Protests continue in South Africa against parole release of far-right killer

Janusz Walus, serving life for murder of anti-apartheid leader Chris Hani in 1993, was stabbed on Tuesday in prison by fellow inmate

South Africa’s ruling party and its alliance partners have held protests against the release on parole of the far-right gunman who assassinated anti-apartheid leader Chris Hani, to ensure his release from prison is a “walk of shame”.

Janusz Walus is scheduled to be freed from Kgosi Mampuru prison in Tshwane on Thursday following a constitutional court ruling last week that set aside a 2020 decision by the country’s minister for justice, Ronald Lamola, to deny his parole application. Walus was serving a life sentence for killing Hani, who was the leader of the South African Communist Party (SACP) as well as chief of staff of the African National Congress (ANC) party’s military wing, during the fight to overthrow the apartheid regime.

The Polish immigrant had originally been sentenced to death for shooting the popular Hani outside his Boksburg home in 1993, but this was later changed to life in prison after the death penalty was abolished in 1995 in post-apartheid South Africa.

Over the years Walus has repeatedly applied for parole, but all his applications had been turned down by the minister for justice. The Pretoria high court upheld Mr Lamola’s 2020 refusal to grant Walus parole, and the supreme court of appeal subsequently refused to set aside that decision when the latter applied for it to do so.


However, on November 21st, chief justice Raymond Zondo found that the minister’s decision not to grant Walus parole was irrational and ordered his release within 10 days. He added that more than 15 years had lapsed since he first became eligible for early release.

Judge Zondo also pointed out that the minister had previously admitted that Walus met all the requirements for parole, that he was an exemplary prisoner and had several times shown remorse for killing Hani.

But the court’s decision to grant early release to a man who sought to derail the country’s transition to democracy from white-minority rule, with the help of right-wing MP Clive Derby-Lewis (who was jailed for life for his part in the conspiracy, and died of lung cancer in 2016, a year after his release on medical parole), has sparked outrage and anger across the country.

Following the ruling Hani’s widow, Limpho Hani, accused the judge of having “failed the country”, and called the judgment “completely diabolical”. She has applied to the constitutional court to have the parole ruling rescinded, saying the judgment had “a patent error” as her submissions were not fully examined.

Speaking in advance of Wednesday’s protest by the ANC, SACP and trade union federation Cosatu, Gauteng Province ANC chairperson Panyaza Lesufi said that when Walus leaves prison “he must not get a hero’s welcome [in Poland, where he wants to serve his parole]”.

“Janusz Walus has really inflicted pain, and the irony is that the freedom he wanted to stop [South Africans achieving] is the freedom he wants to utilise to get himself out of prison,” Mr Lesufi told reporters.

On Tuesday evening it emerged that the rage sweeping the nation over the release of Walus had seeped into the correctional facility where he is being held.

According to the prison authorities, the 69-year-old was seriously injured earlier in the day when he was attacked and stabbed by a fellow inmate while standing in a lunch queue.

In a short statement, the correctional services department confirmed the “unfortunate stabbing incident” involving Walus, before adding he was in a stable condition and getting the “necessary care”. How this affects Walus’s ability to take up his early release remains unclear, but a request to serve his parole in Poland has been turned down. Although his South African citizenship was revoked in 2017, Walus has been granted temporary residency so he can serve out his parole in the country, home affairs minister Aaron Motsoaledi said on Monday.

Bill Corcoran

Bill Corcoran

Bill Corcoran is a contributor to The Irish Times based in South Africa