PRETORIA October 30 1996 Sapa

TWO LIFE SENTENCES, 212 YEARS' IMPRISONMENT FOR DE KOCK

Col Eugene de Kock, the man known as "Prime Evil" by his former security police colleagues, was on Wednesday sentenced to two life sentences plus 212 years' imprisonment.

Mr Justice Willem van der Merwe ruled in the Pretoria Supreme Court that the sentences will run concurrently, but de Kock is likely to die in jail unless he is granted amnesty by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.

De Kock was convicted on six charges of murder, two of conspiracy to commit murder, attempted murder, culpable homicide, being an accessory to culpable homicide, defeating the ends of justice, assault, kidnapping, fraud and the illegal possession of weapons and explosives.

Van der Merwe said a "rotten system" allowed de Kock, a former commander of the Vlakplaas security police base, to commit these crimes. The same system approved of his actions, or did not disapprove of them, and helped him to conceal and continue with his crimes.

The court singled out two incidents as particularly reprehensible and cold-blooded, saying they alone deserved life sentences.

One was the murder of Tiso Leballo, who was supposed to be killed with four other would-be robbers in an ambush outside Nelspruit in Mpumalanga in 1992.

When de Kock realised Leballo was not with the others, he ordered his troops to take him to an abandoned mine where Leballo was murdered and his body blown up with explosives.

He was sentenced to 20 years each for the murders of Leballo's four companions.

A life sentence was also imposed for the 1985 death of Krugersdorp security guard Japie Maponya, "whose only crime was that he had a brother who was an ANC member who was being sought by the police", the judge said.

Maponya was kidnapped, brutally assaulted by several policemen and taken to Swaziland, where he was murdered. De Kock personally bashed in Maponya's head with a spade.

De Kock was also sentenced to six years' imprisonment for kidnapping and assaulting Maponya.

He received 20 years for ordering the murder of askari (ANC member turned police informer) Goodwill Sikhakhane. This was done to prevent Sikhakhane from revealing police involvement in the disappearance of ANC members involved in Operation Vula.

A sentence of 20 years was passed for conspiring to murder askari Brian Ngqulunga, who was shot dead near Greytown on de Kock's orders in 1990 to prevent him from revealing police involvement in the death of ANC activist Griffiths Mxenge.

For the attempt to murder his Vlakplaas predecessor, Dirk Coetzee, by way of a parcel bomb in May 1990, de Kock was sentenced to five years' imprisonment. Van der Merwe said this attempt was motivated by revenge.

The bomb eventually killed ANC attorney Bheki Mlangeni, whose name was given as parcel's sender, after Coetzee refused to accept it in Lusaka.

De Kock was convicted of culpable homicide for killing Mlangeni and sentenced to 10 years' imprisonment.

For the death of askari Moses Nthehelang, who was killed during questioning at the Vlakplaas canteen in July 1989, de Kock received a 12-year sentence for being an accessory after the fact to culpable homicide.

Six years' imprisonment was imposed for defeating the ends of justice in the case where de Kock ordered that explosives be used to destroy the body of Sweet Sambo, who was killed by Komatipoort policemen during questioning at the Squamans police base.

He was further sentenced to a total of about 38 years' imprisonment on 66 fraud charges, some relating to insurance fraud, false claims instituted on behalf of fictitious police informers, the false creation of arms caches in order to generate funds, and the use of policemen to provide a guard service to a private firm.

Van der Merwe earlier pointed out that Vlakplaas members had used the police's secret fund as an "inexhaustible source of extra income", paying for anything from overseas holidays for officers to endless parties and tax returns.

De Kock was sentenced to 15 years' imprisonment on nine charges relating to the illegal possession of arms and ammunition.

Seven relate to de Kock's possession of a large cache of weapons and explosives that were handed to the Inkatha Freedom Party.

Mitigating factors van der Merwe took into account included the background against which the crimes were committed. He also considered de Kock's strong anti-communist ideology and patriotism, which led him to abandon norms he would under normal circumstances have adhered to.

Senior policemen, and sometimes politicians, approved of his actions and de Kock was praised and awarded, the judge said.

The court found de Kock had been exposed over a long period to a full scale war as a member of Koevoet in Namibia, which emotionally desensitised him to violence.

Many of the crimes were committed on the orders and with the knowledge of senior police officers.

On the other side of the scale, van der Merwe said, all the crimes had been carefully planned and executed. In every instance, de Kock had enough time to come to his senses before the crimes were committed.

The crimes were cold-blooded and cruel and took place over a long period. Innocent people who posed no threat to the police were often killed, while some policemen were murdered to keep them quiet.

In trying to conceal the crimes, de Kock implicated people who had nothing to do with the crimes, and he had no qualms in paying the assassins he used, the judge found.

Courts and commissions of inquiry were misled through false evidence and victims' families suffered greatly.

A severely aggravating factor in the fraud charges was that de Kock had been in a position of trust and that he had committed fraud in a devious and misleading manner.

"In my opinion the court is there to punish the crimes, and not to approve or disapprove of any ideologies. For that the court has to remain blind," van der Merwe said.

Different parts of the community might differ strongly on the sentence passed, but he believed the knowledgeable, balanced and law-abiding citizens of the country had to be taken into account in deciding on an apt sentence.

The judge said he was not asked to deliver judgment on whether the crimes had a political motive.

"The accused believed that he fought against an enemy with the main aim of destroying his fatherland," he said.

Van der Merwe refused indemnity from prosecution to four of the state witnesses, but granted it to fifteen others.

He said he was aware that some who had committed severe crimes, sometimes as executioners, would come off scott free because of the indemnity granted.

A police request for an order that de Kock should repay the funds he obtained through fraud was refused on the grounds that the court did not have enough information on de Kock's ability to repay the money.

De Kock was disappointed by the harsh sentence, but he was unlikely to lodge an appeal, his legal counsel said on Wednesday evening.

"We expected a harsh prison sentence, but we did not think it would be life imprisonment, especially since this was not even requested by the state," de Kock's lawyer Schalk Hugo said.

Hugo said de Kock had applied for amnesty from the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, and his hearing before the amnesty committee was expected early next year.


South African Press Association, 1996
This text is for information only and may not be published or reprinted without the permission of the South African Press Association