Former apartheid death squad leader Eugene de Kock, dubbed “Prime Evil” for his role in the torture and murder of anti-apartheid activists in the 1980s and early 1990s, learnt on Thursday that he will not be released on parole after 20 years in prison.
Justice Minister Michael Masutha announced his decision on De Kock’s application for parole just before midday at a news conference in Pretoria.
“I am of the view that it is fair and in the interests of the victims and the broader community, that the families of the victims are afforded an opportunity to practise in the parole consideration process,” he told reporters in Johannesburg.
“I have not approved parole at this stage but have directed that a further profile be re-submitted not later than 12 months from today.”
Masutha said he held a meeting of the victims’ families on July 4, which was arranged to confirm whether they had been consulted on the parole application.
30 days to make a decision
De Kock approached the high court in Pretoria for a decision in May. The national council for correctional services made a recommendation about De Kock’s parole in November last year. The recommendation was sent to then correctional services minister S’bu Ndebele. When he failed to act, De Kock approached the high court to force him to do so.
Judge Thokozile Masipa gave the minister 30 days to make a decision, excluding weekends and public holidays.
Masutha went through the process of how parole works.
The minister said he used the allocated time ordered by the court to peruse De Kock’s profile along with the relevant reports from professionals and relevant bodies.
“I have considered the matter and noted the various positive reports compiled … I have noted the progress he is reported to have made,” Masutha said. He said he could not discuss De Kock’s profile.
De Kock had been notified of the minister’s decision before the announcement.
As head of an apartheid counter-insurgency unit at Vlakplaas, a farm 20km west of Pretoria, de Kock is believed to have been responsible for more atrocities than any other man in the efforts to preserve white rule.
Arrested in 1994, the year Nelson Mandela and the ANC came to power, he was sentenced two years later to 212 years in prison on charges ranging from murder and attempted murder to kidnapping and fraud.
But at a Truth and Reconciliation Commission set up in 1995 to try to unearth and, in some cases, forgive – crimes committed by both sides, De Kock came clean about the killing of many ANC activists.
Hands ‘soaked in blood’
The information allowed police to recover the remains of victims and allowed them to receive a proper burial.
Even from behind bars in Pretoria’s C-Max high security prison, De Kock has continued to cast his shadow over the post-apartheid South Africa.
In a 2007 radio interview, he accused FW de Klerk of having hands “soaked in blood” for ordering political killings. De Klerk, who won the Nobel Peace Prize jointly with Mandela, has denied the allegations.
De Kok has also expressed sorrow at his actions, fuelling a belief among some that he is remorseful – an important factor in any parole decision.
Two years ago, he wrote to the mother of ANC lawyer Bheki Mlangeni, who was killed by a bomb in 1991, asking for her forgiveness.
“Your forgiveness will mean a lot to me, but it can in no way wash away the pain I have caused,” he said in the letter, which appeared in national papers.
‘I was not jolted’
In the same year, he met Marcia Khoza, the daughter of ANC activist Portia Shabangu, whom De Kock executed after an ambush in Swaziland in 1989.
“We greeted each other and shook hands. His handshake was firm,” she said after the meeting, at which De Kock described how he shot Khoza’s mother twice in the head before pushing the vehicle in which she was travelling down a slope.
“I thought I would cry but strangely enough had the courage to continue to listen to him. I was not jolted because I had long forgiven him and have since learnt that resentment and bitterness will blur my vision on life,” she said. – Staff Report, Reuters