Zuma also offered a new home to the grieving family. It is understood a monetary donation was also given to the family.

ELSIES RIVER – President Jacob Zuma has slammed his own police force for their handling of the Courtney Pieters case.

Zuma visited the family at their Elsies River home on Thursday, where he said society was facing a “moral crisis” and he promised to implement harsher laws for criminals.

Addressing the media after offering his condolences to the family an emotional Zuma said he was sickened by the rape and murder case that has shocked the country.

“That a man who stays here can rape the child kill the child in the bedroom … and break every bone to make the child fit in a plastic bag … It shows something has gone wrong with society” he said.

The three-year-old girl was reported missing on 4 May and her body was found nine days later, dumped on a field in Epping.

Mortimer Saunders, 40, a tenant and close friend of the family was arrested and charged with the toddler’s rape and murder.

Zuma accused cops of not taking the investigation seriously, as they failed to search the child’s home first, where they could have found her body.

A Daily Voice investigation revealed that Saunders’ rented room smelled of death and pools of blood were found in his fridge.

“When the police were asked to come and help they actually almost treated the mother as the perpetrator instead of helping to look for the child” said Zuma of the nine-day search which involved family and hundreds of community members.

“They could have found the body; they could have found the blood … [but] they did not react as if this was a serious matter.”

He said he would ask Police Minister Fikile Mbalula to address the problem.

Mbalula attended a memorial service for Courtney at Elsies River Civic Centre on Thursday night.

Residents filled the venue to the brim as Mbalula said: “Courtney, twinkle twinkle little star. May your soul rest in peace.”

Mbalula spoke to an emotional crowd who cheered him on as he exclaimed: “That killer must die in prison! Currently the perpetrator is defended by the law and our little girl is dead. Nothing will bring her back.”

Mbalula pleaded with residents and parents to protect their children.

The Pieters family sat on the stage while messages of sympathy were addressed to them.

Earlier Zuma said: “I will be speaking to Police Minister Fikile Mbalula. I blame the police for what has happened here and believe we suffer from a serious moral crisis if these kind of things are happening right under our noses.”

The president also visited the scene where Courtney’s body was found.

Shaking his head sadly, Zuma said: “This is a tragedy we should not allow to happen to our children.”

He said crimes against women and children were becoming too much and would no longer be tolerated.

“We will be implementing harsher laws to deal with criminals who take our families from us in such a repulsive and cruel way. This is really a sad time and the community needs to unite behind this family and support them,” said Zuma.

In a surprise gesture, Zuma announced he will have a new home built for Courtney’s family, fully sponsored by the Jacob Zuma Foundation.

This news was met with loud applause and tears and parents Juanita Pieters, Aaron Fourie and their three remaining children looked shocked and surprised.

Juanita said: “I am very overwhelmed and grateful. I am glad the president listened to us, as I’ve said before, what we felt was done wrong during the investigation must be brought to light and must not be allowed to happen to any other children.

“But I am so grateful for all the assistance offered by everyone. We really feel blessed.”

Zuma also unveiled a plaque dedicated to Courtney on the newly painted walls of her family’s pink two-storey home, sponsored by Avbob.

Zuma visited the site where Courtney Pieters’s body was found.

Written on the plaque was Courtney’s name, her date of birth, 4 September 2013, and the day her body was found, 13 May 2017, and a short message of condolences ending with the words: Rest in Peace.

-Independent Online

PHOTO:President Jacob Zuma visited the Elsies River home of murder victim Courtney Pieters, 3, and slammed police’s treatment of mother Juanita. Pictures: Phando Jikelo


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