Notorious apartheid villain pardoned after 20-year incarceration

ONE of South Africa’s most notorious mass murderers, Eugene de Kock, was granted parole on Friday after 20 years in jail, a decision that brought back painful memories of the crimes committed under apartheid rule.

“In the interest of nation-building and reconciliation, I have decided to place Mr De Kock on parole,” Correctional Services Minister Michael Masutha told a news briefing, adding that he had rejected parole to two other prominent convicted apartheid-era killers.

De Kock, dubbed “Prime Evil”, was sentenced in 1996 to two life terms plus 212 years in prison for his activities as head of the infamous Vlakplaas police death squad targeting anti-apartheid activists.

The highly-decorated former colonel confessed to more than 100 acts of murder, torture and fraud before the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC), which was established in 1995 and chaired by Archbishop Tutu to consider amnesty for those who confessed their crimes during apartheid.

De Kock was granted amnesty for most offences — including the 1982 bombing of the ANC’s London offices — but was jailed for six murders found to have lacked direct political motivation.

Tutu welcomed his release saying it was a way of putting memories of apartheid behind.

“As human beings we have unique capacities to reconcile, to forgive, to move on and to love again,” he said in a statement.

“While many may not welcome De Kock back into society with open arms, the fact that we have allowed for his return is to our collective credit, as people and as a nation.”

Others, however, expressed outrage saying De Kock deserved no clemency.

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