The announcement that one of the people who murdered SA Communist Party and ANC leader Chris Hani over the Easter weekend in 1993 is to be paroled has, unsurprisingly, reopened unhealed old wounds.
Hani’s family and many prominent people, including Gauteng premier Panyaza Lesufi, are calling the decision a miscarriage of justice and a betrayal of black people.
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Yet, ironically, were Hani alive, he would have probably agreed that the rule of law be adhered to. He and others in the ANC were vehemently against the death penalty, which was scrapped soon after the party took office in 1994.
In place of the death penalty, there was a term of life imprisonment, with some chance of parole once a certain amount of time had been served.
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Janusz Walus – who along with Clive Derby-Lewis – was convicted of the murder, had been refused parole on two previous occasions by ANC ministers and the Constitutional Court correctly ruled that to do so a third time would be unconstitutional.
And, therein lies the rub. South Africa’s constitution, imperfect as it may be, applies to everybody … even if they are hated and even if they have killed. Rather set a man like Walus free than bend the rule of law in the name of emotional or political expediency.
Although Walus has, apparently, shown contrition and can be consider rehabilitated, he has still not revealed who else may have been involved in the assassination conspiracy. It is clear he and Derby-Lewis were merely low-level political hotheads used by someone else.
How did they know, for example, that Hani had given his bodyguards the weekend off and that he was vulnerable? Could someone in his own organisation have betrayed Hani? South Africa might be very different today had he lived – and that may not have suited some people.
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