Clive Derby-Lewis

Clive Derby-Lewis’s release would fit with what Chris Hani lived and died for, says Fikile-Ntsikelelo Moya.

Pretoria - I’ll save you time and go straight to the point. Clive Derby-Lewis should be released on parole – he qualifies for early release, but he killed the wrong person.

One of the main reasons for opposing the release of Derby-Lewis and the man who actually pulled the trigger, Janusz Walus, is that they have not outed the other conspirators in the plot to kill Chris Hani, the SA Communist Party and ANC leader.

I have never understood why the purveyors of this conspiracy theory have not volunteered the names of these co-conspirators, for they seem so certain of their involvement.

This in my book makes them as guilty as the two fellows they allegedly hate.

When one drills down to it, the only reason that Derby-Lewis has not been released or granted pardon by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission is the identity of his victim.

It is as though it would have been perfectly acceptable had he murdered some other family’s father, son, husband or uncle.

Derby-Lewis is, therefore, not just guilty of murder but of murdering the wrong person.

It is unfortunate that there are some who misread parole to mean pardon. They are on the opposite of the scale of those who go on a wild rampage when a suspect is granted bail, believing it to be a “fine”.

The most important reason Derby-Lewis must be released is that it would fit with what Hani lived and died for.

Keeping Derby-Lewis in jail is to live by the rules of the narrow-minded racists and not those of forward thinking revolutionaries such as Hani was.

None of us doubts that Hani sacrificed his youth to fight for a South Africa where, in the language of the Freedom Charter, all would be equal before the law.

By equal, we must understand that even the scum of the earth and the saints shall come be treated as equals before the law.

This means that if in terms of objective factors a person appearing before the parole board qualified for early release, they should be let out regardless of colour, sex, religious affiliation or any other factor.

I admit that it is not palatable but that is why we defer these things to professionals who are (or ought to be) trained to look beyond their own prejudices and sensibilities.

The only question the parole board must exercise itself with is how would it have ruled had the identities of the perpetrator and the victims been you or me. Anything else is unfair discrimination. To use a word familiar with all of us – it is apartheid.

The trouble with Derby-Lewis’s parole is that we have made it too much about what the parolee stood for instead of what Hani stood for.

I never met Hani but from what I have heard and read, I doubt if he would have approved of unfair discrimination practised in his name.

I doubt if he would have approved that a person who otherwise would have qualified for a certain right or privilege would have that taken away from them because of who they are or the colour of their skin.

Denying a man parole solely on the grounds of who he and his victim is, is unfair to all other families that have seen the killer of their loved one released on parole.

It is saying that because those families’ loved ones were not decorated struggle heroes, their premature deaths are acceptable.

There are some who argue that the deaths brought the country to the brink of a racial war and their release could return us there.


If courts and parole boards make their decisions in anticipation of how others might react, then we might as well have not have the courts and directly ask the mob if a particular ruling will be acceptable to them.

Chris Hani stood for a higher ideal. As with many of his generation who were intellectually gifted and brave, he could easily have chosen an easier route and still be alive and well today. And obscure.

He did not. It is only fair that in honouring his memories we also seek the high road even if it leads to discomfiting conclusions such as seeing a man who killed him walk free.

By a wicked twist of fate, keeping Derby-Lewis in prison purely on the grounds of who he is makes Hani’s life’s work and death all in vain.

* Fikile-Ntsikelelo Moya is executive editor of the Pretoria News

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