/ 15 May 1997

Dirk Coetzee guilty of murder


DIRK COETZEE has been released on R5 000 bail, and the court has agreed to postpone sentencing for six weeks, to learn whether the Truth Commision has granted him amnesty.


DIRK Coetzee and Almond Nofomela, the two former security policemen who blew the lid on 'third force' police activities, have been found guilty of robbing and murdering activist lawyer Griffiths Mxenge — a crime they confessed to almost ten years ago. Sentence has not yet been passed.

Coetzee and Nofomela, found gulty along with David Tshikilange, refused to testify in the trial, which found them guilty on the basis of their own statements to the Harms Commission into "third force" activities. Ironically, the Harms commission rejected those confessions as untruthful.

Justice Piet Combrinck rejected the defence argument that the accused had made false statements regarding Mxenge's murder. He said: "The confessions were made freely and voluntarily, they were confirmed in material respects by the objective evidence."

Nofomela first confessed to the Mxenge murder in the Pretoria Central death cells on the evening before he was to be hung for another murder. His confession, to human rights lawyer Shucks Sefanyetso, was first reported in the Weekly Mail in 1988. Months later, Coetzee confirmed the murder in a celebrated series of articles in Vrye Weekblad.

The judge dismissed the key state witness, fellow killer Joe Mamasela, as "a thoroughly dishonest, untruthful and untrustworthy witness. It would be dangerous in the extreme to place any reliance on his testimony when considering the guilt of the accused."

Coetzee was the first security policeman to publicly confess and recant for his crimes. Ironically, he is liekly to be one of the very few to be charged as a result.

Two fellow accused, former security policemen Johan van der Hoven and Andy Taylor, were acquitted on the same charges.