Janusz Walus has fulfilled parole conditions, feels shame over Chris Hani's murder: lawyer

Chris Hani’s widow, Limpho (in blue), at a previous parole application by her husband's killer, Janusz Walus.
Chris Hani’s widow, Limpho (in blue), at a previous parole application by her husband's killer, Janusz Walus.
Image: Alaister Russell/The Sunday Times

Lawyers for Janusz Walus, the murderer of SA Communist Party leader Chris Hani, asked the high court in Pretoria on Monday to set aside then justice minister Michael Masutha's decision in January this year to deny him parole.

In his decision on January 16, Masutha said: “Having considered the various reports of psychologists and the apparent contradictions arising therein, it was difficult for me to make a determination on the suitability for placement on parole at this stage.”

On Monday Walus's lawyer, Roelof du Plessis SC, said Masutha was subjective and biased in his decision not to grant parole to Walus.

Du Plessis said in his reasons denying Walus parole, Masutha did not reflect on aspects in the psychological reports  presented to him that were in favour of Walus. Instead, Du Plessis argued, Masutha reflected on aspects in the reports that were not favourable to Walus.

Walus has been in prison since he was arrested for the April 1993 murder of Hani at his Boksburg home.

Numerous bids to be granted parole have been unsuccessful, with the latest one made by Masutha in January this year.

Du Plessis said the reports prepared by psychologists Joel Mbele and Dr Zelda Buitendag both concluded that Walus's risk of offending again was low.

Du Plessis  said Masutha had also concluded that Walus had not shown remorse, despite the reports showing the contrary.

Du Plessis asked the court to take a decision on the matter, instead of sending the matter back to new justice minister Ronald Lamola for reconsideration.

“It is difficult for a political appointee, a justice minister, to take a decision to let this man go,” Du Plessis said.

Du Plessis said if the minister took a decision to release Walus on parole, the minister would be criticised by the ANC, SACP and Cosatu tripartite alliance partners.

“It is time for the court to make this decision,” Du Plessis said.

Earlier in Monday's proceedings, Du Plessis took issue at how, despite the majority of the parole board agreeing that Walus be granted parole last year, the chairman of the board gave reasons why he should not be granted parole.

The chairman said Walus must be referred to anger management and life skills programmes, that he must undergo a restorative justice programme and that he still rationalised his decision to murder Hani as justified.

Du Plessis said these issues had been addressed in a report by psychologist Joel Mbele, who acknowledged that Walus felt shame, regret and grief for killing Hani, who was a human being and a father.

Du Plessis said Mbele had also indicated in his report that the risk of Walus reoffending was low.

Walus and right-wing politician Clive Derby-Lewis were sentenced to death for the murder of Hani outside his home in Boksburg on April 10, 1993. Their sentences were later commuted to life imprisonment. Derby-Lewis was granted medical parole in 2015 and died the following year of cancer.

The January 2019 decision was not the first time Masutha denied Walus parole.

In November 2017, Masutha denied Walus parole because, among other reasons, a psychologist's report showed the killer saw nothing wrong with eliminating a communist who happened to be a father and husband.

Walus challenged the minister's decision in the high court.

In its September 2018 decision, the court gave Masutha six months to reconsider his decision.

The minister of justice is opposing the application while the SACP and Hani's wife. Limpho, who was present in court, indicated they would abide by the court's decision.

The application continues.

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