Clive Derby-Lewis. File photo

Pretoria - Repeated attacks on Clive Derby-Lewis, one of the men convicted of killing SACP secretary general Chris Hani, highlight the perilous condition of South African jails, an attorney said on Friday.

Derby-Lewis's attorney Marius Coetzee said his frail client was severely injured in two attacks from inmates at Pretoria's Kgosi Mampuru Central Correctional Centre.

“The attacks this year were three weeks apart. In the first attack his left arm bones were broken. Correctional services took him to hospital and sent him back,” Coetzee said.

“In the second attack, he was stabbed with a piece of glass, again from behind. That perforated his right lung. Medical personnel cleaned the wound, stitched three stitches, declared him fit and sent him back without a proper examination of the condition.”

He said Derby-Lewis was bleeding internally, and two days later his right lung punctured. He was taken to Pretoria's Eugene Marais Hospital.

“That is the same lung where his lung cancer is in. If Clive was in the care of correctional services (when the lung ruptured) that evening, he would have died in his cell,” said Coetzee.

He rejected claims by senior government officials that prisons were safe.

“That's nonsense. I shudder to think what the average common criminal goes through. There was another prisoner murdered in that prison two weeks after the attack on Clive.

“That murder was swept under the carpet. It is safer to go to war than to be in the Kgosi Mampuru (former Pretoria Central) prison.”

Coetzee said the government was in contravention of several United Nations conventions against torture and inhumane treatment of prisoners.

“It's one thing to talk about human rights and another to apply those rights. In Clive's case, there is no even-handedness, and it is injustice,” said Coetzee.

“What has correctional services done since 2007 to apply justice for this man? The answer is nothing.”

Placard-waving activists from the Front Nasionaal gathered at the entrance of correctional services' offices in central Pretoria on Friday. They wanted Derby-Lewis's immediate release.

Hani was shot dead in the driveway of his home in Boksburg, on the East Rand, on April 10, 1993.

Derby-Lewis, who was sentenced to 25 years behind bars, has already served more than 20 years of his sentence. The 78-year-old, who was diagnosed with cancer, has twice been denied medical parole.