State gets Vlakplaas back after 20 years

2014-07-20 15:00

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It took the Department of Public Works almost 20 years to reclaim the notorious Vlakplaas death squad farm from a right-wing religious fundamentalist who claimed he was a “squatter” and couldn’t be evicted.

The reclamation of the state-owned farm formed part of Operation Bring Back, which Minister Thulas Nxesi said was intended to recover land and properties stolen from the state before 1994.

These include property in the former bantustans of Transkei, Ciskei, Venda and Bophuthatswana where state houses and other buildings have simply been taken over and used as guesthouses.

Nxesi said one property which formed part of Operation Bring Back was Vlakplaas, base of the apartheid police death squad led by Dirk Coetzee and Eugene de Kock, situated 20km west of Pretoria. It was bought by the police in 1979 and later transferred to Public Works.

After the police left the farm in about 1995, Public Works appointed a caretaker, Louis Steyn, to look after it and he lived there with his family.

Steyn, an admitted Afrikaans right-winger and religious fundamentalist, found some spent cartridges and five graves on a nearby hilltop and planted crosses all over the farm.

Then in 2001, when more than 200 traditional healers gathered there to perform a cleansing ceremony on Reconciliation Day, Public Works announced its intention to transfer Vlakplaas to the Department of Arts and Culture and turn it into a museum.

However, Smit refused to go. And when Public Works tried to evict him, he went to court, claiming he was a squatter and needed alternative accommodation.

The High Court found in his favour.

Two years ago, Smit left Vlakplaas after buying a property in the Western Cape where, he told people, there were “less blacks”.

He then passed Vlakplaas on to two friends, a security company owner and a plumber.

After they left, the place was taken over by a Christian ministry called Kuriaké which turned it into a drug and addiction rehabilitation centre.

Public Works then served an eviction notice on Kuriaké whose pastor, Theresa Stander, said they had left last month.

Public Works spokesperson Thami Mchunu said the farm will finally be transferred to the Department of Arts and Culture for use as a heritage site.

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