The ghosts of apartheid’s bloody past. The murder in 1993 of a top South African nearly led to the collapse of crucial talks and a descent into civil war. The murderer may soon be released.

1 January 2022 By Paul Martin

Gaye Derby-Lewis, in an exclusive interview with Correspondent.World, insisted her husband was not a murderer, as he never gave a final order to kill.

Clive Derby-Lewis died from cancer in 2016 while on parole after a commuted death sentence and 20 years imprisonment. But a Polish immigrant who pulled the trigger and killed top ANC official and Communist Party leader Chris Hani outside his home on 10 April 1993. is demanding his freedom.

“I’m sorry I killed Hani, I now reject apartheid and have gone back to my Catholic roots,” Janusz Walus wrote in a latter aimed at securing himself parole. The South African Supreme Court will hear his case, where he seeks his release from prison, in February 2022.

Gaye Derby-Lewis at her Pretoria home with a map of her adopted country behind her. She stayed loyal to her husband, who was convicted of murering top political figure Chris Hani..
C. Paul Martin / Correspondent.World

In a lengthy affidavit, Walus set out how his prison experiences had transformed him, and that he had over the years tried numerous times to convey an apology to Hani’s widow Limpho and their children.

“I have already in the application papers apologised for the crime that I had committed. I have apologised to the Hani family and I have done everything that I could to show remorse and to communicate my apology to the Hani family.

“I have great remorse in respect of what I have done. I realise today that it was completely unacceptable.

“Ever since my incarceration I have returned to my Roman Catholic faith which has helped me fully understand my wrongdoings. I have accepted the new SA, its constitution and its constitutional dispensation,” Walus said.

Janusz Walus, Chris Hani's killer, will not be released on parole. FILE PHOTO
Murderer Janusz Walus.

He and Derby-Lewis, a hard-right politician, were sentenced to death for murdering Hani, the South African Communist Party’s general secretary, who had also been head of the African National Congress’s military wing. Hani was shot dead outside his home in Boksburg on April 10, 1993.

The death sentences meted out to Derby-Lewis and Walus were later commuted to life imprisonment when South Africa abolished the death penalty in 1995.  Derby-Lewis, who the court found had ordered the hit carried out by Walus, was granted medical parole in 2015 and died the following year of cancer.

Walus, who is incarcerated at the Kgosi Mampuru II Correctional Facility, said his time behind bars had led to him having interactions with black people. This, he said, had given him a better understanding of them.If I do not succeed with this application, it appears that I will be incarcerated forever, which is an unjust, inhumane and cruel punishment.

“I have had lots of interaction with many different persons of different races in prison, and I have come to realise that apartheid was wrong and that all persons are born equal and I reject racism in any form,” Walus said.

“I accept democracy to the extent that I accept that a party which was voted for by the majority of the people should govern and that the ANC is the governing party because of that reason,” he added.

“I submit that I have demonstrated that I have become completely rehabilitated, that I will not repeat such a crime, a similar offence, or any crime for that matter again in future. I am genuinely sorry for what I have done.”

Walus filed papers with the Constitutional Court. He hopes that it will find that the Supreme Court of Appeal was wrong in dismissing his leave to appeal against a ruling delivered by the high court in Pretoria. Both courts denied him parole.

He said he believed that the court had misdirected itself in finding that the Justice Minister had rejected parole for him without having a proper understanding and appreciation of the scope of discretion which he was called upon to exercise.

Walus claimed that according to the current correctional services manuals which came into place after 1994, he should have been eligible for parole after serving 13 years and four months behind bars.

But, he said, there was “continuous shifting of the goalposts and new reasons for refusing parole by various ministers”.

He added that previous ministers and their advisers had shown bias and incompetence when it came to the handling of his matter.

Over the years, his parole had been denied for several reasons — first because victim offender dialogues in 2011 had not taken place with Hani’s family. He tried to rectify this, but failed, he said.

The body of Chris Hani being covered in the flag of the post-apartheid South Africa

In 2013 he again appeared before the parole board on appeal. This time, Hani’s widow was also present but rejected Walus’s apology, saying it was self-serving and insincere. In 2013, he wrote her a letter expressing his remorse.

In 2015, at what would have been his second appeal attempt, Walus was again denied parole, with the-then justice minister saying the department would look into security threats that may exist should he be released.

Walus appealed against this in the high court and the court ordered that he be released. But then-minister Michael Masutha appealed against the high court decision before the SCA. The court ruled in his favour, saying instead that he should make a fresh decision on the matter, taking into consideration victim impact statements filed by the Hani family.

A fresh parole hearing took place in October 2017 where Walus said incorrect information, such as allegations that he had failed to attend anger management and life skills classes, was brought to the fore. His parole application was refused.

He applied again in January 2019 and failed, on the basis that Walus had depression and anger management issues. The decision to block Walus’s parole was set aside by the high court and referred back to the justice minister for consideration.

Among Lamola’s reasons for denying the parole application was that the trial court which had jailed him had wanted to send a message that would clarify that assassinating political leaders was unacceptable.

“If I do not succeed with this application, it appears that I will be incarcerated forever, which is an unjust, inhumane and cruel punishment,” he said.

Hani’s family, and the ruling ANC government, have consistently demanded that Hani’s killer remain in jail.

Chris Hani's daughter, Lindiwe during a wreath laying ceremony at Thomas Nkobi Memorial Park Cemetry on April 10, 2014 in Boksburg, South Africa. Chris Hani was gunned down outside his home on 10 April 1993. File photo
Hani’s daughter Lindiwe at a wreath-laying ceremony at Thomas Nkobi Memorial Park Cemetery on April 10 2014 in Boksburg, South Africa. File photo