Pretoria - Apartheid-era killer Eugene de Kock should know within a month whether he will be freed on parole or remain in jail for longer, even though the parole board has recommended his early release.

North Gauteng High Court Judge Thokozile Masipa on Wednesday ruled that the minister had to, within 30 days of her order, either approve or disapprove the recommendation by the National Council on Correctional Services, of which Judge Siraj Desai is the chairman.

It is now up to newly appointed Justice and Correctional Services Minister Michael Masutha to decide whether to go with the parole board’s decision.

In November last year, the parole board recommended De Kock’s release on parole, but in terms of the Correctional Services Act, the last word lies with the minister.

De Kock’s lawyer, Julian Knight, said the previous justice minister, Jeff Radebe, failed to make a decision. “He asked for an extension as the elections were pending and gave an undertaking to – on or before May 12 – make a decision to release De Kock or not.”

“This date has come and gone without an answer. We have now turned to the court to compel him to make a decision, as we cannot wait longer. Politics is getting in the way of releasing him,” Knight said.

De Kock has now been in prison for exactly 20 years.

He was arrested in May 1994, shortly before Nelson Mandela’s inauguration as president.

De Kock was sentenced in October 1996 by former Pretoria deputy judge president Willem van der Merwe to two life terms plus a further 212 years.

De Kock was the head of the police hit squad unit at Vlakplaas, outside Pretoria, that killed and tortured several anti-apartheid freedom fighters.

He maintained he would never have committed the crimes if it was not for the political situation at the time, the position he was placed in and the orders he had received from his superiors.

Sentencing him at the time, judge van der Merwe remarked that De Kock was a cold-blooded killer. In terms of legislation, De Kock was entitled to apply for parole after serving 17 years.

Pretoria News