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'De Kock must rot in jail'

29 January 2012 - 02:06 By ISAAC MAHLANGU and SASHNI PATHER

'Eugene de Kock must not use us [to get] parole. He must just serve his time ... people like De Kock shouldn't even be considered for parole."

With these words Thabang Mlangeni, spokesman for the family of slain ANC activist Bheki Mlangeni, shot down a plea for forgiveness from "Prime Evil", the apartheid-era death-squad commander who is serving life in jail.

Yesterday, Mlangeni's family accused De Kock of being opportunistic. The family said a letter De Kock sent to them this week, in which he asked them to forgive him, was merely a ploy to receive parole. De Kock applied for parole in December but this was postponed indefinitely.

In his letter De Kock, who carried out assassinations and committed other heinous crimes for the apartheid government, said the family's forgiveness would "mean a lot".

Yesterday morning the Mlangeni family met in Meyerton, south of Johannesburg, to discuss the letter in which he also invited Mlangeni's elderly mother, Catherine, to visit him in jail.

During the emotional meeting, which Thabang said "opened many old wounds", the family decided that De Kock's attempt at forgiveness was too late and felt that they were being used.

Thabang, Bheki's older brother, said: "If he was really sorry he would have started [the process] from the first day he found out that he had killed Bheki and admitted that he was behind it."

In his letter De Kock wrote: "There is no greater punishment than to have to live with the consequences of the most terrible deed with no one to forgive you. For me, even my own death can't compare."

He did not explain why he wrote only to the family of Mlangeni - who was killed by a parcel bomb in 1991 - and not to relatives of his other victims.

Of his plea for a meeting, Thabang said: "We've seen him enough at the TRC, where he showed no remorse at all."

Advocate Dumisa Ntsebeza, who led evidence for the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, said the Mlangeni family's decision should be respected - and De Kock "must now live with his own ghosts".

"The TRC is said to have had shortcomings, and by that I mean forgiveness was not a part of the process," Ntsebeza said.

He added: "If De Kock had apologised to the family in the TRC stage, maybe they would've accepted it. Maybe this apology has come too late in the day and this would explain the family's reaction."

De Kock was labelled "Prime Evil" following his shocking testimony, during the TRC, on the Vlakplaas operations.

He received multiple life sentences totalling 212 years and has spent 16 years in prison.

TRC records revealed that the bomb that killed Mlangeni had been intended for ex-Vlakplaas commander Dirk Coetzee, who had defected to the ANC in Lusaka.

Mlangeni was at the time acting as Coetzee's lawyer. Coetzee suspected that the parcel was a bomb and refused to collect it from the post office. It was then sent to Mlangeni.

When Mlangeni opened the parcel, containing a "Walkman" and cassette, he put the earphones on and pressed "play". It exploded, killing him instantly.

De Kock received amnesty for many apartheid crimes but not for the murder of security guard Japie Maponya, who was abducted, tortured and interrogated and later driven to Swaziland where he was killed.

On the killing of Maponya, De Kock told the TRC commission: "Japie Maponya was shot to death and, after he had been shot, I beat him twice with the spade with two severe blows to the head."

De Kock was also denied amnesty for the killing of the so-called Nelspruit Four - Khona Gabela, Lawrence Nyarenda, Glenyk Masilo Mama and Oscar Mxolisi Ntshwatha - who were killed in an ambush in Mpumalanga in 1992.

Ntsebeza said far too many criminals never came to the amnesty committee.

"The Pebco Three [Sipho Hashe, Champion Galela, Qaqawuli Godolozi] murderers are known and never applied for amnesty. Why the state has never prosecuted them remains a mystery. De Kock had handlers who gave him instructions and they are free, walking the streets," he said.

Thabang noted: " De Kock is lucky that he still has his family who can visit and have a conversation with him. In three weeks it would have been 21 years since we've lost our brother. All we can do is to visit the Avalon Cemetery."