Former Vlakplaas hitsquad commander and convicted murderer Eugene de Kock on Friday blamed securocrats in the National Party government for ordering the murder of political activists including the Cradock Four.

De Kock was testifying at an amnesty hearing in Port Elizabeth, where he is applying for amnesty for his role in attempting to cover-up the security police involvement in the murder of Matthew Goniwe, Sparrow Mkonto, Fort Calata and Sicelo Mhlauli in June 1985.

He told the Truth and Reconciliation Commission's amnesty committee he had no doubt that the hawks in the government at the time had their own agenda, which included ordering the killing of people who fought against the system.

He also dismissed as a smokescreen apparent attempts by senior government figures to have Goniwe reinstated at the Cradock school from which he had been suspended.

De Kock was referring to official documents which showed that two ministers at the time, Sam de Beer and Gerrit Viljoen, had been in favour of reappointing Goniwe.

De Kock said these attempts were probablly genuine and sincere but were used by the security establishment as a smokescreen to hide government involvement in the murder of Goniwe.

He said there certainly were doves in the government but they were used by the hawks who, when they stood up in Parliament to explain Goniwe's death, could quote the statements about his reinstatement to prove the government had not killed Goniwe.

As far as Goniwe's activities were concerned, he said knew from security police reviews that the man was an effective activist and highly skilled organiser. He said he knew of no involvement by Goniwe in any murders or other unlawful activity.

Giving his evidence in mostly Afrikaans, but sometimes making remarks in English, De Kock said the securocrats used the foot soldiers to carry out their dirty work.

He said he had sympathy for the uniformed branch of the police, who were on the ground and had to "take all the flak" caused by the decisions of organisations such as Military Intelligence and the National Intelligence Service.

He said he still could not believe that he and the security forces had been so misled by politicians at the time.

"I cant believe that they had so much influence on us, and then at the first sign of problems they fled," he said.

He singled out former president FW de Klerk and former police commissioner Gen Johan Coetzee for selling out the police and most of the white people in the country.

"The security forces did not want to fight, but were urged to do so by the politicians in their quest for patriotism and with their talk about confronting the forces of evil and darkness," he said.

But he added that the way in which peace was finally reached was admirable, and mercifully so.

De Kock said the politicians appeared satisfied as the citizens of the country "strangled each other".

He said he had no doubt that the orders for many of the operations conducted by the security forces at the time came from the highest level.

He quoted the example of the order to blow up Khotso House, in which the SA Council of Churches was housed in 1985. He told the committee when he asked from the order had come he was told: "From the president himself."

Referring to testimony by four policemen applying for amnesty for the Goniwe killing, De Kock pointed out differences in the account given to the committee and the one he heard.

De Kock claims that soon after the attack he spoke by telephone to Capt Sakkie van Zyl, who was in command of the squad that killed the Cradock Four. De Kock claims that Van Zyl asked him if he knew someone who could change the ballistics of a rifle that had been used in a murder.

Van Zyl later told De Kock that he shot Goniwe himself after becoming involved in a struggle. Van Zyl told the amnesty committee he shot Sparrow Mkonto, who had tried to overpower him while travelling in the back of his police vehicle.

The hearing is continuing.

South African Press Association, 1998
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