Freedom day for killers

2014-02-09 10:00

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Waterkloof Four out on parole for ‘good behaviour’

It’s garbage day in Moreletapark, a posh suburb east of Pretoria, and green wheelie bins stand in line on Witdoring Avenue waiting to be emptied by municipal workers.

The wheels of shopping trolleys squeak as they’re pushed from one bin to another by men and women hoping to find something to eat or sell. Perhaps, on a similar Friday nearly 13 years ago, a “thin and heavily tattooed man” weighing 59kg and standing 1.7m tall was one of those pushing a trolley.

Paulos Kgethane (55) can’t remember the murder of that homeless man which rocked the suburb in December 2001.

He’s just happy he’s found two torn jackets and two expired loaves of bread in a bin. He’ll give the jackets to his 15-year-old son, Samuel.

Christoff Becker, Frikkie du Preez, Gert van Schalkwyk and Reinach Tiedt were the same age as Samuel or just a year older when, in the early hours of December?1 2001, they went on a drinking spree and beat, kicked and stabbed a man to death in a park in the area.

The Waterkloof Four, as they were nicknamed because they were Hoërskool ­Waterkloof pupils, will walk free on Tuesday.

They were sentenced to 12 years each for the murder, but have been granted release with strict parole conditions because of their “good behaviour”. In court they maintained that they wanted to scare the man and “protect” their community from criminals who had burgled homes in the area.

After being convicted, they spent six years appealing the verdict until the Supreme Court of Appeal dismissed the case in 2008. For the past six years, they have been at Zonderwater Prison outside Cullinan on the outskirts of Pretoria.

Two years ago, Tiedt and Van Schalkwyk were controversially released on parole by the Zonderwater Correctional Supervision and Parole Board.

The decision was met by a public outcry and was challenged in court by the correctional services minister as “unlawful”. They were free for 18 months before a full bench of judges set aside the decision last year to commute their sentences to correctional supervision.

All four have completed their studies in prison and Becker has written a biography, Broken Dreams. The book will be released in the next three months.

Their parole of the four was granted two weeks ago?–?with no one from the victim’s family there to argue against it. Section 299 (A) of the Criminal Procedure Act requires that parole boards ­interview relatives when considering parole or correctional supervision application for inmates.

The law says: “In the case of murder or any intentional killing of a victim, any immediate relative of the deceased will be regarded as a complainant” and should be called before the parole board.

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