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Hani: Time for an uncomfortable reality

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IOL hani's killers

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Clive Derby-Lewis and Janusz Waluz deserve to be treated like the South Africans they are, says the writer.

Clive Derby-Lewis and Janusz Waluz deserve to be treated like the South Africans they are, says Jovial Rantao.

Impossible and as painful as it may be, we should remove emotions when dealing with the debate on whether on not the killers of this South African hero, who have served more than 20 years in jail, should be released on parole.

Debate raged this week after the Department of Justice announced that there had been a positive recommendation, from the parole board, that the killers of the legendary Chris Hani should be considered for early release from custodial imprisonment.

Much of the debate has centred around whether of not the killers deserve to be released.

However, the uncomfortable reality for all of us is that Clive Derby-Lewis and Janusz Waluz – their unchanged right-wing views and their criminal acts nothwithstanding – deserve to be treated like the South Africans they are.

This is our reality. We have presented to us as a nation, a moment when he have to pause and do the right thing. And that right thing may not make emotional and political sense. This is the moment when our commitment to being a caring society, in love with justice, is being tested.

This is the time when we have to display to ourselves and to those who have heaped praise on us for our ability to reconcile and build a new nation, that, in dealing with this case, we are not driven by the desire for revenge.

This occasion also calls on us to do some introspection. How far have we come in terms of truly reconciling with our past? And how have we done in deepening the culture of human rights?

While I understand the emotional reaction of Hani’s widow, Limpho, to the prospects that her husband’s killer could be freed from jail, I cannot but help thinking how unfair it is to expect someone in her position to bless the release of the two.

The only person who will understand the pain that she, her children and family went through following the tragic loss of her husband from a bullet fired by Waluz, is herself.

Very few individuals will have the ability to forgive and forget those who have robbed them of a life-long partner and their children of a parent. And if Mrs Hani, for whatever reason, feels that she can’t forgive, or that her rights as a victim have been violated, we have to respect that she has the right to feel that way.

The nation should be sensitive to her strong feelings but the decision on whether or not Hani’s killers should be released cannot depend on her say-so. The sole determinant, as with all other cases managed dispassionately by the legal process, should be the laws of this country.

This is why it is important that we should also, difficult as it may be, remove the politics from the discussion. Hani was a freedom fighter unrivalled, a man who many believed could have been president of this country. However, it is important that his death is treated no different from the thousands of his own comrades who died in the struggle for freedom.

Given what we know about Hani, the man, the comrade and the leader, we would not be wrong if we said that, faced with the same situation today, Hani would have said that the law must take its course and must be applied to Derby-Lewis and Waluz, in the same manner that it is dispensed to everyone.

And if the law takes its course, the it will have to take into consideration that Derby-Lewis and Walusz probably qualifies for parole because he has served more than the minimum 15 years as stipulated by the law. He is also 65 years old and qualifies for some special dispensation. His health is not great. He has been in and out of the hospital to receive medical treatment. He has, by all accounts, been a well behaved prisoner whose conduct should be recognised and rewarded by the authorities. Remove, for a moment, the name Clive Derby-Lewis from the equation. Any prisoner who met this conditions will be strongly considered for release from custodial imprisonment by the authorities.

We should treat this South African, whose action we detest, whose political affiliation we deplore in the same manner that we want to be treated.

Failure to deal with our anger, bitterness and to release this killer from prison says more about us than it does about him and his criminal actions.

This is a massive test for us as a nation. However, it is a test that we must pass. Let us free Derby-Lewis and free ourselves from the anger and bitterness. Let their action and lack of remorse be their own cancer.

* Jovial Rantao is the editor of The Sunday Independent.

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