Families of state witnesses suffer terribly when their loved ones are killed because they harbour information that will help to put criminals behind bars.
Imagine the patent anguish of viewing your sibling’s body, a cold corpse riddled with bullet holes, at least seven by your count, at which point a state pathologist steps in and cautions against going any further.
For Claudia Collins, 40, this was her nightmare. On February 21, her brother, Alex-Nico Ferreira, 27, was assassinated close to his parents’ home in Bethelsdorp.
The gunmen were determined that Ferreira, a key witness to an alleged gang killing in 2014, would never have the chance to testify.
His death has dealt a blow to the state’s case against Enzo Kroates and Clement Kogana, two men allegedly involved in the original shooting, although prosecutors say they are confident they have enough proof to deliver convictions.
Sadly, though, Ferreira’s demise is not an isolated case, and there are some indications that other similar hits targeting witnesses in and around Port Elizabeth are being orchestrated from jail.
Yandile Mbaza, a hijacking victim, was shot dead on Sunday night in New Brighton. He was warned earlier to drop the case against two of his alleged hijackers, who are currently imprisoned.
Mbaza, 43, refused and paid the ultimate price.
Apart from the frustration it must bring to detectives and prosecutors, these dastardly acts serve also to pervert the course of justice.
Naturally, any new eyewitness to the subsequent crime may fear a similar fate, and choose to remain silent.
In a country where many are affected each day by the criminal actions of others, justice must be seen to be served.
However, where science and forensics fall short of the job required to return a guilty verdict, it often comes down to the testimony of those who bear witness to villainy.
Without their eyes and ears, the delivery of justice would likely be hampered. And if the state cannot sufficiently protect these individuals, society – along with those anguished families – suffers terribly.