Campaigning for a better justice system

JOHN HARVEY

Lee Schoombie, the brother of Carl Ronald Schoombie, who was fatally beaten after a night out at a Claremont nightclub last year, has spoken out against soaring crime levels in the country, saying South African society has become far too accepting of atrocities and despicable acts of violence.

In a candid interview with the Tatler, Rondebosch resident Mr Schoombie, 26, said the justice system was failing South Africans if generally law-abiding people could be fined several thousand rands for minor violations, yet murderers were granted bail of only R1 000.

Two men, Brent Henry, 38, and Juane Jacobs, 35, have been arrested for the attack and murder of Carl in November. The elder Schoombie brother, 27, had been with friends at the Tiger Tiger nightclub and had left in an Uber taxi bound for Rondebosch when it was forced off the road by men travelling in a vehicle behind. Mr Schoombie was then brutally assaulted and died later from his injuries.

A trial date for both men will be set on Friday April 29.

Shortly after Carl’s murder, Mr Henry was arrested and appeared on a murder charge in the Wynberg Magistrate’s Court, but was released on R1 000 bail. Mr Jacobs had been on the run from police, but a concerted campaign by Mr Schoombie, which included a reward of R65 000 being posted, resulted in his arrest in Gauteng at the end of February.

Since setting up the Facebook page Justice for CARL, Mr Schoombie has felt compelled to speak out against what he describes as a “warped” society, one which, he believes, tolerates rape and murder without a second thought.

“I don’t seek the limelight, all I’m trying to do is tell the world that we cannot allow things to carry on like they are in the country. I don’t want my brother to be just another statistic. There are thousands of families in this country who have been hurt by crimes like this, and it is not acceptable,” he said.

“There have been a few people who have told me not to speak out, but I believe that if anything can come from my brother’s murder, it is that I get my message out there. Individuals like me have to stand up and the more of us who do, the more we can change the system for the better.”

He said everyone had tried to look for answers for his brother’s death by laying the blame with Tiger Tiger or Uber, but the real culprit was a weak legal system.

“People can commit horrific acts like this, and they know they are going to get bail. The conviction rate is something like 20 percent, which is ridiculous. We have police who are underpaid and overworked, and there is so much crime that you don’t even get locked up for petty theft anymore. I am tired of this, and if I can reach 10, 200 or a thousand people by spreading my message, then at least I feel I’m doing something.”

Mr Schoombie was horrified that Cape Town was recently named the ninth most violent city in the world by the Mexican Council for Public Security and Criminal Justice. The council lists the most violent cities in the world by the number of murders per 100 000 people.

“And yet we accept this,” Mr Schoombie said. “But that means we have accepted that human life has no more value, and that is just warped.”

According to the latest police statistics, released in September last year, 17 805 murders were committed from April 2014 to March 2015 . This amounts to an increase of 14.5 percent in the past three years. Some 49 people are murdered in this country each day.

Mr Schoombie said his brother’s death had destroyed his family’s life, but there were families all over South Africa experiencing their pain.

“My mom is dying inside. The pain just doesn’t go away. For me, I am trying not to think too much about things beyond the court case and seeing justice served. I am trying to not let myself reminisce about my brother.

“The irony is that my brother hated violence himself. When we were growing up as children in George, or even when we were at university in Stellenbosch, he avoided altercation at all costs. He was totally against violence, and that he should have died in this way makes his death even more tragic.”

As an endurance athlete, Mr Schoombie plans using the events he competes in as a platform to raise further awareness about improving South Africa’s justice system.

“I don’t believe I will ever stop this campaign, even when the court case is over. I won’t give up until our justice system is improved.”