Dirk Coetzee

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Dirk Coetzee (15 April 1945[1] – 7 March 2013) was co-founder and commander of the covert South African Security Police unit based at Vlakplaas. He and his colleagues were involved in a number of murders including Griffiths Mxenge. He exposed the existence of the unit in a 1989 interview with Vrye Weekblad,[2] confirming a story that death-row convict Butana Almond Nofomela told a Johannesburg weekly the previous year.[3]

Coetzee was born in Phokwane Local Municipality. His father was a postal worker and himself worked for the postal service before becoming an investigator in 1969. Starting out as a constable in 1972 he rose through the ranks, and advanced his cause on secondment with the Rhodesian armed forces. He was promoted to captain in the security police and in 1980 became the first commander of the secret police base on the Vlakplaas farm near Pretoria. In 1981, he was "assigned" the murder of Griffiths Mxenge.[4]

His role as Vlakplaas commander ended after 18 months, following a disaster when two of his operatives were arrested on a sortie in Swaziland. He worked shortly in narcotics and the flying squad during which time an internal disciplinary inquiry found him guilty of insubordination, obscene phone calls and distribution of a pornographic video. In 1986, he was found medically unfit to serve because of diabetes, and was discharged on a meagre pension. After exposing the existence of the unit in 1989[5] he went on the run, staying in 38 houses in four countries – including a spell in London, where he joined the ANC and expressed his support for Nelson Mandela.

He was minded by the current president Jacob Zuma. He returned to South Africa in 1993. He was among the first to apply for amnesty with the Truth and Reconciliation Commission when it was created and was granted amnesty on 4 August 1997.[6]

He fell out of grace with the ANC and was employed by EduSolutions, which supplied textbooks on behalf of the government to Limpopo province. In July 2012, he told the media about huge piles of undelivered textbooks.[citation needed]

Eugene de Kock, a former commander of Vlakplaas, was convicted in 1997 of attempting to murder Coetzee.[7]


Coetzee was suffering from kidney failure and cancer when he died on 7 March 2013, aged 67.[8]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2016-03-03. Retrieved 2015-01-30. 
  2. ^ Du Preez, Max (13 June 2005). "South Africa's 'own Dr Mengele' General Lothar Neethling dies of lung cancer in Pretoria". Retrieved 18 May 2007. 
  3. ^ "Dirk Coetzee guilty of murder". Mail & Guardian. 15 May 1997. Archived from the original on 24 December 2010. Retrieved 18 May 2007. 
  4. ^ "A South African Killer Goes Free", New York Times, 11 August 1997; accessed 7 March 2013.
  5. ^ "A SOUTH AFRICAN TALKS OF HIT TEAM", New York Times, 19 November 1989.
  6. ^ "Statement From the TRC on Amnesty Granted to Dirk Coetzee" (Press release). Truth and Reconciliation Commission. 4 August 1997. Archived from the original on 24 December 2010. 
  7. ^ "AI Report 1997: South Africa". Amnesty International. Retrieved 18 May 2007. 
  8. ^ "Apartheid-era commander Dirk Coetzee dies". Mail and Guardian. 7 March 2013. Retrieved 29 March 2016.