Johannesburg - Religious leaders have called for the release of Chris Hani’s killer Clive Derby-Lewis. They say that the terminally ill Derby-Lewis, who has been serving a life sentence for his role in the murder of the SACP leader, should be set free in the spirit of forgiveness.
Derby-Lewis, 78, is imprisoned at the Kgosi Mampuru prison in Pretoria. He is understood to be suffering from lung cancer and according to his lawyer Marius Coertze, is on his death bed.
The former National Party and Conservative Party member has already served more than 20 years of his sentence for the April 10, 1993, murder that made world headlines and has twice been denied parole.
Janusz Walus, 61, who pulled the trigger, is also serving life imprisonment.
On Saturday Justice Minister Mike Masutha, through his spokesman Lawrence Ngoveni, said he was still considering a recommendation to grant Derby-Lewis parole. “There is no update, it’s still being considered,” said Ngoveni.
The SA Human Rights Commission (SAHRC) also confirmed this week that it was investigating the matter. “We are investigating the matter of Clive Derby-Lewis and his continued incarceration and the possibility of parole,” said SAHRC spokesman Isaac Mangena.
“We have opened an investigation even before we started receiving complaints from people who felt that he was being treated unfairly.
“We are looking at this from a human rights perspective and working with our colleagues in the Department of Correctional Services,” he said.
Hani’s widow Limpho lashed out at Masutha, saying she was not consulted about the parole application.
“I am not an animal, I am a human being. My husband will never come back, my children grew up without a father. I am just concerned that the minister is not following the law,” she told Talk Radio 702 presenter Redi Tlhabi.
While a move to grant parole would most certainly be controversial in some political circles, religious leaders say that it is time Derby-Lewis is forgiven and is allowed to live out his remaining days peacefully.
“All countries have certain criteria for awarding parole and release on compassionate grounds and I would hope that those principles and procedures entrenched in law in our country will apply to every case that comes up for consideration; irrespective of the nature of the crime committed by the applicant,” said Cardinal Wilfred Napier, archbishop of Durban.
He said that the judiciary should treat Derby-Lewis without prejudice. “When the TRC heard the confessions of those who submitted to its jurisdiction and applied for amnesty for their crimes, it was expected of them that they would make restitution. I don’t think this was followed through in all cases.
“From a Christian point of view, we look to the example of Jesus Christ, who even as he was dying on the cross, forgave his killers.
“A secular state works on different principles, and it must apply justice, and mercy, according to its constitution.”
Enoch Mthembu, spokesman for the Shembe Church, said “parole is the right thing to do” and it should go hand in hand with forgiveness.
“You cannot be forgiven until you understand what you are guilty of. We must forgive him if he asks for forgiveness.
“Our religion is about confession, not holding a grudge. And any society that does not practise forgiveness is not a legitimate society. That is particularly true of a difficult and painful case like this one,” said Mthembu.
Ashwin Trikamjee, a Durban attorney and priest who represents the Hindu Maha Saba, said he supported the move to parole Derby-Lewis. “It is a strong principle of the Hindu faith – one of its pillars, to extend forgiveness to those who have sinned. On that basis I would call upon the decision makers to ensure that Derby-Lewis is released on parole.”
A spokesman for Jamiatul Ulama secretary-general Moulana Ebrahim Bham echoed Trikamjee’s sentiments. “Our stance on parole is informed by the high value we place on the virtue of forgiveness without discounting the rights of the aggrieved and offended.”
Meanwhile Derby-Lewis’s attorney Coertze said that Derby-Lewis’s condition was worsening and that his wife Gaye Derby-Lewis had lost hope.
“Clive is currently suffering from lung cancer, which is not curable and is terminal, according to the three medical reports I have. Clive is going to die from lung cancer. It is a dead certainty,” he said.
Gaye Derby-Lewis has pleaded for her husband to be allowed to die in the comfort of loved ones.
“Clive has served almost 21 years of his sentence. He is a sickly, frail old man of 78. He has paid his dues to society,” she said.
The Department of Justice and Correctional Services could not indicate when a decision on the parole will be made.