Minister to decide on parole for Vlakplaas killer Nofemela
CONVICTED killer Almond Nofemela, who revealed many of the horrors of the Vlakplaas police death squads in the 1980s, may be on the brink of freedom.
Nofemela in 1987 escaped hanging at the eleventh hour after confessing to killing eight ANC members. He later received amnesty from the Truth and Reconciliation Commission for crimes that included the state-ordered murder of anti-apartheid lawyer Griffiths Mxenge and is serving a life sentence for the non-political murder of Brits farmer Hendrik Lourens.
Correctional Services Minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula’s office confirmed last night that she was considering a recommendation that Nofemela be paroled.
Judge Siraj Desai, chairman of the National Council for Correctional Services (NCCS), yesterday submitted his recommendation.
He has previously held meetings with the minister over the long-outstanding issue of Nofemela’s parole.
Inertia on the part of her predecessor resulted in litigation but, by arrangement with Nofemela’s lawyer Mapisa-Nqakula, has until Monday to apply her mind.
This is the date the prisoner’s urgent application was postponed to by the high court.
“Mr Nofemela has served 21 years of his life sentence and was therefore entitled to be considered for parole in terms of the act,” the department said in a statement.
The NCCS yesterday recommended that Nofemela be granted parole provided the Department of Correctional Services refers him to “an appropriate agency for psycho- social support for the purposes of assisting him with reintegration”.
It also recommended he undergo “the usual pre-release programmes” and that he does not have access to firearms.
In terms of the act, the minister has discretion, if the national council has made a favourable recommendation, as to whether or not to confirm the placement on parole of an offender, the statement said.
In December last year, Judge Eberhard Bertelsmann of the Pretoria High Court advised the previous minister Ngconde Balfour to decide on Nofemela’s parole within 10 days.
Nothing happened and in April the NCCS again recommended his placement on parole and forwarded its recommendation to the minister.
Desai said yesterday he had indeed “raised the matter” this week and had forwarded his recommendations to Mapisa-Nqakula, “but she has still has to make her decision”.
Nofemela’s pro-bono lawyer Julian Knight has said that if Mapisa-Nqakula refuses to order Nofemela’s release, the matter could go to the Constitutional Court.
Making an urgent application in the Pretoria High Court, he said late last month that the consequences of a refusal would be that they would ask for the powers of the minister to be declared unconstitutional.
Nofemela made headlines in the 1980s when, on the eve of his pending execution, he gave details of the bloody trail emanating from Vlakplaas.
His for mer Vlakplaas commander Dirk Coetzee and others subsequently gave devastating testimony to the Harms Commission on hit squads, and his execution was put on hold.
Balfour wrote to the NCCS in December, querying some of the parole documents and apparently asking the council to reconsider Mxenge’s murder.
Balfour had said the NCCS had originally recommended parole for Nofemela on condition that a job offer was confirmed and that he was referred for psychosocial support, but that both the job offer and a social worker’s report had dated back to 2006. Therefore, he recommended that a clinical psychologist should do a new assessment of Nofemela.
But Knight pointed out that the documents were old because it had taken so long for the matter to get through the department’s system that they dated from Nofemela’s initial application for parole.