De Kock remains controversial figure

2014-07-10 13:09
Eugene de Kock (Picture: Leon Botha)

Eugene de Kock (Picture: Leon Botha)

Multimedia   ·   User Galleries   ·   News in Pictures Send us your pictures  ·  Send us your stories

Johannesburg - Eighteen years after he was first imprisoned, former apartheid assassin Eugene de Kock has remained a controversial figure for South African society trying to come to terms with its history of evil.

Dubbed "Prime Evil" by those under his command for the efficiency of his methods of killing those fighting against apartheid, De Kock - now 65 - was also the highest-ranking security official to testify with candour before the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC).

Born on 29 January 1949 in George, Western Cape, De Kock's father, Lawrence, was a magistrate and member of the Afrikaner Broederbond, instilling right-wing values into his son from a young age.

He was rejected from both the SA Defence Force and then the police's special task force for a stutter and poor eyesight.

Working in the police, he was involved in both suppressing uprisings in both then-Rhodesia and South West Africa.

In 1983, he was transferred to C10, a police counter-insurgency unit based on the farm Vlakplaas, outside Pretoria.

Two years later De Kock was made commander of the unit, which became known as C1. It became infamous for the kidnapping, torture and murder of many anti-apartheid activists.

After South Africa became a democracy in 1994, De Kock testified before the TRC, providing details of incidents that had until then largely been shrouded in mystery.

He testified about more than 100 crimes he was involved in and pointed fingers at the apartheid government for its complicity in C1's activities.

In a media interview in 2007, De Kock suggested the last apartheid-era president, FW de Klerk, had hands "soaked in blood" for ordering political killings.


In De Kock's TRC testimony details emerged of the techniques used to kill activists, including using letter bombs and booby-trapping headphones and vehicles.

"We were used to torture methods such as electrocution, the helicopter method, burning, breaking arms, assault, sjambokking, tubing, and wet bags," De Kock explained at one TRC hearing.

In the helicopter method a victim is cuffed by the ankles and wrists and suspended upside down from a pole between two tables.

The corpses of those killed would often be incinerated on the farm, where officers also held braais and drank heavily.

While De Kock was granted amnesty for some of the crimes; the TRC found that others could not be justified as politically motivated. In 1996 he was sentenced to two life terms plus 212 years after being found guilty on 89 charges including murder, attempted murder, conspiracy, assault, kidnapping, illegal possession of firearms, and fraud.

He first served time at Pretoria C-Max prison before being moved to Pretoria Central prison in 1997,

During his amnesty hearings and in jail, De Kock tried to reach out to his victims and apologise for his role in apartheid's atrocities.

In an amnesty hearing about nine people killed in the 1985 Maseru raid; De Kock said if he were the relatives of the victims he would want to see himself dead.

"If I was in their position I would like to take my life," De Kock said at the time.

Presidential pardon

In 2010, it emerged that De Kock had met President Jacob Zuma the previous year, reportedly to ask for a presidential pardon, although this was never confirmed.

A parole hearing scheduled for December 2011 was postponed indefinitely and a previous parole request was denied in May 2013.

The issue of parole for De Kock divided the public.

Some argued he should be released because it was unfair that he languish in jail while others who committed atrocities escaped sanction. He had also shown remorse.

Others remained vehemently opposed to a pardon, including ANC veteran Winnie Madikizela-Mandela.

"[De Kock's release] is a subject I cannot even consider. I lost too much. I saw too much blood to support such a move," she said in a media interview in 2010.

Nevertheless, psychologist Pumla Gobodo-Madikizela whose book A Human Being Died That Night, based on interviews with De Kock in jail, suggested he could not simply be dismissed as a psychopath.

"Bad he was, but mad he wasn't, not at all," she said.

"He was looked up to by the entire country as a fixer. He was the kingpin in the machinery of destruction."

In an interview in 2004, Gobodo-Madikizela said she would grant De Kock a pardon.

"He has been visited by the widows of some of his victims. He is an example of how dialogue can happen," she said.

Read more on:    eugene de kock  |  johannesburg

Join the conversation! encourages commentary submitted via MyNews24. Contributions of 200 words or more will be considered for publication.

We reserve editorial discretion to decide what will be published.
Read our comments policy for guidelines on contributions.
NEXT ON NEWS24X publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
Comments have been closed for this article.

Inside News24

Competition regulation for a growing and inclusive economy

ADVERTORIAL: The Competition Commission of South Africa is conducting advocacy work in the South African automotive aftermarket industry and has gazetted a Draft Code of Conduct for public comment.

Traffic Alerts
There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.


Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.

Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire network.


Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.

Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.