Johannesburg - On the coldest evening of the year, terminally ill Clive Derby-Lewis headed home from prison to the warmth of his family and friends.
Wife Gaye was waiting, with a bottle of bubbly, some sandwiches and his loved ones. It was his first taste of freedom in 22 years, since being locked up as an accomplice in the murder of Chris Hani in 1993.
His wife Gaye, who could not contain her excitement, said she had made every effort to make him feel welcome at his new home, adding she was thrilled to finally have her husband back.
“It’s been an uphill battle but I’m glad it is over. We’ve brought out the champagne and I’ve organised sandwiches. Everybody is here. We just want to celebrate this moment,” she said.
Gaye said she had prepared a warm room for her partner with a table and a mini-library, adding she hoped he liked it.
Derby-Lewis had his parole conditions set out on Friday and is believed to have signed them.
Justice and Correctional Services Minister Advocate Michael Masutha and the Correctional Supervision and Parole Board (CSPB) were forced to comply with an order set down by Judge Selby Baqwa at the North Gauteng High Court last week.
A statement from the ministry said in terms of the court order, the minister and the CSPB of Kgosi Mampuru II Correctional Centre were required to determine conditions for the release of Derby-Lewis on medical parole by no later than Friday, June 5.
“This means that offender Derby-Lewis has been on parole upon issuing of the court order, and the only outstanding matter was determining the conditions by the minister and the CSPB,” the ministry said.
“These parole conditions have been set and communicated to the offender.
“It is important to note that the offender is currently in hospital, where he is receiving medical treatment.”
Gaye said she was not aware of the precise conditions of her husband’s parole.
“I’ve got to wait for him before we plan on how he will stay here, what he can comply with and what will be required to do from the doctors while he is here,” she said.
Asked if she was concerned about her husband’s deteriorating health and the whether she had little time to spend with him, she replied: “Obviously his is stage four of the cancer. We’re just taking it one day at a time. At this (time) we really can’t plan anything.”
Gaye said while she was happy, she was worried about how things were going to pan out at home.
“We’re both in our seventies now. We’re no longer swinging from the chandeliers. He hasn’t sat in a room and ate at his table in a very long time, so we’ll see how that goes.”
She lamented the journey she had taken to ensure her husband’s release.
“It took seven attempts to get to where we are today. Tell me who has been denied parole seven times in this country? Through it all, politicians have been hell-bent to see him suffer. We’re just happy with Judge Baqwa’s decision,” she said.
She said she would miss the prison warders the most at Kgosi Mampuru.
Masutha will allegedly convey his decision to comply with the court order to Hani’s widow, Limpho.
In the judgment on May 29, the Pretoria High Court, Masutha’s original decision to deny Derby-Lewis parole was set aside.
Masutha had earlier this year turned down Derby-Lewis’s application to be placed on medical parole and found the was not terminally ill.
While two doctors were of the opinion that Derby-Lewis suffered from stage four lung cancer and gave him six months to live (which gives him until next month to live), a third medical practitioner found he was in stage three cancer and it was not spreading.
Masutha accepted the opinion that Derby-Lewis suffered from stage 3B cancer and concluded that he did not satisfy the criteria for medical parole as set out in the Correctional Services Act.
“He just wants to die with dignity, at home with his family. It is an issue of humanity. The minister should have shown some compassion,” Derby-Lewis’s advocate Roelof du Plessis told the court at the time.
Derby-Lewis spent 22 years behind bars for his role in the assassination, outside his Boksburg home in 1993.
On Friday night, the SACP expressed its disappointment and condemnation at Judge Baqwa’s ruling.
“Derby-Lewis and his collaborator Janusz Walus cold-bloodedly murdered our former general secretary Chris Hani.
“They denied the working class and our country continued leadership from an outstanding revolutionary leader and his wife and children a husband and father for the rest of their lives. The SACP will explore its options,” the party said.
It added that Judge Baqwa was “overzealous” and had stepped out of the bounds of his jurisdiction.
“The SACP strongly believes the court has overstepped its mark by blurring our constitutional principle of the separation of powers and by usurping the powers of the executive.”