By Miranda Andrew
The man behind the tragic Chatsworth Throb nightclub disaster that saw 13 teenagers die, has apologised for his actions and pleaded for forgiveness.
On the eve of being paroled, Siva Chetty, who has served six years of a nine-year and nine-month sentence, claimed to be haunted by the incident.
He said he wanted to do community work to make up for his actions and to put the past behind him.
But family members of those who died in the disaster have reacted with anger to the news that he is a free man.
Some said any attempts they may have made to prevent Chetty from being paroled were nullified as they had been notified of his parole hearing a day after it was granted. Others said they did not even receive a notification letter about the parole hearing.
On March 24, 2000, a stampede at Chatsworth's Throb nightclub claimed the lives of 13 children.
The stampede erupted after a teargas canister was thrown on to the club's dance floor. The tragedy made headlines not only in South Africa but throughout the world.
Chetty and his accomplices, Selvan "Dogman" Naidoo and Vincent Pillay were arrested soon after the tragedy. Naidoo and Pillay were released in February last year, six months before completing their five-and-a-half-year sentences.
"There's no way I could have opposed this parole as I did not even receive a notification letter," said Jaya Pillay, whose son, Nolan, died in the Throb stampede.
Mogie Maduray's daughter, Chantal, was also killed in the stampede and she said she was unaware that Chetty was having a parole hearing.
Meanwhile, another fuming parent said he received the notification letter a day after the hearing.
"How could I appear at the hearing if the letter arrived a day late," asked an enraged Danny Govender, whose son, Sumeshan, died at the nightclub.
Even the Throb victims' family attorney, Siven Samuel, said he only heard of the parole hearing when contacted by the media.
"It was the duty of the department of correctional services to make contact with the families of the deceased before the parole hearing," said Samuels.
"Why should they hear about it through the media?" he asked.
Some residents said Chetty's attempts at reconciliation were futile.
"I hope this man never crosses my path again," said Danny Govender
"The criminals in this country have more rights than anyone else and no matter what we say or do, it's not going to change anything," said Govender.
"They have already made their decision and even a million signatures on a petition would not change this," he said.
Govender said former president Nelson Mandela made a promise to the 13 families that justice would be served.
"But this is no justice," he said.
In a statement through his attorney Noven Naidoo, Chetty said: "I want to take this opportunity to publicly apologise to all those who were directly and indirectly affected by the Throb incident.
"I apologise to the families whose children lost their lives in the stampede.
"I am remorseful for my actions and am willing to do any kind of community work to make up for what has happened, and to create a more peaceful society for all," quoted Naidoo.
"I have spent the minimum time required according to my sentence and have been rehabilitated."
He continued: "I wish to return to society to be with my wife and kids and I plan to start a new life and put the past behind me."
Finally, Chetty said he wished to get closure and blamed the media for reopening old wounds on the anniversaries of the terrible event.
"I would like to get closure on this issue, not only for myself but also for the families involved," he said.
Meanwhile, Sam Pillay, co-ordinator of the Chatsworth Youth Centre that was set up in memory of the 13 Throb victims said he was flabbergasted that Chetty was being released from prison.
"They have made their decision and I think that if Chetty is truly remorseful, he now needs to show it," said Pillay.