South Africa’s apartheid-era police minister has avoided jail, despite admitting attempted murder. Adriaan Vlok pleaded guilty to the attempted murder of a leading black cleric in 1989. He and his former police chief were given suspended 10 year sentences. Three other officers received lesser terms. They all admitted trying to murder anti-apartheid activist Frank Chikane, by poisoning his underwear. Chikane is now an adviser to President Thabo Mbeki. Last year Vlok washed Chikane’s feet in an act of contrition, a hugely symbolic act in a country where the wounds of the apartheid past remain raw.
The trial was seen as a test case for apartheid-era officials who were not given an amnesty by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. Vlok did receive an amnesty for a series of bombings, but murder or torture cases must be tried in court.