AGE OF THE ASSASSIN
Charl Kinnear Memorial Lecture: Celebrating the legacy of a principled police officer
Murdered Anti-Gang Unit member Lieutenant-Colonel Charl Kinnear had observed and experienced at first hand how corruption, laziness, dishonesty and abuse of power crept into the sector that he loved and for which he lost his life.
Speaking at a memorial service to mark the first anniversary of Kinnear’s death, Dr Llewellyn MacMaster said that for the decorated detective, policing had been about the culture of example and pride in one’s work in order to create a safer environment.
However, the sad reality in South Africa was that citizens experienced the opposite, he added. The CK Memorial Lecture was held on Saturday at the exact spot in Bishop Lavis where Kinnear was gunned down.
MacMaster set the tone, opening proceedings with a prayer and later delivering a powerful lecture.
He said while Nicolette Kinnear and the couple’s two sons, Casleigh and Carlisle, had not been allowed to close this chapter of their lives, they at least had a sense that “justice would prevail”.
The title of MacMaster’s lecture, “If you stand for nothing you will fall for everything: celebrating the legacy of a principled, committed and courageous police officer”, was taken from the inscription on Kinnear’s tombstone which reads, “If you stand for nothing you will fall for anything”.
Reflecting on the commitment Kinnear exhibited, MacMaster said the officer was “fully and painfully aware of the reality of being a police officer within the South African context”.
Despite these complexities he had chosen this career path.
“Kinnear knew, based on his values and principles, that he had to be committed in order to change the culture. Kinnear knew and was aware that once committed, he would be tested from inside within and without,” he said.
The greatest temptation was to assimilate into the culture of corruption, said MacMaster.
“Assimilation means becoming part of the dominant culture,” he said, adding that Kinnear must have observed and experienced how corruption, laziness, dishonesty, abuse of power and non-commitment had crept into a sector that he loved and for which he lost his life.
Kinnear “realised that assimilation was built on expectation and temptation. Those who are in charge and those who have helped create this bad culture, they expect you to just fit into that culture.”
MacMaster said South Africans broadly felt the reason for the “moral decay” in the country was the lack of “values”.
“Or the fact that many have lost the values that will help us to build a healthy society, individuals and communities.
“It is all true that many of the values that we have grown up with have been exchanged for a new set of values that clearly are not helping us to build the South Africa that we have dreamed about,” he said.
Even gangs, he said, had values like respect, looking out for each other and understanding of love.
A principled person, he added, was someone “who faithfully followed their principles, or sets of principles, rather than abandoning them when convenient”.
Kinnear was a police officer with principles, said MacMaster, and the meaning of the occasion was the celebration of the life “of someone who acted with integrity and honesty, with a strong sense of fairness, justice and respect of dignity of every individual of the groups and the communities he belonged to”.
Kinnear took responsibility for his own actions and the consequences that accompanied them.
“That is why I remember and celebrate him as a person with principles. So if we are to honour the legacy of Kinnear each one of us needs to be a principled person who acts with integrity and honesty.”
MacMaster said Kinnear, a devout Christian, must have prayed when confronted with difficult situations.
“I’m sure he prayed that this cup be taken away from him,” said MacMaster.
Brigadier Cass Goolam, who also spoke, described Kinnear as a friend and that they had been united in “a common enemy and that was fighting gangsterism, these highflyers of the Cape Flats and these cowards of the Cape Flats”.
Goolam said Kinnear had become highly sensitive to how “dirty our province is”.
“The calibre of Kinnear is an endangered species. My generation is about to end and if the government does not come in and intervene and if the communities don’t come in and intervene I don’t know what the future holds,” lamented Goolam.
The enemy in the Western Cape was not gangs or drugs but the fact that communities tolerated gangs hiding among them. Even in Kinnear’s case the community had kept quiet out of fear.
The friendship and camaraderie between Western Cape police spokesperson Captain FC van Wyk and Kinnear spanned over 30 years and on Saturday he reminisced about their singing together.
“If Charl was here today he would have asked me to put in the gospel hymn Because He Lives I Can Face Tomorrow,” said Van Wyk.
Kinnear’s son Carlisle said he still vividly recalled the day of the murder. At 2.48 his father had called to him to move his car out of the driveway.
Within two minutes he had heard the shots and seen his father slumped behind the wheel.
“I told myself I hoped that my dad didn’t suffer a lot. I felt a sense of relief when the autopsy report showed there was little blood in his lungs, meaning he didn’t suffer a lot. This is something that I don’t wish to happen to anyone,” he told Maverick Citizen.
Kinnear’s widow, Nicolette, concluded proceedings, saying that while the past 12 months had been difficult it was encouraging to witness the support on Saturday at the memorial.
Earlier in September Kinnear’s name was placed on the memorial wall at the Union Buildings, where Kinnear’s son Casleigh met President Cyril Ramaphosa.
Kinnear said that while everyone wanted to meet the president her son had done so in tragic circumstances.
“If I can use my heartache to prevent another family from enduring that then we are going to do that. Keep praying for our blue family and law enforcement, because whether we like it or not we need them,” she said.
A photograph of Kinnear taken outside the Western Cape High Court and signed by his colleagues was handed to the family.
The signatures were from those men and women who had protected Kinnear’s home before the assassin’s bullets found their target.
“Guys, thank you so much. The three or four hours of sleep we had at night was because we knew you guys were outside,” said Kinnear.
She also spoke of how the “hunt” for her husband began in 2018 and that another Anti-Gang Unit detective, Bruce van Staden, known as “Eagles” and his team had protected Kinnear.
“It was these guys that made sure that we at least had him for two more years because they wouldn’t leave his side because they knew. In December 2019 when the guard was removed, they did protect him after work. They came and sat outside the door because they wouldn’t leave us as a family alone,” she said.
Keeping Kinnear’s legacy alive was one thing, but the reality was that “he has run his race, never be able to investigate another docket again or put a gangster behind bars. That is on the shoulders of his colleagues.”
The first recipient of the annual CK Memorial Award was Van Staden. DM/MC
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