He sheard (sic) a prison cell with apartheid killer Eugene de Kock and now says he wants to be elected president of South Africa.
The 33-year-old Worcester bomber – who killed four people in a Christmas Eve attack when he was 18 – has agreed to meet the people who survived his attack on a crowded shopping centre 14 years ago. But the Department of Correctional Services has stalled a plan to transfer Stephanus Coetzee to Worcester, near Cape Town, for the meeting. The trip would be too risky , authorities say, citing right-wing threats against Coetzee’s life.
The department’s decision is frustrating a unique restorative justice initiative aimed at reconciling victims and perpetrators of apartheid crimes.
Coetzee, who has already met four of his victims at Pretoria Central Prison, is at the forefront of the countrywide initiative. He is one of 149 people short-listed for a presidential pardon for political crimes. He recently renounced all ties to his violent past and to the paramilitary splinter group, the Wit Wolwe, responsible for a series of bombings in the 1990s.
When The Times visited him at Pretoria Central last week, Coetzee said he was determined to atone for his crime.
“You can only say sorry so many times. My motto is that one man can make a difference,” Coetzee said.
He said he would not allow death-threats from his former right-wing colleagues to deter him: “I was determined to die for this country and I still definitely want to see it better. I still believe I am going to be president of this country,” he said.
De Kock told social workers that he believed that Coetzee, with whom he shared a prison cell, had reformed and was a potential nation-builder.
The Khulumani Support Group, which works with apartheid victims, set up a meeting at the prison between Coetzee and some of his victims.
Khulumani director Marjorie Jobson said: “It was amazing. On the basis of that [first] meeting the victims reported back to victims in Worcester, who now also want to meet Stefaans [Stephanus].”
The Constitutional Court has ruled that the government must consult the victims before perpetrators can be pardoned.