'She was more than a boss, she was like family': shock over Ocean Basket owner's murder
Two candles flickered in the Ocean Basket restaurant in the Mall of the North in Polokwane on Friday as distraught staff members tried to understand what led to the brutal overnight murder of restaurant owner Lizette Deacon and her mother Hettie.
A framed picture of the two was placed on a table next to a vase of flowers and an open book for people to pen their condolence messages.
Police discovered the bodies of the two women after a frantic search was set in motion when blood was found inside their town house. The mother and daughter had been tied up and stabbed to death and were found inside their vehicle, which was abandoned on Thursday night along the R37 near the Kushcke off-ramp.
One of the restaurant managers, Ossie Gangata, said they had heard about the murders through social media and via the grapevine. He said staff members were shocked and disbelieving.
“To us, Lizette was more than a boss, she was like family. She would listen to our problems and help whenever she could. She didn’t act like someone who had a position. It’s a great loss to us,” said Gangata, who had worked for Deacon for six years.
“It hurts. It hurts a lot,” he said, his voice trembling.
He said staff members were not taking the news well, especially those who had spent most of Thursday working with Lizette.
“I spoke to her twice on the phone yesterday. It’s just unbelievable and unacceptable,” said Gangata.
Hettie was also regarded as part of the Ocean Basket family.
“She was like a grandmother to me, and she always just treated us like her own,” Gangata said.
He told TimesLIVE that during the lockdown, when operations ceased, Deacon had made sure her staff were all taken care of by claiming their UIF benefits.
“She also took money from her own pocket to help us,” Gangata said.
On Friday, the restaurant opened for business. Anxious staff members were waiting for feedback from family members or senior management about their futures.
A peaceful march was expected to take place outside the restaurant on Friday afternoon.
March organiser Adele van der Linde told TimesLIVE she had planned it in honour of all women who had been victims of horrific crimes, especially in Limpopo.
“Weekly, we visit families who lose mothers, sisters and daughters at the hands of someone else, and sometimes at the hands of people with whom they are in a relationship. It’s like lives of women no longer matter,” said Van der Linde, who is an employee at Limpopo’s department of social development.
She said the murders came just hours after her department, together with police, the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) and women’s rights groups, had concluded an imbizo on gender-based violence in the province.
“This was definitely the straw that broke the camel’s back. I can no longer face grieving families. I just can’t,” said Van der Linde, who urged women to stand up and make a noise about their own being killed.
She said the entire community was rattled by the most recent murders.
“We are a close-knit community and people I have interacted with said they will remember the mother and daughter as kind, generous and caring people. The community is angry because we all are tired of this,” she said.
No arrests have been made in connection with the murders.
Police suspected the Deacons had been victims of a robbery at their home.