Two of the so-called Waterkloof Four, Christoff Becker and Frikkie du Preez, had all the swagger of models off to a photo shoot when they were released on parole on Tuesday, after serving five-and-a-half years for murdering a homeless man.
Their co-accused, Reinach Tiedt, by contrast, left the Correctional Services head office alone and without much fanfare, while Gert van Schalkwyk held his fiancée, Monique Grové’s hand as he left.
Sporting designer jeans, tight shirts, sunglasses and combat boots, Becker and Du Preez left the Poynton Building in WF Nkomo Street (formerly Church Street) just after noon.
After punching the air with a fist, Becker was taken on the back of a black motorcycle to celebrate his freedom at a friend’s house.
The four men, who beat, kicked, and stabbed an unidentified vagrant, killing him, in Moreleta Park in 2001, were granted parole after serving less than half of their 12-year sentences.
They were granted special remission on their sentences for good behaviour.
Tiedt and Van Schalkwyk, with wide smiles and less extravagantly clothed, were released on parole for the second time on Tuesday after spending less than six months in Zonderwater Prison in Cullinan. They were released on parole in December 2011, but returned to prison about 18 months later, in September, after the Department of Correctional Services challenged the court’s decision to set them free.
The pair arrived at the Correctional Services building from Cullinan just after 7am on Tuesday.
Du Preez and Becker arrived from the Pretoria Central Prison just after 8am.
All four were released on parole individually.
From as early as 9am on Tuesday, a handful of Du Preez and Becker’s friends were waiting for them outside the building with a large banner welcoming “Chrissie” and “Frikkie”.
Tiedt, wearing formal trousers and a collared shirt, was the first to be released.
He walked out alone.
Becker was second and walked out with his mother, Mariette.
“Unfortunately we cannot say anything yet,” Becker said, before slipping on a helmet and speeding off on the back of a motorcycle.
Mariette Becker said her family were happy her son was free.
Asked how it felt to be free, Van Schalkwyk retorted: “Do you honestly think I would speak to you (the media) after 12 years?”
Du Preez declined to comment, but hugged his friend, Gert Labuschagne, on his way out.
His mother said the family would not be speaking to the media.
The four will, however, be completely free only in 2019, when their sentences will be deemed served.
“In terms of the legislation, the four have completed half of their sentence and were eligible for parole until their sentences expire,” Correctional Services spokesman Manelisi Wolela said.
“They are expected to with strict parole conditions.
“Any violation could result in their return to the centres.”
Wolela declined to give details of the four’s parole conditions.
Jean van der Schyf, 24, was among those of Becker’s friends who took leave from work to welcome him on Tuesday.
“We haven’t seen our friends for a very long time. We are very excited,” Van der Schyf said.
“We are looking forward to spending more time with them.”
Van der Schyf was in Grade 8 when Becker was in Grade 12. Becker had taken him “under his wing”, and the pair had been friends for more than 10 years, he said.
“We organised a spit braai with friends and family,” he said.
“We are just going to relax and chat to them, play them new Afrikaans music they don’t know, and swim.”
All four had “spent enough time in prison and they have much more respect for the people around them”.