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Dirk Coetzee was co-founder and commander of the covert South African Police unit based at Vlakplaas. He and his colleagues were involved in a number of atrocities including the murders of Sizwe Khondile and Griffiths Mxenge. Coetzee lifted the veil on the existence of the unit in a 1989 interview with Vrye Weekblad confirming a story that death-row convict Almond Nofomela told a Johannesburg weekly the previous year.

Dirk Coetzee was granted amnesty by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission on 4 August 1997.
In 1997 Eugene de Kock, a former commander of Vlakplaas, was convicted for attempting to murder Coetzee