Adriaan Vlok and Frank Chikane shook hands in the Pretoria High Court on Friday, but later differed on how apartheid-era crimes should be put to rest. After the brief court proceedings, there were separate news conferences for Chikane, and for Vlok and his four co-accused.
"We cannot carry on prosecuting tit-for-tat," Vlok said at a no-frills, central Pretoria hotel, the Pretoria Bar Council having refused permission for their premises next to the court to be used. The alternative, Vlok suggested was: "I think it is time to sit down again and look at what went wrong with the first TRC (Truth and Reconciliation Commission). It is not satisfactory to carry on with prosecutions."
Chikane told reporters at the Union Buildings the court case was the best way post-TRC cases could be finalised and called on those with knowledge of apartheid-era crimes that were still outstanding to come forward. "I'm hoping that we can close this matter... actually we could finish with this thing if everybody just went to the National Prosecuting Authority, and just went and disclosed and let those people who are protesting know what happened to their loved ones," he said.
Earlier, protesters from the Khulumani Support Group, on the east side of the old Palace of Justice, condemned the trial as "back door amnesty". On the west side of the building, AfriForum activists called for African National Congress leaders to face equal treatment to those at the helm during apartheid.
On Friday morning, Vlok, former police commissioner Johan van der Merwe, and three former special branch policemen, Chris Smith, Gert Otto and Manie van Staden, were given suspended sentences for trying to kill Chikane. They had intercepted his luggage at the then Jan Smuts Airport 18 years ago, and laced his underwear with poison that attacked his nervous system. Chikane flew to Namibia where he was hospitalised and returned to a hospital in South Africa. Later he flew to the United States where it was discovered, in hospital, that he had been poisoned.
The previous government intended to target Chikane because he had been on a mission to call for economic sanctions against South Africa and was vice president of the United Democratic Front, which was in favour of making apartheid South Africa ungovernable.
Chikane, now director-general in the Presidency, was also general secretary of the SA Council of Churches. He sat in the front row of the packed court room, directly behind the five in the dock. "Having listened to the story, I must say even if I had an idea of what the story was about and it is presented in court, it's a real chilling story," he told reporters after the hearing. "But now I listen to the story and I confirm that I consider myself to be a miracle."
Vlok, who last year washed Chikane's feet in penitence but had not applied for amnesty, said he "did not feel uncomfortable to be in court with Frank Chikane". "He is my brother... there's no going back as far as I am concerned."
Immediately after leaving court, Vlok announced: "Obey the Lord and he will lead our nation and our land." - Sapa