Apartheid sinners face the music: the recent arrest of Gideon Nieuwoudt, a former apartheid policeman allegedly implicated in the death of Steve Biko, has suddenly thrown the spotlight on the apartheid sinners who slipped through the fingers of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. The net is now closing in on them, reports Pusch Commey.

Author:Commey, Pusch
Position:South Africa

When South Africans sought to reconcile and find the way forward after years of apartheid, they devised the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC), which promised full amnesty for confessions. But some apartheid sinners slipped through the net because their crimes were deemed politically motivated. Others opted to go before the TRC with half-truths and even lies, or refused to go at all. Now the net is closing in on them.


On 11 February, the elite investigation unit, The Scorpions, arrested and charged Gideon Nieuwoudt, one of the notorious apartheid sinners, nicknamed "Notorious Nieuwoudt". He is accused of the deaths in 1985 of three black activists, dubbed the "Pebco Three". Nieuwoudt is now on R50,000 bail and will appear in court again on 3 June.

Justice Minister Penuell Maduna said the arrest should send a "signal" to others who had not received amnesty from the TRC. He advised them to report to the National Prosecuting Authority to give a full disclosure of their past crimes or face the music.

Nieuwoudt is allegedly implicated in the events of 8 May 1985, when three community leaders--Qaquwili Godolozi, Champion Galela and Sipho Hashe--were abducted at the Port Elizabeth airport in the Eastern Cape, severely tortured and murdered on a farm near the town of Cradock.

All three were members of the then Port Elizabeth Black Civil Organization (Pebco), an affiliate of the popular United Democratic Front (UDF) which also fronted for the then banned and exiled African National Congress (ANC). Their bodies were then burnt and thrown into the Fish River.

In June 1999, the TRC refused amnesty to Nieuwoudt and his accomplices--Herman Barend Du Plessis (former commanding officer of the security police in Port Elizabeth); Johannes Martin Van Zyl, and Gerhardus Johannes Lotz--because they failed to make a full disclosure of their crime as required by law.

An arrest warrant was issued for Van Zyl in mid-March, when he was out of the country. Nieuwoudt has appealed against the amnesty findings. An ex-colonel. Nieuwoudt is said to have interrogated (and allegedly implicated in the killing of the Black Consciousness leader) Steve Bantu Biko.

He was also mentioned in the 1985 killing of the "Cradock Four"--Mathew Goniwe, Fort Calata, Sparrow Mkhonto and Sicelo Mhlauli--who were UDF leaders and civic activists in the Eastern Cape.

He was granted amnesty in March 2000 for poisoning the leader of the Congress of South African...

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