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Wed Aug 31 02:29:08 SAST 2016

De Kock unblocked - 'Prime Evil' gets parole

Sapa | 30 January, 2015 10:57
Vlakplaas death camp commander Eugene de Kock
Image by: Eugene Coetzee/ Sunday Times

Former Vlakplaas commander Eugene de Kock, dubbed "Prime Evil" by the media, will be released on parole, Justice Minister Michael Masutha said on Friday.

"In the interest of... nation building, I have placed Mr De Kock on parole," said Masutha.

The time and date of his release will not be made public.

Dubbed "Prime Evil" by the media, De Kock has spent over two decades behind bars, following his arrest in 1994 and his conviction two years later in the Pretoria High Court.

In 1997/98, De Kock's testimony before the Truth and Reconciliation Commission on activities at the farm Vlakplaas shocked South Africans with its graphic, and previously largely unknown, details of the kidnapping, torture and murder of anti-apartheid activists.

But the former police colonel also won himself a round of spontaneous applause when he accused other members of the apartheid security establishment of not having "the backbone to stand up and take responsibility".

Vlakplaas, where De Kock took over in 1985 as head of the police's infamous C10 counter-insurgency unit, was located outside Pretoria. The unit was tasked with suppressing the anti-apartheid movement.

After the hearings, De Kock was granted amnesty for some of the crimes; for others it was denied, as their political motivation could not be fully proved.

De Kock was denied parole in July last year, despite being eligible after spending 20 years behind bars. Justice Minister Michael Masutha said at the time that although he had "made progress" towards rehabilitation, the families of his victims had not been properly consulted.

De Kock, the son of a magistrate, was born in George in the Western Cape on January 29, 1949. He joined the South African Police, and in the late 1970s was deployed to Rhodesia where a bloody bush war was being waged at the time. He later joined the notorious Koevoet paramilitary unit in then South West Africa.

In 1983, he began working at Vlakplaas, and was made commanding officer of the unit two years later.

In 1996, De Kock was sentenced to two terms of life imprisonment for the murders of Japie Kereng Maponya and the so-called Nelspruit five: Oscar Mxolisi Ntshota, Glenack Masilo Mama, Lawrence Jacey Nyelende, Khona Gabela and Tisetso Leballo.

He was sentenced to a further 212 years' imprisonment for conspiracy to commit murder, culpable homicide, kidnapping, assault, and fraud. He began serving his sentence at Pretoria's C-Max prison.

In 1997, De Kock was moved to Pretoria Central prison.

In a radio interview in 2007, De Kock responded to a statement by former president FW de Klerk -- that he had a "clear conscience" regarding his time in office -- claiming that South Africa's last white president had ordered political killings, and that his hands were "soaked in blood".

In early 2010, it was reported that President Jacob Zuma had paid De Kock a secret visit in Pretoria Central Prison, a month ahead of his May 2009 inauguration.

The Sunday Independent claimed at the time that De Kock apparently gave information to Zuma about the involvement of other people in apartheid-era crimes who had got off "scot-free".

In return for a pardon, the newspaper reported, De Kock indicated he would help any new investigation into apartheid-era atrocities, including the recovery of bodies of victims of the security forces.

Zuma's spokesman at the time denied any knowledge of the April meeting.

In 2012, De Kock reached out to relatives of some of his victims, including the mother and wife of ANC lawyer Bheki Mlangeni. The family did not grant him forgiveness, questioning the sincerity of his request. Marcia Khoza, the daughter of another victim, Portia Shabangu, publicly forgave De Kock after visiting him in prison.

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