Passport

Janusz Walus Killed an Anti-Apartheid Hero. Now He Is Slated for Parole.

Many South Africans are not prepared to see Janusz Walus released from prison, even 23 years after his cold-blooded murder of Chris Hani.

Members of Umkhonto we Sizwe, the ANC military wing , carry the coffin of the assassinated South African Communist Party (SACP) leader Chris Hani, at the vigil in Soweto on April 18, 1993.        (Photo credit should read WALTER DHLADHLA/AFP/Getty Images)
Members of Umkhonto we Sizwe, the ANC military wing , carry the coffin of the assassinated South African Communist Party (SACP) leader Chris Hani, at the vigil in Soweto on April 18, 1993. (Photo credit should read WALTER DHLADHLA/AFP/Getty Images)

On April 10, 1993, South African anti-apartheid hero Chris Hani parked in his driveway, grabbed his newspaper, and walked to his front door to go inside.

Janusz Walus, a Polish immigrant to South Africa, had followed Hani to the store where he bought the newspaper, then beat him back to the house. Hani didn’t notice he was there, so Walus called out his name. When Hani turned, the anti-Communist raised his gun, fired four shots, and killed the 50-year-old revolutionary on the spot. Hani’s teenage daughter opened the door to find him dead.

On Thursday, almost 23 years after the bloody, racially inspired slaying, a Pretoria court ordered that Walus be paroled from prison. The move enraged Hani’s widow, Limpho.

It is a “very sad day for South Africa,” Limpho told South African radio Thursday. Walus and his co-conspirator, South African white supremacist Clive Derby-Lewis, were sentenced to life in prison. Derby-Lewis, who is sick with cancer, was released last June.

Hani’s death rattled the nation and threatened South Africa’s young multi-racial democracy. He wasn’t just an anti-apartheid activist: He was the South African Communist Party’s secretary general, chief of staff for the armed wing of the African National Congress and, in the eyes of many South Africans, second in popularity only to Nelson Mandela in the struggle for political reform and black rights in the country. His party was working with Mandela’s to inch toward inclusive democracy at the time of his 1993 death. “The coldblooded murder of Chris Hani has sent shock waves throughout the country and the world,” Mandela said the night of the killing.

Walus and Derby-Lewis were found guilty by an all-white court — a crucial legal milestone for the country. Walus later testified before South Africa’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission, and admitted that Hani’s assassination was intended to instigate conflict and give rise to the right wing in the then-fragile nation. Derby-Lewis refused to testify and maintained his innocence.

Although Hani’s death did cause some rumblings of violence in certain townships, it ultimately pressured the then-white government to organize democratic elections for 1994, paving the way for Mandela to take over the presidency.

Judge Janse van Nieuwenhuizen said Thursday that Walus should be freed within two weeks. The Ministry of Justice has said it is considering an appeal, a decision that would likely be welcomed by Hani’s wife.

Limpho said van Nieuwenhuizen, who is white, “comes with a white superiority complex to tell me I should forgive, I should move on.”

“It is not her husband that was murdered,” Limpho said Thursday.

Photo credit: WALTER DHLADHLA/AFP/Getty Images

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