South Africa: South Africa’s Constitutional Court on Monday ordered that apartheid-era assassin Janusz Walus be granted parole.
Walus, an anti-communist Polish national, gunned down anti-apartheid leader Chris Hani in 1993.
He has served almost 30 years behind bars for the murder, a crime which many believe pushed South Africa to the brink of a civil conflict.
What did the Constitutional Court say?
In a unanimous judgment, Constitutional Court Chief Justice Raymond Zondo ordered that the justice minister place Walus “on parole on such terms and conditions as he may deem appropriate.”
Zondo said that Walus should be placed on parole within the space of 10 days.
Walus “was convicted of very serious crime… cold-blooded murder,” said Zondo. The chief justice said that “his conduct nearly plunged this country into civil unrest”, but he was entitled to parole, by law.
The judgment came after Justice Minister Ronald Lamola’s 2020 decision to reject Walus’s application for parole.
Court ruling slammed
Solly Mapaila — leader of the South African Communist Party (SACP) which is part of a political alliance with the ruling African National Congress (ANC) — expressed his dissatisfaction with the decision to reporters outside court in Johannesburg.
“The Constitutional Court is a court of democracy, it cannot be upholding apartheid injustice. This is an injustice by the highest court,” said Mapaila.
Hani’s widow Limpho Hani expressed her anger at the decision, telling local news station eNews Channel Africa that “Chief Justice Zondo has failed this country completely,” before angrily saying the decision was “diabolical.”
A dark chapter in South African history
Hani was shot dead at point-blank range on April 10, 1993, in the driveway of his home in Boksburg, east of Johannesburg. Walus shot the leader of the South African Communist Party four times before making his getaway.
Walus was convicted along with Conservative Party politician Clive Derby-Lewis, who was released on medical parole in 2015 before dying in 2016.
The murder came at a time when negotiations to end apartheid were reaching a critical phase.
In the immediate aftermath of Hani’s killing, then ANC President Nelson Mandela made an impassioned plea for calm in a televised address.
Mandela pointed out that a white woman had come forward and given the license plate of the car she had seen leaving Hani’s home following the shooting, which Mandela said helped bring the assassin to justice.
(This article was originally published in the DW).