Eugene hangs seniors out to dry
The 1200-page amnesty application compiled by former Vlakplaas commander Eugene de Kock includes details about a plot to assassinate Namibian President Sam Nujoma after his country’s independence in 1990.
It talks about security police general Basie Smit’s orders to De Kock to break into the Stellenbosch home and Rooi Els holiday cottage belonging to the parents of Hein Grosskopf, after former police minister Adriaan Vlok had publicly accused Grosskopf of bombing the Krugersdorp Magistrate’s Court.
De Kock was told to find evidence in support of Vlok’s claims. He broke into the houses but found nothing to help Vlok substantiate his allegations. De Kock’s application sets out a list of police informers in the Inkatha Freedom Party. It outlines a plan to assassinate Joe Verster, “managing director” of the Civil Co-operation Bureau.
It gives times and places where Vlakplaas operatives delivered war materials to former KwaZulu police minister Celani Mtetwa and IFP leaders Philip Powell, Themba Khoza and Humphrey Ndlovu.
It outlines many police and military operations into Botswana, Zimbabwe, Lesotho and Swaziland. And overall, it implicates more than 100 high-level police officials, military operatives, politicians and assassins, with far greater detail about their activities than emerged during De Kock’s sensational trial which ended late last year.
The document remains under wraps and is supposed to remain that way until De Kock’s public amnesty hearings begin, perhaps in July or August. But his lawyer, Schalk Hugo, offered an enticing glimpse into the document this week when he went through its table of contents point-by-point.
Much of the information is already known, but important sections, such as the plan to assassinate Nujoma, fresh information about the murder of Swapo activist Anton Lubowski and in- depth detail about Vlakplaas operations to overthrow the governments of the Transkei and Ciskei, will provide startling revelations. Hugo has doubts, however, that prosecutors will use the mass of information to pursue criminal cases against any of those named.
Transvaal Attorney General Jan D’Oliveira has possessed much of the information contained in the amnesty application since May 1996 when De Kock, realising he had no chance of escaping prison, began giving prosecutors information that did not pertain to his own ongoing trial. That information has been used as evidence only once—in the Motherwell trial in the Eastern Cape last year. De Kock’s evidence helped convict several policemen for their role in the deaths of five of their colleagues.
Hugo and others speculate that the lack of prosecutions may explain why so few politicians and military operatives applied for amnesty. Hugo said several of De Kock’s former colleagues approached him, particularly in the final days before the May 10 amnesty deadline. They wanted access to De Kock’s application. Hugo said he told them to “mess off”.
De Kock’s application was delivered to the truth commission’s Johannesburg office 20 minutes before Saturday’s deadline. Hugo paints a picture of De Kock as the man who has taken the rap for his seniors. He says De Kock is bitter that he, a foot soldier, sits in a maximum-security prison while the generals who gave him the orders to kill walk free.
De Kock is aware that the public views him as a murderous abomination; all but a few close friends have abandoned him; a heart attack nearly killed him; his wife divorced him last week; and his most regular visitor, Peter Caselton, died in February. Hugo says De Kock sees his amnesty application as a desperate bid to get out of jail before he dies. But he also sees it as a chance to explain his actions as a consequence of a warped political environment.
Hugo believes that, even if De Kock does not win any understanding, he hopes to be able to expose the people who hung him out to dry. And if he’s lucky, maybe even bring a few down with him.