KHULUMANI Support Group national director Marjorie Jobson welcomed the decision announced by Correctional Services Minister Michael Masutha on Thursday to postpone a parole decision on Eugene de Kock, saying victims had to be consulted on the apartheid killer’s fate.
The nongovernmental organisation, which helps victims with memory healing, reparations and reconciliation, had a "longstanding relationship" with De Kock, she said.
"He has helped a number of families seeking the truth about their loved ones who were assassinated by the death squads. But every family needs that opportunity," Dr Jobson said. She described De Kock as one of the main "links to the truth" for families that had lost loved ones involved in anti-apartheid activities.
There were still many unanswered questions for thousands of families, Ms Jobson said. There remained 6,800 unsolved cases of political abduction during apartheid. While the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s amnesty hearings provided some relief to relatives of the dead, it did not lead to much in the way of "truth discovery", Dr Jobson said.
De Kock is serving two life terms for two murders and a further 212 years for charges including kidnapping, assault and fraud. After 18 years in jail, he approached the North Gauteng High Court in May for a decision on his parole. The National Council for Correctional Services (NCCS) had made a parole recommendation last November, which was sent to then correctional services minister Sbu Ndebele.
When he failed to act, De Kock approached the high court. Judge Thokozile Masipa gave the minister 30 days to make a decision.
Mr Masutha announced on Thursday he had decided not to grant parole to the former Vlakplaas commander because, as is required by law, the families of his victims had not been consulted.
Mr Masutha told a news conference that De Kock had made "positive progress" towards rehabilitation and had assisted the missing persons task team established by the National Prosecuting Authority to track down the remains of victims of apartheid-era murders.
He said that during his consideration of the parole recommendation from the NCCS it became doubtful the families of De Kock’s victims had been consulted, and this was confirmed at a meeting with them. Mr Masuthu postponed a decision for 12 months so the families could participate in the parole process.
De Kock’s attorney, Julian Knight, said on Thursday he would take the decision to court on review because it was "wrong in law".
Mr Knight said the parole regime applicable to De Kock had no requirement that the families of victims be consulted. The minister was supposed to exercise his discretion "in terms of the policy and procedures applicable when he (De Kock) was sentenced".
The requirement to consult victim s’ families was introduced into the Criminal Procedure Act in 2003. "The minister misdirected himself," Mr Knight said.
Thandi Sefolo met De Kock five years ago with the assistance of Khulumani. Her husband, Harold, disappeared in July 1987.
De Kock was not particularly forthcoming with the truth, Ms Sefolo said, but she eventually found her husband’s remains in a cemetery in Winterveld. She said on Thursday she was indifferent about whether De Kock received parole. "They can take him out or leave him in; it doesn’t matter … nothing will bring my husband back."
The FW de Klerk Foundation said on Thursday that De Kock should be treated with "exactly the same considerations as any other prisoner in similar circumstances".