A life sentenced killer, Janusz Walus, who is serving time for the 1993 murder of anti-apartheid leader Chris Hani in South Africa has been ordered by the Constitutional Court to be released on parole in 10 days.
In the latter days of the apartheid era, Janusz Walus, a Polish immigrant who had attained South African citizenship, hoped that the murder would incite a race war.
For the past 28 years, he has been imprisoned, and attempts to have him granted parole have been fiercely resisted. The release of her husband’s killer, according to widow Limpho Hani, was “diabolical” on Monday.
Shortly after Hani was killed, Walus and his co-defendant, Clive Derby-Lewis, received death sentences; however, after South Africa abolished the death penalty, the sentences were commuted to life in prison, Derby-Lewis died in 2016.
During the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) in 1997, they both made an amnesty request. Walus claimed that his decision to kill Hani, who was at the time the secretary-general of the South African Communist Party (SACP) and a key figure in the armed wing of the African National Congress, was motivated by political, anti-communist reasons.
Far-right organizations in Poland expressed sympathy and support for Walus’ imprisonment. At several Polish football stadiums, huge banners bearing his likeness and slogans demanding his release have become commonplace.
Online stores have also offered items honoring Walus, such as scarves and bumper stickers. In 2016, Walus had a chance encounter with Lindiwe, Hani’s daughter.
“He told her [that] when he lost his father [in 1997] then he understood that Chris Hani was not only a communist, but he was also a father and husband,” Polish journalist Cezary Lazarewicz told me in 2020.
“Walus told me that he was very sorry for killing Lindiwe’s father. But he never regretted [killing a] communist leader. He told me, in 1993, there was a war in South Africa and he felt like a soldier… he still believes in the system of racial segregation and that whites and blacks should live apart,” Mr Lazarewicz added.
In court on Monday Chief Justice Raymond Zondo said “the principle of equality before the law was not just written for those who fought apartheid – but those who actively supported it,” South African journalist Karyn Maughan reports.
Minutes after the decision was made, however, Limpho Hani reacted angrily, saying, “this judgment is diabolical, totally diabolical”