Eugene de Kock

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Eugene de Kock
Born (1949-01-29) 29 January 1949 (age 67)
Other names Prime Evil
Awards Police Cross
Police career
Department South African Police (SAP)
Country South Africa South Africa
Other work Convicted of atrocities committed under apartheid

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 C1, a counter-insurgency unit of the South African Police that kidnapped, tortured, and murdered numerous anti-apartheid activists from the 1980s to the early 1990s. C1'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 C1'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 C1's activities.

Early life and service[edit]

Eugene Alexander de Kock was born to Lawrence de Kock, a magistrate and personal friend to former prime minister John Vorster. 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. After finishing school, he attempted to join the South African Defence Force, but was disqualified from enlistment because of a stutter. De Kock then joined his brother as a member of the South African Police, where he applied to join the organisation's elite Special Task Force. He was rejected again because of poor eyesight.

During the latter stages of the Rhodesian Bush War, de Kock was deployed to Rhodesia to defend against incursions by the black nationalist forces of Robert Mugabe and Joshua Nkomo. In 1979, de Kock co-founded Koevoet, an SAP counter insurgency unit tasked with combating SWAPO guerillas in South-West Africa during the South African Border War. Koevoet became notorious for its high kill rate and for its atrocities against local Namibian people.


Main article: Vlakplaas

In 1983, the SAP transferred de Kock to C10, a counter-insurgency unit headquartered at a farm called Vlakplaas, located 20 kilometres west of Pretoria. De Kock, who had established a reputation for bravery and commitment during his tours in Rhodesia and Namibia, was promoted as the unit's commanding officer two years later. Under de Kock's leadership, C10—later known as C1—became a death squad which hunted down and killed opponents of the National Party and the apartheid system.[5]

TRC testimony[edit]

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

De Kock has been interviewed a number of times by 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.[6]

Trial, conviction, and sentencing[edit]

Upon being convicted on 30 October 1996, Eugene de Kock was sentenced to 2 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 firearms, and fraud.[7] De Kock is serving his sentence in the C Max section of the Pretoria Central Prison.[8]


In a local radio interview in July 2007, de Kock claimed that former president FW de Klerk had hands "soaked in blood" and had ordered political killings and other crimes during the anti-apartheid conflict. This was in response to de Klerk's recent statements that he had a "clear conscience" regarding his time in office.[9]

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 claims.[10]

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 sentiments due to his prior lack of remorse.[11] In February, de Kock had a meeting in prison with Marcia Khoza, confessing that he had personally executed her mother, Portia Shabangu, in an ambush in 1989. Khoza denied forgiving him because he hardly showed remorse during his TRC hearing.[12] In September 2014, de Kock had a meeting with another one of his victims' families, the Mama family. Candice Mama (daughter of Glenack Masilo Mama) forgave De Kock, even going as far as supporting his parole in countless interviews.[13]


Justice Minister Michael Masutha announced on 30 January 2015 that de Kock has been granted parole.[14] At the press conference, it was announced that the date of his release would not be made public.[15] Masutha went on to say that he had expressed remorse at his crimes and had cooperated with authorities to recover the remains of a number of his victims.[16]

In April 2015 footage from Arlanda Airport reemerged with datation shortly after the Swedish prime minister Olof Palme was shot to death. The blurry images appear to show a man similar to Eugene de Kock, which is noteworthy since he himself claimed the South African security services were involved in the murder. His lawyer has strongly denied that de Kock was in Sweden during that event, or that he has ever visited Sweden. South African spy Craig Williamson was however present in Stockholm at the time of the murder, possibly to surveil an ANC conference held in Stockholm. [17]

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". YouTube. 31 December 1969. 
  5. ^ Pauw, Jacques (2007). Dances with Devils. Zebra Press. ISBN 978-1-77007-330-2. 
  6. ^ "The Alan Paton Awards". Sunday Times. 13 June 2004. Archived from the original on 12 March 2011. 
  7. ^ "ANC, PAC welcomes De Kock's sentence". SAPA. 29 October 1996. 
  8. ^ "De Kock up for parole – department". News24. 14 December 2011. Retrieved 2012-01-05. 
  9. ^ Allie, Mohammed (27 July 2007). "Jailed policeman accuses De Klerk". BBC. 
  10. ^ "Eugene de Kock ‘looking for a presidential pardon’". The Week UK. 
  11. ^ "Eugene de Kock seeks forgiveness". News24. 
  12. ^ Independent Newspapers Online. "Daughter of victim forgives De Kock". Independent Online. 
  13. ^ "My encounter with the man who killed my father". City Press. 15 October 2014. 
  14. ^ "South Africa apartheid assassin de Kock given parole". BBC News. 30 January 2015. Retrieved 30 January 2015. 
  15. ^ "Parole for Eugene de Kock". The Citizen. 30 January 2015. Retrieved 1 February 2015. 
  16. ^ Cropley, Ed (30 January 2015). "'Prime Evil' apartheid assassin wins parole in South Africa". Reuters. Retrieved 30 January 2015. 
  17. ^