/ 24 November 1989

Hit-squad spotlight on Coetzee successor

Major Eugene Alexander de Rock, the man who succeeded Dirk Coetzee as head of an alleged security police "death squad", is named in two inquests linking him to nine deaths. De Kock, who was transferred from Koevoet in Namibia to take over the police "anti- terrorist" unit in Pretoria when Coetzee left the force in 1983 has emerged at the centre of the complex web of alleged "hit squad" activities.

He has been linked to a number of deaths, including the shooting of a man at point-blank range to prevent him from identifying De Kock and his accomplices and two ambushes that resulted in nine fatalities. When asked by an inquest court looking into one of these ambushes whether he had done this type of operation before, he answered "yes".

De Kock, a policeman for 21 years, has been called as a witness in one inquest and is due to be called in another in which the murders of African National Congress-connected activists by security police "anti-terrorist," units are being investigated.

In both, there are accusations that the unit set out to kill, rather than capture, their victims. In both De Kock is named as the field commander who set up ambushes which went wrong, leading tothe killings. The first incident relates to a police killing in Chesterville in 1986, when four youths were killed; the other arises from an incident near Piet Retief on the Swaziland border in June last year when youths crossing the border were shot dead.

De Kock is alleged to have participated personally in the Piet Retief incident. Commenting on his style of operation De Kock told the Piet Retief inquest court that he did not need to report to any senior officer, as it was expected of him to use his own initiative and responsibility.

He said that between 1968 and 1972, he had received training in Zimbabwe, then Rhodesia attending various courses run by the Special Air Services, and that in 1968 he participated in a counter-insurgency training course run by the South African Police at Buffelshoek.

In 1981 he attended a course in explosives and was appointed a sub instructor in explosives. At a press conference held by the Independent Board of Investigation into Informal Repression on Wednesday, De Kock was named in new affidavits by the former security policeman on death row Almond Nofomela as a murderer – Ivor Powell and Carmel Rickard.

This article originally appeared in the Weekly Mail.



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