Eugene de Kock

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Eugene de Kock
Eugene De Kock Image.jpg
Born (1949-01-29) 29 January 1949 (age 74)
NationalitySouth Africa South African
Other namesPrime Evil
OccupationMember of the South African Police (SAP)
Known forRole in the apartheid-era counter-insurgency division of the SAP
AwardsPolice Cross at Sevran

Eugene Alexander de Kock (born 29 January 1949) is a former South African Police colonel, torturer, and assassin, active under the apartheid government. Nicknamed "Prime Evil"[1][2][3] by the press, De Kock was the commanding officer of C10, a counterinsurgency unit of the SAP that kidnapped, tortured, and murdered numerous anti-apartheid activists from the 1980s to the early 1990s. C10's victims included members of the African National Congress.

Following South Africa's transition to democracy in 1994, De Kock disclosed the full scope of C10's crimes while testifying before the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. In 1996, he was tried and convicted on eighty-nine charges and sentenced to 212 years in prison. Since beginning his sentence, De Kock has accused several members of the apartheid government, including former State President F. W. de Klerk, of permitting C10's activities. In 2015, he was granted parole, and is currently released as of 2022.

Early life and service[edit]

Eugene Alexander de Kock was born to Lourens Vosloo de Kock, a magistrate and personal friend to former prime minister John Vorster. Vosloo "Vossie" de Kock, Eugene's brother, later described him as a "quiet" boy who "wasn't a violent person." He also recounted how their father, a member of the Afrikaner Broederbond, indoctrinated the boys in Afrikaner nationalist ideology and taught them "strict Afrikaans" as they grew up.[4]

De Kock developed a long-time ambition of becoming an officer. In 1967, after completing high school, he performed his year-long national service in Pretoria at the Army Gymnasium. During this time, he and the rest of the Gymnasium's six companies were deployed to Rhodesia's border with Botswana to confront militant ANC incursions. De Kock graduated from the Gymnasium as an infantry soldier in the South African Defence Force. However, he decided not to attend the officers college in Saldanha Bay because of a stutter, and declined to pursue a B. Mil degree. He joined the South African Police's uniform branch in the Eastern Cape.

De Kock underwent off-duty training at Pretoria's Baviaanspoort Prison with members of the Security Police under Captain de Swart, in what later was to become the SAP's Special Task Force. In 1976, instead of accepting an invitation to train new Special Task Force members, De Kock reported to the Police College for an officers' course and was promoted from warrant officer to lieutenant.

In May 1978, De Kock was transferred to South West Africa and joined the security branch in Oshakati. In 1979, he co-founded Koevoet, an SAP counterinsurgency unit tasked with combating the People's Liberation Army of Namibia (PLAN) during the South African Border War. Koevoet was regarded as a highly effective unit, but committed atrocities against civilians and other human rights violations.[5][6] Its successes in tracking and killing PLAN guerrillas prompted the SAP to consider setting up a similar division in South Africa.[5]


In 1983, the SAP transferred De Kock to C10, a counter-insurgency unit headquartered at a farm called Vlakplaas, located 20 kilometres (12 mi) west of Pretoria. De Kock, who had established a reputation for commitment during his tours in Rhodesia and Namibia, was promoted as the unit's commanding officer two years later. Under his leadership, C10—later known as C1—became a death squad which hunted down and killed millitant opponents of the National Party and the apartheid system.[7]

TRC testimony[edit]

De Kock first became prominent during his testimony in the Truth and Reconciliation Commission in 1998, during which he made multiple revelations relating to ANC deaths.

De Kock has been interviewed a number of times by psychologist Pumla Gobodo-Madikizela, who ended up releasing a book, A Human Being Died That Night, about her interviews with De Kock, her time on the TRC, and what causes a moral person to become a killer.[8]

Trial, conviction, and sentencing[edit]

Upon being convicted on 30 October 1996, De Kock was sentenced to two life sentences plus 212 years in prison for crimes against humanity. The eighty-nine charges included six counts of murder, as well as conspiracy to murder, attempted murder, assault, kidnapping, illegal possession of a firearm, and fraud.[9] De Kock served his sentence in the C Max section of the Pretoria Central Prison.[10]


In a local radio interview in July 2007, De Kock claimed that former president FW de Klerk's hands were "soaked in blood" and that de Klerk had ordered political killings and other crimes during the anti-apartheid conflict. These claims were in response to de Klerk's then-recent statements that he had a "clear conscience" regarding his time in office.[11]

The Sunday Independent reported in January 2010 that De Kock was seeking a presidential pardon from President Jacob Zuma in exchange for more information about the apartheid government's death squads, and that a three-hour meeting between Zuma and the incarcerated De Kock took place in April 2009. A spokesman for Zuma denied the veracity of the report.[12]

In 2012, De Kock made several pleas for forgiveness to the relatives of his victims. In January, he wrote a letter to the family of Bheki Mlangeni, apologising for killing the ANC attorney in a 1991 bomb attack; Mlangeni's mother, Catherine, doubted De Kock's sincerity as he had never before shown remorse.[13] In February, De Kock met Marcia Khoza in his prison, confessing that he had personally executed her mother, Portia Shabangu, in an ambush in 1989; Khoza would not forgive him, because he had scarcely shown remorse during his TRC hearing.[14]

In September 2014, De Kock met the Mamas, the family of another of his victims. Candice Mama, daughter of the late Glenack Masilo Mama, did forgive De Kock, even going as far as to express in countless interviews support for his bid for parole.[15]


Justice Minister Michael Masutha announced on 30 January 2015, that De Kock had been granted parole.[16] At the press conference, it was announced that the date of his release would not be made public.[17] Masutha further said that De Kock had expressed remorse for his crimes and had co-operated with authorities to recover the remains of a number of his victims.[18] De Kock was nevertheless to remain on parole for the rest of his life.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ The voice of 'Prime Evil', BBC News, 28 October 1998
  2. ^ 'De Kock must rot in jail', Times Live, 29 January 2012
  3. ^ Let Prime Evil go, Mail & Guardian, 11 January 2010
  4. ^ "South Africa's Apartheid Assassin". 31 December 1969. Archived from the original on 6 July 2013 – via YouTube.
  5. ^ a b O'Brien, Kevin (2010). The South African Intelligence Services: From Apartheid to Democracy, 1948-2005. Abingdon: Routledge. pp. 104–110. ISBN 978-0415433976.
  6. ^ Truth and Reconciliation Commission (1998). "Truth and Reconciliation Commission of South Africa Report. Volume Two" (PDF). Pretoria: Department of Justice and Constitutional Development. pp. 74–77.
  7. ^ Pauw, Jacques (2007). Dances with Devils. Zebra Press. ISBN 978-1-77007-330-2.
  8. ^ "The Alan Paton Awards". Sunday Times. 13 June 2004. Archived from the original on 12 March 2011.
  9. ^ "ANC, PAC welcomes De Kock's sentence". SAPA. 29 October 1996.
  10. ^ "De Kock up for parole – department". News24. 14 December 2011. Retrieved 5 January 2012.
  11. ^ Allie, Mohammed (27 July 2007). "Jailed policeman accuses De Klerk". BBC.
  12. ^ "Eugene de Kock 'looking for a presidential pardon'". The Week UK.
  13. ^ "Eugene de Kock seeks forgiveness". News24.
  14. ^ Independent Newspapers Online. "Daughter of victim forgives De Kock". Independent Online.
  15. ^ "My encounter with the man who killed my father". City Press. 15 October 2014. Archived from the original on 6 April 2015.
  16. ^ "South Africa apartheid assassin de Kock given parole". BBC News. 30 January 2015. Retrieved 30 January 2015.
  17. ^ "Parole for Eugene de Kock". The Citizen. 30 January 2015. Archived from the original on 30 January 2015. Retrieved 1 February 2015.
  18. ^ Cropley, Ed (30 January 2015). "'Prime Evil' apartheid assassin wins parole in South Africa". Reuters. Retrieved 30 January 2015.