The strange case of Dirk Coetzee
Dirk Coetzee
  • Sowetan

    22 July 1996


    The strange case of Dirk Coetzee

    Dirk Coetzee and Generals Jan Viktor and Jac Buchner started Vlakplaas, a farm 20km west of Pretoria, Gauteng, as the headquarters of the South African Police counterinsurgency unit working for the Apartheid Government in South Africa. From 1980 to 1981, Coetzee was a commander at Vlakplaas. Coetzee ordered the deaths of many African National Congress (ANC) activists, including Griffiths Mxenge, a human rights lawyer who was stabbed 40 times at Umlazi Stadium in Durban, and Sizwe Kondile, a law graduate from the Eastern Cape who was interrogated and beaten then handed over to Coetzee who had him shot and his body burned. In November 1989, Jacques Pauw a journalist for the progressive Afrikaner newspaper, Vrye Weekblad, broke the story of Coetzee and Vlakplaas. Coetzee admitted the existence of the death squad units in an interview with Pauw. Coetzee told Pauw about the two years that he had been the Vlakplaas commander. It was a tale that spread over three countries and included many murders, attempted murders, arson, sabotage, kidnappings, assault of political activists, house robberies and car thefts. Coetzee asked Pauw to get him out of the country and find a safe place where his family and he could live safely. Coetzee and Pauw flew to London where he met with the ANC’S Intelligence, which promised to ensure his safety, give him sanctuary and look after his family. In 1990, Coetzee told the Harms Commission in Britain, led by Judge Louis Harms, how he had watched his colleagues murder the student activist Sizwe Kondile and the human rights lawyer Griffiths Mxenge. The Security Police closed ranks and denounced Coetzee's revelations as fantasies. Harms accepted their testimony and Coetzee was declared an unreliable witness. Eugene de Kock,a former Commander of Vlakplaas tried to assassinate Coetzee in 1990 by sending him a letter bomb to his hideout in Lusaka. Six years later in 1996. KwaZulu-Natal Attorney General Tim McNally orders the arrest of Dirk Coetzee  for murders tof Griffiths Mxenge, o which Coetzee had already confessed, but had been "pardened" by the ANC in exchange for collaboration. with the ANC in exile.




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