The activist and the murderer



In November 2014, on a vast game farm on the South Africa-Botswana border, a yellow excavator annihilated an overgrown plot set by a river. A pale blonde woman – slathered in sunscreen, shrouded in a floppy hat and wearing a backward lab coat to protect her arms – oversaw the digging. The rest of her team was less delicate: four male investigators and three female forensic anthropologists. Every time the excavator opened the earth, the eight peered hopefully into the chasm.

Beneath a nearby tree, two men, stiff with age and large of belly, sat on camping chairs, sharing a bottle of grape soda. One had thick, unkempt grey hair and a doughy, hangdog face. The other had trimmed brown hair and pale skin; he wore thick glasses that had once earned him the nickname Spectacles. The team searched as the two men pointed out different spots. But after two days of fruitless digging, they grew suspicious: was this a game? Were these guys telling the truth?

On the third day, a rainstorm turned the piles of dirt to mud, and the team, defeated, headed back to their headquarters in Pretoria. The grey-haired man returned to his modest suburban house, where he was trying to go straight and quit drinking. The man known as Spectacles returned to Kgosi Mampuru II prison, his home of 20 years, where he was stripped of his civilian clothes and dressed in an orange jumpsuit. He was led to his cell, where he spent most of his days reading. One of his favourite books was Hannah Arendt’s Eichmann in Jerusalem: A Report On The Banality Of Evil. This was Eugene de Kock, apartheid’s most infamous killer.

Read more at The Guardian.