By Solly Mapaila
ON APRIL 10, 1993, Janusz Waluś permanently deprived Chris Hani of his paramount right to life when he pulled the trigger, assassinating him in cold blood. Hani was a husband and father, the SACP general secretary, a member of the national executive and working committees of the ANC, and a former commander and chief-of-staff of the people’s liberation army, Umkhonto we Sizwe.
Waluś and his co-conspirator, Clive Derby-Lewis, were sentenced to death. Thanks to our Liberation Struggle for the right to life and other human rights, their death sentence was later commuted to life imprisonment.
The assassins approached the Truth and Reconciliation Commission to seek amnesty. Full disclosure of the truth was a key yardstick used by the commission in deciding whether to grant an applicant amnesty.
The commission denied them amnesty because they refused to make full disclosure of the truth. As a result, justice did not run its course in Hani’s case, as evidence showed that there were other people involved in the chain of events coalescing into his assassination.
Surely the order for the minister of justice and correctional services to release the convicted assassin on parole within 10 days from Monday, November 21, did not have due regard to the facts inhibiting the realisation of justice for Hani and his family.
For instance, the weapon used by the convicted assassins was purposefully taken from the military armoury under watertight apartheid security conditions. The order and the “rationale” underpinning it could not account for who took the weapon from the armoury and where that person or group of people was, as well as those who moved the weapon when they purposefully transmitted it with their set of hands to the next towards its final destination, the assassination of Hani.
This is just one aspect in many which the Constitutional Court should have understood itself to be referring to when it acknowledged that the assassins took weeks and weeks to plan Hani’s assassination, and to execute it.
It is therefore unfathomable to conclude that the so-called apology and remorse by the assassin, who did not make full disclosure of the truth, are sincere, while in fact all indications based on historical evidence show they were nothing but pretensions in malicious compliance to tick all the boxes in parole requirements. It is important to exercise caution because of judge-made law, also known as case law, that the order and the “rationale” underpinning it have far-reaching implications. What happened will not play itself out only in the injustice done to Hani, his family, the SACP and the wider working class, as well as the entire democratic movement that fought to bring about democracy in South Africa. It will also play itself out in other assassinations, murder, rape and other crimes.
Perpetrators of such heinous crimes sentenced to life imprisonment could simply pretend to be remorseful, apologetic, and to have changed, to obtain parole on the first day they become eligible to be considered for it.
Placing them automatically on parole based on their pretensions will undermine South Africa’s ability to discourage other assassins, murderers, rapists and human rights violators from stopping their ghastly deeds.
South Africans should be worried about whether the country will succeed to stop political and other assassinations, murder, rape and other human rights violations under the regime of the “rationale” and the order directing the release on parole of the trigger man who assassinated Hani in cold blood. It was mentioned in the opening of the judgment that among the factors the Constitutional Court had to consider was the gravity of Hani’s assassination and its implications for our transition from the apartheid regime to the current democratic dispensation, including its virtual success in not plunging our country into civil war to spill more blood.
Acting in defence of the racist and oppressive apartheid regime that presided over expropriation and super-exploitation of the oppressed African and black majority, the assassins aimed to block the transition from the apartheid regime to the democratic dispensation.
They sought perpetual continuity for the apartheid regime. However, nothing in the judgment shows this was indeed considered.
The other side that was mentioned, that the Constitutional Court had to consider, is that of the assassin.
The judgment dwelt on this side supportively, critical about the ministers of justice and correctional services, and saying virtually nothing about the written and oral submissions made by the SACP and the Hani family through our joint legal team led by advocate Muzi Sikhakhane, SC.
Not only did the text suggest that the assassin was the victim, but it also portrayed him as the only victim. How can this not be sickeningly disappointing considering the trauma, irreplaceable loss and consequences suffered by the Hani family, the SACP and the entire liberation movement?
The rights of the victims of assassination, murder, rape and other heinous human rights violations must not be ignored or subordinated to the rights of the perpetrators who pretend to be remorseful, apologetic and changed.
The way forward we will pursue will include legal considerations and strategy and mass mobilisation. Strengthening the parole legislation, policy and processes is another important consideration.
*Solly Mapaila is the General Secretary of the SACP
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