To whom does the equality clause in our constitution apply? Clearly it does not apply to Clive Derby-Lewis, the 78-year-old deathbed ridden killer of Chris Hani. He has been denied parole on medical grounds despite having terminal cancer. To add insult to injury nobody is willing to disclose the reasons why.
This is not the first time Derby-Lewis has been shunned for parole. Thrice has he been denied ordinary parole. Each time the parole services board had recommended he be released. But the then Correctional Services Minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula, who had the final say in releasing him, refused to grant him parole.
As he has terminal cancer, he qualifies for possible release under the new medical parole rules that saw former police commissioner Jackie Selebi released. Unlike Derby-Lewis, Selebi's parole application was processed in less than two months and he now enjoys freedom.
Schabir Schaik was also granted parole on questionable grounds. He was said to be at an advanced stage of forfeiting his life. However, to this day this has not happened. Both Schaik and Selebi enjoy the favor of political masters who could trample on the law and procedures in order to see their comrades walk free. Derby-Lewis enjoys no such privileges.
Of course Derby-Lewis is a scum who killed one of South Africa’s gallant and most revered freedom fighter, Chris Hani. But having served such a long time in prison and at an advanced age with a terminal illness what harm can he do to anyone? Are we so petty, as a nation, that a man on the verge of death would be denied a decent exit in the company of his loved ones, because we want to settle petty political scores? Is the tri-partite alliance relationship more important to preserve than granting one old man a final wish to go and expire at home?
Apartheid style techniques are used to keep Derby-Lewis in prison. Like Sobukwe, whom the apartheid government went as far as passing a law to ensure his perpetual detention, we see a similar trait with Derby-Lewis, except this time there is no formal legislation to endorse it. Only politicians behind curtains bargain for him to remain in prison because of their hatred toward Hani’s killer.
What has happened to our conscience as a society? Are we so paranoid that even dying men scare us? Is this the South Africa Nelson Mandela once envisioned as a society within which ‘none would see the oppression of one by another?’ I abhor the actions of Clive Derby-Lewis some 20 years ago, but on humanitarian grounds can the old man be released to go and die in peace at home…