'This decision is painful': Hani's friends share stories about his kindness as they protest Walus parole

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  • Unions and politicians protested against the release of Chris Hani's killer, Janusz Walus, on Saturday.
  • Almost 30 years after his death, those gathered say it feels as if Hani's death had just occurred. 
  • A friend speaks about Hani's kindness and how he treated the MK fighters in Botswana. 

The parole of Janusz Walus is a "second death" for Chris Hani, say the slain leader's friends.

And 29 years later, they feel the pain of his assassination as if it had just happened.  

On Saturday, a group of leaders from the SACP, COSATU, MKMVA and ANC gathered on Constitution Hill, Johannesburg to voice their dissatisfaction that the Constitutional Court has granted the parole of Walus.

Speaking to a handful of gathered members and media, they said that they revered Hani's kindness most. And, had he survived, he would have been a capable leader, even president, and corruption issues would probably not exist.

They spoke about his death in a Christ-like manner, saying that he had died for our freedom and that his killer should never be free. 

Panyaza Lesufi, newly minted as Gauteng Premier, is leading the campaign to keep Walus in prison.

He described the pain of his death as a wound that had just been picked open.

ALSO READ | 29 years in jail for Chris Hani's murder: Who is Janusz Walus?

He and other leaders say that Walus should not be eligible for parole because he has never spoken about those behind Hani's assassination and also, because he has not shown remorse.

The pain they feel comes not only from the leadership they believe the country lost, but on a more personal level, the loss of a man who has been described as kind and sensitive to suffering.

MK veteran Dan Hatto was at the protest and described the man who led him and became a friend in an MK camp in Botswana.

In 1987 Hani left Zimbabwe for Botswana to run MK operations on the Botswana, Zimbabwe border. He was later appointed as MK chief of staff.

'Selfless leader'

Hatto was a young MK member working in Botswana.

In 1988 Hatto and three other young MK members were targeted in an attack which saw their house burned to the ground.  

At the time, the South African Defence Force had conducted several raids on MK members.

ALSO READ | Janusz Walus - It’s done, let him go - he will always be the man who took SA to the brink

Hatto survived and was received by Hani at the leader's camp.

"I was the only person who survived. I arrived with just a plastic bag that had my toothbrush in it," said Hatto. "He asked me about the bag, and I explained that I had lost everything in the fire.

"He gave me two shirts, two jackets and a pair of trousers. This is the type of person he was. This is the person who made us who we are today.

"Chris knew each of us by name, he was a selfless leader, and he would always ask about our families. And the way he would talk about our families was as if he knew them."

Chris Hani talks to the press.
Chris Hani. File Photo.
Gallo Images Gallo Images, Die Burger Archives

Hatto said that if Walus had spent time with Hani, he would have understood how [the different races] could live together.

"The first thing Hani asked when I met him was not a report on the raid, but how I was feeling and if I needed clothes."

In another story, Hatto described a night when Hani was stung by a bee.

"We woke up one morning in the camp, and Chris had a swollen face. He was stung by a bee, but he refused to go to the hospital despite the swelling.

"He was the type of leader who was always among his soldiers. He would not leave us.

"This is the kind of leader we are talking about. That's why we are here today [in protest of the parole]. This decision [to parole Walus] is painful.

"We want honesty and truth, we want to know who was behind the killing, and we're not being recognised."

SACP general secretary Solly Mapaila said the group is working to overturn the decision by the court. He said they would be outside waiting for Walus when he was released.

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