There will be no jail time for the five men in the Vlok trial when they stand in the dock in the Pretoria High Court, the <i>Mail & Guardian</i> learned this week. Instead, a plea bargain, secured last week, will be presented to the court. Earlier this month the <i>M&G</i> was told that, in terms of a plea bargain, neither Van der Merwe nor Vlok will serve prison terms.
There will be no jail time for the five men in the Vlok trial when they stand in the dock in the Pretoria High Court, the Mail & Guardian learned this week. Instead, a plea bargain, secured last week, will be presented to the court.
Former law and order minister Adriaan Vlok, former police chief Johann van der Merwe and three security policemen — Chris Smith, Gert Otto and Manie van Staden — will appear in court in Pretoria on Friday. The five men will be tried on charges of attempting to poison Frank Chikane, now the director general in the presidency, in 1989.
Earlier this month the M&G was told that, in terms of a plea bargain, neither Van der Merwe nor Vlok will serve prison terms and that, in return, they have agreed to cooperate fully with the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) in its investigations of apartheid crimes. A source close to the men confirmed the plea bargain this week and said that both leaders and foot soldiers would receive a suspended sentence.
”It is just up to the judge to decide whether he accepts the plea bargain,” the source said. ”The trial will probably be no longer than an hour.”
It is understood that there was little evidence to charge Vlok and Van der Merwe and that the two only agreed to stand in the dock if the three security policeman did not go to jail. The three could have been convicted on evidence the NPA had collected.
But the NPA held its cards close to its chest and refused to say whether a plea bargain had indeed been agreed. ”I cannot comment on the plea bargain at this stage. You will have to wait till Friday — and then it is up to the judge to decide,” NPA spokesperson Panyaza Lesufi told the M&G on Wednesday.
The trial has only been set for one day and the NPA has scheduled a press conference after the trial.
The prosecution has opened old wounds for black and white people on all sides of the former political divide. On the one side, Khulumani Support Group, which provides support for survivors of apartheid crimes, has dismissed the trial as paying lip service to the victims of apartheid. The group is one of the most vocal critics of the amended prosecutions guidelines, now being applied in the Vlok trial. It believes there was not enough public consultation and is demanding full public disclosure by perpetrators of human rights abuses during apartheid and the consequences of these activities.
Khulumani will use the Vlok trial to launch its Charter for Redress, and will march from Church Square to the high court, both in Pretoria, where the trial is taking place. The group says that critical issues have yet to be addressed if the nation is to heal.
”The charter identifies the fact that reconciliation has a price — the price is the cost of redressing the terrible wrongs done to individuals and communities across South Africa.”
On the other side, there is an Afrikaans civil rights group, Afriforum, which will conduct a wreath-laying ceremony in front of the courthouse. About 100 people are expected to attend. Kallie Kriel, the chief executive of AfriForum, said his organisation was protesting against the selective prosecution of apartheid crimes and believed that ANC leaders should also be prosecuted.
If only one side is prosecuted, it becomes an exercise in ”selective morality”. Afriforum is calling for ”equal treatment” in the prosecution of apartheid crimes, Kriel said.
Afriforum said it would assist Dirk van Eck, who lost his wife and two children in a landmine attack in 1985 near Musina. Van Eck wants to charge former and current ANC leaders for murder and attempted murder, because they believe the leaders, many of whom are currently in government, gave their approval for the landmine campaign, which was called Operation Kletswayo. But Van Eck said they would only pursue the case if Vlok and company were prosecuted.
Anton Ackerman, the head of the NPA’s priority crimes litigation unit, who spearheaded the Wouter Basson prosecution, will steer the Vlok trial and Judge Eben Jordaan, who is also the judge in the Boeremag trial, will hear the case. The trial will be conducted in Afrikaans.