Tsafendas was not insane. He killed Verwoerd for political reasons: author

09 November 2018 - 07:29 By Ernest Mabuza
Dimitri Tsafendas, who died in 1999.
Dimitri Tsafendas, who died in 1999.

Dimitri Tsafendas, the man who killed apartheid Prime Minister Hendrik Verwoerd in 1966, was sane and believed that by killing the person dubbed the “architect of apartheid”, the system of apartheid would die with him.

“Tsafendas did not kill an innocent person. He killed the most guilty person that he could get, the person who was called the architect of apartheid,” said author Harris Dousemetzis.

Dousemetzis was speaking during the launch of his book, “The Man Who Killed Apartheid: The Life of Dimitri Tsafendas”, at the Apartheid Museum in Johannesburg on Thursday evening.

Dousemetzis said human rights lawyers had asked the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) in the 1990s to relook at the case of Tsafendas, who was declared unfit to stand trial and was kept as a state mental patient.

He said if the TRC had spoken to Tsafendas, and looked at the evidence contained in the archives, it would have discovered that Tsafendas was sane and killed Verwoerd for political reasons.

“He believed by killing him, apartheid would collapse,” Dousemetzis said.

The author said after researching Tsafendas, whom he only knew about after his death in 1999, he prepared a research report that he sent to the justice department, in the hope that the public record about his activism would be amended.

“It will be difficult for people to believe that Tsafendas was not insane. This lie has been standing for 52 years.”

Judge Jody Kollapen, who visited Tsafendas regularly while he was in prison and, later, at Sterkfontein mental hospital from 1994, said the book was important as the nation needed to know the truth.

“He was incensed about what Verwoerd did and he was prepared to risk his life,” Kollapen said.

Justice and correctional services minister Michael Masutha described the book launch as a moment to celebrate the truth.

Human rights lawyer George Bizos, Justice minister Michael Masutha, and high court judge Jody Kollapen at the launch of Harris Dousemetzis's book on Dimitri Tsafendas at the Apartheid Museum on November 8 2018. Dousemetzi is pictured right.
Human rights lawyer George Bizos, Justice minister Michael Masutha, and high court judge Jody Kollapen at the launch of Harris Dousemetzis's book on Dimitri Tsafendas at the Apartheid Museum on November 8 2018. Dousemetzi is pictured right.
Image: Ernest Mabuza

“Indeed, the story that is being told tonight is one of a man who may have killed a man, but I believe in the depth of his mind he was not a killer.

“He did not want kill a human being. He wanted to kill a system. It is unfortunate that the system personified itself in a human being,” Masutha said.

He said the judge who declared Tsafendas unfit for trial described Tsafendas as a “meaningless character”.


Please sign in or register to comment.

X