The F-word: Why Hani’s killer should be paroled

2012-08-11 14:41

It was inevitable that the comparison would be made. If Jackie Selebi qualified to be released from prison on medical parole, so should Clive Derby-Lewis, the man serving a life term for conspiring to murder SA Communist Party and ANC icon Chris Hani.

As much as I believe that those who fought against apartheid should not be comparable with those who sought to defend it, I am with those who believe that Derby-Lewis must be freed if he qualifies for parole.

I cannot believe Hani would have approved of discrimination in his name.

It is implausible to fathom him saying that denying a man his rights could ever be acceptable, even if that man had wronged him severely.

I am not convinced Hani could ever have found it acceptable for criminals to be discriminated against purely on the basis of who their victims were.

Hani believed the life of Joe Soap was as worthy of dignity as that of a head of state. To Hani, egalitarianism was not a slogan to be mouthed at rallies.

It was a principle he had long decided to dedicate his life to.

Hani’s life was devoted to the projected that culminated in a constitution that “provides a historic bridge between the past of a deeply divided society characterised by strife, conflict, untold suffering and injustice, and a future founded on the recognition of human rights, democracy, and peaceful coexistence and development opportunities for all South Africans, irrespective of colour, race, class, belief or sex”.

It would therefore be a dishonour to the course that Hani fought for if Derby-Lewis indeed qualifies for parole, while the only reason he then does not get it is because he killed someone too important, or too highly thought of.

The question of how the Hani family feels must necessarily be moot. Even the wretched of the earth take no pleasure in their loved ones’ lives being ended prematurely.

But to think that Hani’s family is unique is in fact to stand against what Hani lived and died for.

Hani stood for something greater than his family’s or his comrades’ peace of mind.

As a true revolutionary, Hani was inspired by a love for his people and not by hatred for his enemies. He wanted a total transformation of society and was willing to lay his life down for that.

How Derby-Lewis gets treated must be about our values and the values that we believe Hani lived and died for. It must never be about Derby-Lewis or racists like him.

We cannot defeat pettiness by nurturing our own small-mindedness.

No less a smart fellow than Albert Einstein taught that one cannot surmount a problem by employing the same mind-set against it that got you into trouble in the first place.

It is also important to correct the error – one I suspect is deliberate – that for one to qualify for medical parole, one should have seen the error of one’s ways and repented.

To qualify, you simply have to be too ill to risk the indignity of dying in jail. Contrition has nothing to do with it.

It differs from earning a pardon from the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.

There you had to tell the whole truth, show you had political motive and that you were sorry for your deeds.

It is of course true that many went through the motions and mouthed whatever was necessary, however fake, for a reprieve.

It was hard to swallow, especially at a time when wounds were open and scars were still forming, but it was the cost we were prepared to pay for the making of a new society.

To use Steve Biko’s beautiful phrase: ours was a new order that was going to give the world a more human face.

That face must shine alike on good people and incorrigible racists like Derby-Lewis. That, I believe, will make Hani’s supreme sacrifice worth it.

»Follow me on Twitter @fikelelo

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