Apartheid police hit squad leader Eugene de Kock on Sunday came face to face for the first time with the daughter of one of the people he killed in Swaziland more than 20 years ago.
On the anniversary of the day that Portia Shabangu and two comrades died in an ambush in Manzini in 1989, her daughter Marcia Khoza spent more than an hour in discussion with the man dubbed “Prime Evil” at Pretoria Central Prison, where he is serving 121 years.
Admitting that her knees were wobbly before she entered the prison, Khoza said she had a gift for De Kock – a book by RT Kendall titled Total Forgiveness. She had earlier said she had forgiven De Kock and wanted to meet him so that he could answer questions that bothered her.
Khoza was only five when her mother was killed, and grew up not knowing the full circumstances of her death.
Describing her interaction with De Kock, Khoza said the man initially looked a bit nervous and surprised to see her, but soon composed himself.
“We greeted each other and shook hands. His handshake was firm.”
She said that when he read her message in the book that she had “freely and fully” forgiven him, De Kock covered his head with his hands and became teary-eyed.
De Kock was “touched” to meet someone who had forgiven him, and spoke to her “like a father talking to his daughter”.
He explained that her mother and her two comrades from the Free State – Thabo Louis Mohale and Derek Mashobane – were “sold out” by the ANC, which handed them to him and his Vlakplaas operatives “on a platter”.
Her heart skipped a beat when De Kock told her that after the three were ambushed and shot at, De Kock had personally conducted a body count and found her mother was still gasping, so he shot her twice in the head and pushed their vehicle down a slope.
“I thought I would cry but strangely enough had the courage to continue to listen to him. I was not jolted because I had long forgiven him and have since learnt that resentment and bitterness will blur my vision on life.
“Frankly it felt like I had finally found the missing puzzle in the jigsaw of my life,” Khoza said.
De Kock told her that her mother was a heroine in that she steadfastly refused to be turned into an askari.
“One thing he kept asking me is how I managed to grow up without a mother, and he encouraged me to continue with her foundation which I launched last year.
“His exact words were ‘Your mother had it, and you will find it in yourself to heal others’,” she said.
When she asked De Kock what kept him awake at night, he told her that he was troubled by the souls of all the people he had killed.
He did not expect forgiveness from the families of all those he had killed because he did not deserve it.
At the end of their meeting, De Kock gave Khoza a pat on the back and invited her to visit him again.
De Kock was convicted on 89 charges, including six of murder, two of conspiracy to commit murder and several of fraud and the illegal possession of arms and ammunition. He was given two life sentences plus 212 years.
These words are inscribed in a book Portia Shabangu gave Eugene De Kock:
I have been hurt and had a rough childhood without my mother, since 12 Feb 1989
I am healed and free from bitterness and hatred.
I freely and fully forgive you, and I am ready to help others to heal.
Let the power of peace and forgiveness guide you, be with you and others for for the rest of our lives. You’re totally forgiven.- The Star