, our deepest sympathy. May God be with you. Piet and Linda Uys."

He was angry at what had happened, said church curator Johannes Melo. "But you can't do anything," he said, describing Louw as a good man.

The police had not yet made any arrests, said captain Schalk Bornman.

"Obviously our forensics experts went through the house for any leads. We are still continuing with the investigation," he said.

According to an eye-witness, there was only one assailant.

Bornman said investigators were still trying to establish whether anything was taken from the house during the attack.