Eugene de Kock, brutal South African police colonel and assassin of the apartheid era, was recently granted parole in January 2015 after serving 20 years in prison. The decision to grant parole was highly controversial, and has dominated conversation for weeks in South Africa. Here are 12 things you didn’t know about “Prime Evil” Eugene de Kock.
Sources: Telegraph.co.uk, NYTimes.com, TheGuardian.com, Twitter.com
De Kock’s father, Lawrence de Kock, was a magistrate and member of the Afrikaner Broederbond, a secret, Calvinist male organization in South Africa dedicated to the advancement of Afrikaner interests. He brought up his sons, Eugene and Vossie, in the “strict Afrikaans” Afrikaner nationalist ideology.
It took a while for Eugene to realize his dream of becoming an officer. He was initially disqualified from enlisting in the South African Defence Force because he stuttered. He later joined the South African police force with his brother and attempted to join the elite special task force, but was again rejected — this time due to poor eyesight.
During the Rhodesian Bush War, Eugene was deployed to Rhodesia to fight black nationalist forces led by Robert Mugabe and Joshua Nkomo. He then fought in the South African Border War in the late 1970s, founding Koevoet, a counter-insurgency unit that fought SWAPO guerilla fighters. A political party today, the South West Africa People’s Organization fighters was a liberation movement in Namibia. Koevoet became known for its high kill rate.
During apartheid, Eugene served as the commanding officer of C1, a counter-insurgency unit of the South African Police Force that later became known as the Vlakplaas death squad. He was nicknamed “Prime Evil” by the media, because de Kock and C1 frequently kidnapped, tortured, and murdered anti-apartheid activists, including members of the African National Congress.
During a 2007 radio interview, Eugene accused several members of the apartheid government, including former President F.W. de Klerk, of authorizing C1’s activities. He said de Klerk’s hands were “soaked in blood” for ordering specific killings, an accusation de Klerk denied.
Arrested in 1994, a week after Nelson Mandela’s election, Eugene was sentenced in 1996 to two life terms for six murders. This was on top of 212 years in prison for other crimes. Eugene was found guilty on 89 charges. He was pardoned for some of the crimes, such as blowing up the headquarters of a Johannesburg church in 1988.
In 1998, Eugene testified before the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, an entity formed to establish restorative justice in South Africa following the end of apartheid. The commission found, however, that many of Eugene’s crimes were not politically motivated. His amnesty petition was denied.
Eugene’s parole application was based around the claim that he was a policeman during apartheid and was merely following orders from his superiors — superiors who were not prosecuted. He said, “I am the only member of the South African Police Service that is serving a sentence for crimes which I had committed as part of the National Party’s attempt to uphold apartheid and fight the liberation movements. I would never have committed the crimes if it was not for the political context of the time, and the position I was placed in, and in particular the orders I had received from my superiors.”
In the past six months, Eugene attempted to strengthen his case for parole by telling a Missing Persons Task Team where some of his victims are buried. Some of the victims, Eugene killed himself. Others were killed by colleagues, whom Eugene reached out to in order to gather information.
Eugene met with victims’ families for years to reveal information about their loved ones’ deaths, and to express his contrition for his acts. In 2002, a group of widows appealed for Eugene to receive a presidential pardon after meeting with him.
The South African Justice Ministry granted Eugene parole in late January 2015, after he had served 20 years in a Pretoria prison. Justice Minister Michael Masutha attributed the decision to “nation-building,” saying that parole was granted because Eugene expressed remorse over his crimes, and was willing to work with authorities to recover victims’ remains. The date of his release has not been made public.
Archbishop Desmond Tutu, leader of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission following the end of apartheid, supported public calls for Eugene’s forgiveness. Tutu said he hopes the victims’ families and those who were hurt “will find the power within them to forgive,” according to Debora Patta, a South Africa-based journalist for CBS.
Source: Twitter.com, CBS