Cape Town - While Janusz Walus, the killer of one of the country’s most prominent freedom fighters, was set free on parole by Chief Justice Zondo, Chris Hani’s comrade Jacob Zuma was faced with the prospect of returning to finish his prison sentence in a case emanating from defying Zondo.
Hani’s widow, Limpo Hani, as well as members of the SACP have opposed Walus’s parole from the start, arguing that the Polish man had not shown true remorse, nor did he tell the truth about who was actually behind the killing.
They attended Monday’s judgment, after which a clearly angry Limpho Hani stormed out of court. She told the media that Justice Zondo had totally disregarded the Hani family and the SACP in his judgment.
She said he never referred to them, but instead focused on Walus. Hani said Justice Zondo had “failed this country”.
“I have never seen anything like this,” a visibly upset Limpho Hani said. SACP general secretary Solly Mapaila described the judgment as “sickeningly disappointing”.
Walus was arrested within hours of the April 10, 1993, assassination of SACP leader Hani outside his Boksburg home.
But on Monday, history was made when the Constitutional Court ordered Walus’s release on parole. This means that Walus will spend his 70th birthday in January outside the walls of the Kgosi Mampuru Correctional Centre in Pretoria, his home for the past 29 years.
Justice Zondo on Monday ordered Justice and Correctional Services Minister Ronald Lamola to take all the necessary steps to place Walus on parole within 10 days of the judgment. He left the conditions of parole to Lamola to decide.
In his judgment, Justice Zondo said that the minister’s decision to refuse parole to Walus was irrational and stood to be set aside. Walus turned to the apex court after the minister in 2020 once again refused him parole.
Justice Zondo pointed out that the minister had admitted that Walus had met all the requirements for parole, that he was a model prisoner and that he had shown remorse for the killing.
The minister, however, said all the requirements were met, save for two.
Those were the nature of the murder and the remarks made by the court that had sentenced Walus, followed by later remarks regarding the murder made by the Supreme Court of Appeal (SCA).
In sentencing him to death at the time, the judge, among others, said it was a cold-blooded murder of a prominent person, which had the potential to have far-reaching consequences for the country and could have plunged it into civil war.
The judge also at the time said that the murder had been well planned over a period of weeks. But, Justice Zondo said these things were not now within Walus’s means to change.
He questioned how the two factors preventing him from being released on parole – the sentencing remarks and the fact that it was a cold-blooded murder – would change if the minister decided to release him on parole at a later stage.
“He may serve 30 or 40 years in jail, simply because of these factors that he cannot change. The minister’s decision is thus not rational,” the judge said.
Walus’s death sentence was commuted to life imprisonment in 2000.
He also had a year reduced from this sentence for credits he had obtained while in the Kgosi Mampuru prison in Pretoria. This meant that he was eligible to be considered for parole in 2005, Justice Zondo said.
“I am mindful that in assassinating Hani, he nearly plunged this country into civil war,” he said. But he added that the fathers and mothers of this country endorsed the Bill of Rights, which was there for all, even those who fought democracy and those who supported apartheid with all their hearts.
Among those freedom fighters who were nearly killed fighting the apartheid government was Zuma, who on Monday suffered a yet another blow after the SCA found his medical parole was unlawful and invalid.
This means that Zuma could return to Estcourt prison where he was to spend 15 months for contempt of court after refusing to appear before the Zondo Commission of Inquiry, citing alleged bias by then chairperson Zondo.
It could also mean that Zuma can turn to the Constitutional Court headed by the same Zondo. In the SCA, Zuma was appealing a decision by the North Gauteng High Court, Pretoria, that the former president’s placement on medical parole was unlawful and that he should return to jail.
It ruled that Zuma’s medical parole was unlawful and that then correctional services commissioner Arthur Fraser was not entitled to order his release.
Zuma’s appeal was dismissed with costs by the full bench led by Justice T Makgoka.
The SCA said: “In December the high court reviewed the decision of the commissioner, set aside, and substituted it with one rejecting Mr Zuma’s application for medical parole. It consequently directed that Mr Zuma be returned to the department to serve out the remainder of his sentence of imprisonment.”
Department spokesperson Singabakho Nxumalo said they respected the court’s decision.
He said: “We will study the full judgment in seeking to clarify a way forward within the requisite time frame.”
The ANC in KwaZulu-Natal said it was comforted that Zuma will not be returning to jail.
“This is good for stability in this province and the country. As the ANC in KwaZulu-Natal we have not changed our position,” said ANC provincial secretary Bheki Mtolo.