Nyanda 'cool' on hitman's parole
Cape Town - Communications Minister Siphiwe Nyanda had "no ill feeling or bitterness" when he was told that his brother's killer, apartheid era hitman Butana Almond Nofemela, will be granted parole.
Correctional Services Minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula, speaking to journalists in Cape Town after announcing that Nofemela would be released on parole, said she was "amazed" at Nyanda's reaction to the news.
"Minister Nyanda felt that Mr Nofemela was caught in a war situation, in the same was as many of us were caught in the struggle against apartheid," Mapisa-Nqakula said.
"There are no ill feelings or bitterness. He removed himself from the situation. He was open and honest and was very keen for the man to be released. I was amazed at his reaction."
Nofemela, who had served nearly 22 years in prison, had been sentenced to death for murdering Brits farmer Johannes Hendrik Lourens.
He escaped the gallows at the last minute in 1987 after confessing to killing eight ANC members, including Griffiths Mxenge and Nyanda's brother Zwelibanzi Nyanda, who was killed in Swaziland.
Parole application 'difficult'
Nofemela was granted amnesty by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission for the eight ANC murders, but continued to serve a life term for killing Lourens.
Mapisa-Nqakula said Nofemela's parole application "was a very difficult one to swallow".
"For many of us these events feel as fresh as though they happened yesterday.
"Indeed this is even more so for the friends and relatives of those that suffered at the hands of Nofemela and his colleagues."
She said if Nofemela had not been convicted for murdering Lourens he would have been a free man in the 1990s.
"I am sure that we can all recount many persons who committee similar and worse offences and who, after receiving amnesty, were allowed to continue their lives as free men and women."
Mapisa-Nqakula said she had a very good meeting with Nofemela on Monday.
He was "shaken and taken aback" when he saw her, she said.
"It was a good meeting," said Mapisa-Nqakula, who herself was former combatant for the ANC's military wing, Umkhonto we Sizwe.
"It was important to learn what kind of change he had undergone in prison... and to have an appreciation of his own feelings. I am happy I had the interaction with him."
The officers in Pretoria Central prison had told Mapisa-Nqakula that Nofemela was a model prisoner.
He had been taking part in community outreach programmes and regularly spoke to groups of youngsters about the dangers of crime, HIV/Aids and drugs.
"He was that kind of inmate," she said.
Mapisa-Nqakula had consulted widely before deciding to grant Nofemela parole.
One of her meetings was with Nofemela's "handler" in the apartheid years, Dirk Coetzee, a co-founder and commander of the covert South African Police unit based at Vlakplaas, outside of Pretoria.
Coetzee, who now has links with a company that distributes stationery to schools, had been in regular contact with Nofemela.
"We had a good discussion - Mr Coetzee has kept regular contact with Mr Nofemela. He has given him emotional support and financial support to his family.
"He has indicated that he will help Mr Nofemela to secure a job upon his release."
Mapisa-Nqakula said he would arrange a job for Nofemela as a driver.
"I am sure that Mr Nofemela is going to have a lot of support from those close to him."
Many people lost their lives
Mapisa-Nqakula had also had a "constructive" meeting with one the children of Griffiths Mxenge's family.
"He is a South African deeply committed to reconciliation and to the healing of the nation," she said.
She had tried to locate the family of Johannes Lourens, but had been unsuccessful.
Lourens was an elderly single man, living with his brother when he was murdered.
Mapisa-Nqakula said she expected South Africans to appreciate the spirit of the decision.
"All of us recognise there was a struggle. Many people lost their lives. "But this is a time for nation building. We cannot be looking back. I think South African will appreciate the spirit of the decision and that it is time to move forward and put the baggage behind us."
Mapisa-Nqakula said due to the sensitivities of the case and the requirement of the pre-release program, she would not be able to indicate the exact date of Nofemela's release.
She would however, let the date be known closer to the day.