Roxanne van Eck (34) was just a teenager when her policeman father was shot in a bank robbery 18 years ago.
One of his killers could be released from prison soon and Roxanne says the news has reopened old wounds.
Here she tells her family’s story of indescribable pain and their endless fight for justice.
“I remember the day as if it were yesterday.
Although it has been 18 years since my dad, Leslie Cilliers, was gunned down after a bank robbery, the wound is still fresh and the longing for him greater than ever.
My father was a noble man. A policeman who devoted his life to protecting and uplifting the people of our country.
He involved himself in community projects, such as setting up a creche for the kids in Dunoon, an informal settlement in Cape Town.
He spent his life trying to serve and protect and in the end his life was taken on duty. The irony isn’t lost on me.
It was a Wednesday afternoon when my life changed
forever. I was a Grade 11 learner at Table View High. The principal came into
my classroom, a worried looked on his face, and asked to see me.
I remember thinking, “Oh my word. . . what have I done now?”
As I reached his office, I saw two of my dad’s colleagues standing there in uniform. They said I had to go with them. I immediately wondered what had happened but didn’t think it was something related to my dad.
I got into the car with them and as we were driving my mind was racing.
“Has someone died?” I eventually blurted out.
They looked at each other, visibly uncomfortable. In the few seconds they took to figure out who would break the news to me, I mentally went through a list of the older members of my family. But still I couldn’t piece together why I was being fetched in a police car.
Finally one of the officers quietly answered: “It’s your dad.”
My dad had been shot 52 times.
The man was one of six bank robbers who managed to run off with the money but failed to make it very far.
When my father and his colleagues eventually caught up with them, the men panicked and the bullets rained down on Contermans Kloof Road, close to Durbanville, that afternoon.
My dad was only 38 years old when he died, his whole life lay ahead of him.
Now one of his murderers is up for parole. Xolani Kumalo received three life sentences but in SA law life sentences run concurrently, as opposed to one after the other. This means the maximum time he could serve is 25 years.
Kumalo has served just shy of 18 years and is now being considered for parole for good behaviour.
I am almost at a loss for words.
We, as a family, are the ones who received a life
sentence of pain and loss. My father received the death sentence.
My mother, Thyra, had a complete nervous breakdown. She hasn’t been the same since.
My grandparents, Helen and Jannie, had to bury their son.
I hate that my father was taken away from our family. I will never be able to forgive the men who did this, which is why I am fighting to keep Xolani Kumalo behind bars.
Since news of his possible early release broke, I have received hundreds of letters of support, which I have submitted to the department of correctional services to place on file. I have also started an online petition, which in less than a week has received almost 1 000 signatures.
I won’t stop my fight for justice. It’s what my dad stood for.”