Derby-Lewis apology 'lip service'

Pretoria - Clive Derby-Lewis's apology to the family of murdered SACP leader Chris Hani  was "lip service", the High Court in Pretoria heard on Monday, during an application for a review of the denial of his medical parole.

"Our raw submission is that the applicants are just paying lip service to remorse, particularly in light of the submission we are about to make," said Marumo Moerane SC, for Justice Minister Michael Masutha.

Hani's widow Limpho said "yes" loudly from her front row seat in the public gallery. Derby-Lewis's wife Gaye sat a few benches behind her.

Lawyers for 79-year-old Derby-Lewis are applying for an urgent review of Masutha's decision, announced on January 30, not to grant him parole. They want him released on medical parole so he can die at home.

"To use a colloquialism, we say talk is cheap," continued Moerane, who called Hani a "noble icon" in his opening statement.

"To mix the metaphor, the proof of the pudding is in the eating."

Mrs Hani left the court room briefly, then returned and seemed unsettled. After a while she noisily ripped a page out of a notebook and passed it to the attorneys.

Earlier, Derby-Lewis's counsel Roelof du Plessis said his client had repeatedly shown remorse, which came into play when deciding whether a person would reoffend. He read from reams of reports saying this.

He said his client had tried to apologise to Mrs Hani at the Truth and Reconcilation Commission (TRC) in the 1990s, but SACP leader Jeremy Cronin and lawyer George Bizos had said no.

According to assessments over the years he was remorseful and a committed Christian.

Du Plessis extended an invitation to Mrs Hani to visit Derby-Lewis in the Eugene Marais hospital so he could apologise to her "face to face". 

Moerane questioned these approaches. He said the apology at the TRC was not in the presence of the Hani family, and when Derby-Lewis was told that the TRC Act did not require an apology, he withdrew it.

The court heard earlier that this was in dispute.

'Merely supplied the firearm'

Moerane said that on June 9 last year, it was noted in a correctional services report on Derby-Lewis’s risk of reoffending, that he said he did not play an active part in the crime he was imprisoned for.

He said he "merely supplied the firearm with which Chris Hani was killed".

"My Lord, is this evidence of remorse?" Moerane asked Judge Selby Baqwa.

"We submit it is not. And this is as recently as last year.  In the absence of remorse, genuine remorse on his part, for the assassination of Mr Hani, the denial of parole is justifiable."

He said according to the Correctional Services Act to be released on medical parole with terminal cancer, it had to be stage 4. Derby-Lewis was at stage 3b last year when parole was decided by a Medical Parole Advisory Board of 10 members.

Stage 4 cancer

Two independent doctors however found he had stage 4 cancer. One of the independent doctors gave him six months to live, last December.

"The upshot of this is that the applicant has not been diagnosed with stage 4 cancer," Moerane said.

Moerane said Masutha was not being rigid as he was bound by the rule of law and had to be seen to be acting even-handedly and consistently.

He had not overstepped his powers by proclaiming on medical issues. He was supposed to take advice, and consider recommendations, which he did.

Derby-Lewis was responding marginally to chemotherapy and radiation and was able to perform "self-care" duties and, said Moerane.

Ubuntu and compassion were taken into account, but "it is not an easy decision" by Masutha, Moerane said.

Derby-Lewis provided the gun used by Janusz Walus, a Polish immigrant, to kill Hani in the driveway of his Boksburg home on April 10 1993, a year before South Africa's first democratic elections.

Derby-Lewis was an MP for the Conservative Party which was opposed to racial integration and abolishing apartheid in South Africa. The SACP and the Conservative Party were poles apart politically.

Derby-Lewis's wife Gaye and her companions appeared to feel strongly about the submissions, whispering among themselves from time to time.

Court was adjourned to Tuesday. Baqwa noted the application was an urgent one.

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