IN PRISON SINCE 1996: Eugene de Kock at the TRC hearings in 1997. His total sentence was 212 years plus two life sentences.

Johannesburg - The paperwork on whether apartheid killer Eugene de Kock gets parole is waiting for Minister of Correctional Services S’bu Ndebele’s decision.

And a little hiccup around controversial suspended SAPS crime intelligence chief Richard Mdluli may be delaying the decision.

De Kock, nicknamed “Prime Evil”, commanded the notorious apartheid police Vlakplaas hit squad. He was jailed for a range of offences from fraud to murder, with sentences totalling 212 years plus two life sentences, and remained in jail because he got only partial amnesty.

De Kock was arrested a week before Nelson Mandela’s inauguration as president in May, 1994 and has been in jail ever since. He was sentenced in October 1996.

As Correctional Services minister, Ndebele makes the final decision on whether he gets parole. The department is understood to have asked the State Security Agency (SSA) to investigate any possible links between De Kock and Mdluli, who also served in the apartheid-era police.

“This matter – we’ve heard about it,” said Brian Dube, a spokesperson for the SSA, when asked about the Mdluli-De Kock investigation, but he referred queries to Correctional Services.

“If a request was made, we would not make that public… We won’t be able to comment.”

Mdluli could not be reached for comment.

Ndebele’s spokesperson, Manelisi Wolela, would last night not confirm nor deny whether De Kock’s request for parole had been approved, but said that the minister was applying his mind to each parole application.

“Over the past few months, (Ndebele) has considered the parole applications of hundreds of inmates sentenced to life imprisonment, including that of offender Eugene de Kock, (which) is currently receiving due consideration.”

Wolela said that the department was not aware of any communication with the State Security Agency with regards to the alleged investigation involving Mdluli.

De Kock’s lawyer, Pretoria attorney Julian Knight, expressed amazement at the suggestion of any Mdluli-De Kock investigation. “If that is a consideration of the minister, then it is bizarre in the extreme.”

Knight said he understood that the National Council for Correctional Services had recommended De Kock’s parole to the minister in November.

On Friday, he queried the delay in the decision.

“While I welcome the decision to release De Kock, I feel that there is no point in trying to play politics and delay his release,” said Knight.

“He is the only member of the apartheid regime that was punished for the sins of the generals and politicians, whose orders his sin was to obey. While they enjoyed their pensions and the consort of their wives, lovers and families, De Kock had to languish in prison for the last 19-and-a-half years.”

Judge Siraj Desai, the chairman of the National Council on Correctional Services, would not comment on De Kock’s application.

This week, De Kock brought an application to compel the minister to make a decision within two weeks on his parole application.

De Kock said that last year, his parole application was approved by the various levels of the parole system and went to the National Council for Correctional Services, which in November made a recommendation – “the contents of which I am not acquainted with” – to the minister.

Since then, the minister has “failed, neglected and/or refused to consider” that recommendation, he said, and called for a decision.

In an affidavit supporting his application for a decision, De Kock said that he had served 17 years of his sentence and was eligible to apply for parole.

As a lifer sentenced in 1996, De Kock is entitled to apply for parole earlier than those sentenced under current law. The minister is not obliged to grant parole.

“I am the only member of the South African Police Service that is serving a sentence for crimes which I had committed as part of the National Party’s attempt to uphold apartheid and fight the liberation movements,” said De Kock.

“Not one of the previous generals or ministers who were in the cabinet up to 1990 have been prosecuted at all.

“I would never have committed the crimes if it was not for the political context of the time, and the position I was placed in, and in particular the orders I had received from my superiors,” he said.

“All actions took place under the auspices of an organised system, where I acted on orders given by superior officers, who have never been prosecuted.” - Saturday Star