Derby-Lewis apologises to Hani's widow

Pretoria - Clive Derby-Lewis tendered an apology through his lawyer to Limpho Hani, widow of SA Communist Party (SACP) leader Chris Hani, in his application to the High Court in Pretoria for medical parole for Hani's murder.

''I again apologise unconditionally to her...'' his lawyer advocate Roelof Du Plessis said on his behalf, as Mrs Hani sat in the front row of the public gallery.

Du Plessis said Derby-Lewis invited her to visit him at the Eugene Marais Hospital ''at which time I will tender a personal apology to Mrs Hani''.

Seventy-nine-year-old Derby-Lewis was admitted to the hospital from prison to be treated for terminal lung cancer and he wants to be released on medical parole to die at home with his family. His lawyer said that according to an assessment last December, he had six months to live.

He has spent 21 years in jail for his part in Hani's murder in the dying days of apartheid, and it was not true that he was not remorseful, Du Plessis said.

He set about submitting numerous documents to prove this. He said the latest approach to Mrs Hani was effective immediately and he wanted to apologise to her ''face to face''.

Mrs Hani listened intently from her seat in the front row of the public gallery, a red shawl draped over her shoulders. After the apology she leaned to her companions and they whispered together for a while, and continued listening to the submissions to Judge Selby Baqwa.

'Repeatedly expressed remorse'

Du Plessis said Derby-Lewis had repeatedly expressed remorse, contrary to Justice and Correctional Services Minister Michael Masuthu saying he had not shown any when his last parole application was denied in January.

From a pastor to prison psychologists - Du Plessis presented reams of reports quoting Derby-Lewis saying he was sorry for what he had done, and for the harm he had caused Mrs Hani. He had also become a committed Christian.

He had asked SACP official Jeremy Cronin and lawyer George Bizos to be allowed to address Mrs Hani at the Truth and Reconciliation Commission in the 1990s, but they had said no.

Derby Lewis was arrested for providing the gun used by Janusz Walus, a Polish immigrant, to kill Hani in the driveway of his Boksburg home on 10 April 1993. 

South Africa was on the brink of its first democratic elections at the time. The Conservative Party Derby-Lewis belonged to was opposed to racial integration so it and the SACP were poles apart politically.

He was found guilty of conspiracy to murder and sentenced to death, but this was commuted to a life sentence after South Africa abolished capital punishment.

At the time he said he was acting ''in defence of my people, who were threatened with a Communist takeover". He was also denied amnesty.

Derby-Lewis's wife, also a former Conservative Party politician, has kept the campaign for her husband's release going over the years, but on Monday, she chose to not speak to journalists at the court.

Du Plessis said Masuthu had not applied his mind when deciding on Derby-Lewis's parole.

He called for the same compassion shown to former national police commissioner Jackie Selebi, who was released after being sentenced for corruption, and who died this January while on medical parole.

Derby-Lewis had been victimised by the long periods it had taken the department to consider his parole applications - the first was in 2007 - and the court should show an example of what compassion and the protection of dignity meant in South Africa, he said.

''What is expected of a person who has done wrong to do? Once he dies in prison My Lord, you can think for yourself, it is going to give rise to a number of unstable people to grasp that and deal with on a political basis.

''He does not deserve to become a martyr for other people's causes and other people's warped view of society.''

These people would misuse his name and his position, and ''it would be a shame''.

'He deserves to be treated with dignity'

Du Plessis said he and his attorney had had ''grave difficulty'' in dealing with the case in a dignified matter, outside of politics, outside of media hype.

''Because this is what he deserves, he deserves to be treated with dignity.''

He said Derby-Lewis had no political ambition and wished to die at home.

It was also inconceivable how the Medical Parole Application Board had made its decision.

Derby-Lewis's application had also been turned down because he had stage 3b and not stage 4 cancer, but his lawyers say he does actually have stage 4 cancer, which is complicated by other conditions such as heart problems.

He acknowledged that the medical tests report relied on by Masutha to deny parole was not in Derby-Lewis's name, but this was for security reasons. 

The application to review Masutha's decision will continue in the afternoon.

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