Former Vlakplaas commander dies

Former Vlakplaas commander Dirk Coetzee has died from kidney failure.

Former Vlakplaas commander Dirk Coetzee died on 7 March 2013. Picture: AFP

JOHANNESBURG - The former commander of a covert police unit based in Vlakplaas has died. 

It is understood while Dirk Coetzee was battling cancer, he passed away from kidney failure.

Coetzee revealed the existence of the apartheid police's death squad based at Vlakplaas in 1989, which was responsible for several atrocities committed against anti-apartheid activists.

He lifted the veil on the existence of the unit in an interview.

Head of the National Prosecuting Authority’s Missing Persons task team, Madeleine Fullard, said Coetzee had been helping them to find the site where Sizwe Kondile was buried.

“People will remember how Dirk Coetzee famously describe how they burnt his body while having a barbecue, a braai, nearby.”

He died before he was able to reveal where the site of Kondile's grave is and the unit says it will now consult with his former colleagues to find out.

The anti-apartheid activist was killed and burnt by the Vlakplaas after he went into exile with Vusi Pikoli in the 1980s.

Meanwhile, author of Coetzee's biography, Jacuqes Pauw, said he last spoke to him when he was already gravely ill with diabetes last year.

Pauw said the former apartheid death squad leader became worried that he would be fingered as the founder of the squad and therefore told the story of Vlakplaas to the media.

Pauw said he knew Coetzee for many years and described him as a man who only wanted to protect himself.

“Dirk Coetzee was out to preserve himself… Coetzee had never expressed any remorse for the people he had killed.”

Coetzee was granted amnesty by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission in 1997.

Meanwhile, Former National Director of Public Prosecutions and anti-apartheid activist Vusi Pikoli said he was saddened Coetzee died without revealing where his friend was buried.

"For me, the fact that he was given amnesty by the TRC when he had not disclosed fully as to where some of his victims were buried is still a sore point for me."