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Prime Evil is not somebody most people want to meet. PALESA MORUDU had personal reasons for wishing to keep her distance from Eugene de Kock, even if there were questions she would ask him if she were to meet him. And then, he sat down right next to her.

This year’s Franschhoek Literary Festival was a surreal event. That is to say, more surreal than usual. Many of South Africa’s bookish types meet annually in this beautiful, moneyed valley to talk to one another about writing, politics and life. In the process a lot of wine is consumed, perhaps because the subject matter, South Africa, is a messy topic.

Sometime last year, I listened to Redi Tlhabi’s radio show when the host interviewed Anemari Jansen, author of Eugene De Kock Assassin for the State. At the time, I was reading Stanley Manong’s If We Must Die. Manong, a former uMkhonto We Sizwe (MK) commander, has published his memoirs, which detail his experiences in ANC camps in Angola. De Kock, who was perhaps the most “effective” murderer in the employ of the apartheid state, makes an appearance in Manong’s book. His unit intercepted several of Manong’s operations inside the country. After reading Manong’s book, one is left with the sense that De Kock may have played a role in the brutal killing of Manong’s mother while the latter was in exile.

De Kock was tried for his unspeakable crimes. He later provided information to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission that helped to shed light on some of the operations in which he was involved – however selective his memory may have proved. For a number of years preceding his release from prison, De Kock gave information to the Missing Persons Task Team of the National Prosecuting Authority that proved invaluable in bringing up the bodies.

De Kock served his time and he is now a free man. Jansen has written a book about him. Manong has written his own book. So it made perfect sense to me that last Friday, Manong and Jansen were on the same panel at Franschhoek, with Tlhabi facilitating the discussion.

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