Mercy for Clive-Derby Lewis?

2014-06-15 16:42

I know and I accept that I am going to be skewered and eviscerated for this but my response is an unqualified yes.

I stand on record, albeit unpopular, to join in the plea, as one editorial of a nationally circulating Sunday newspaper ended with the prosaic wisdom and hope that perhaps his release to spend his "final days in the bosom of his family and at peace" would advance reconciliation. (Sunday Tribune 15.6.2014)

Lets not strain or dilute the quality of our mercy for its that self same mercy which blesses the soul of comrade Chris Hani too.Twenty years later, have we moved on?

Its debatable. Its time to move on and not be reminded by vile and calculating killers who almost drove the country over the precipice. Lets remind ourself that government is about to release Eugene De Kock, of Vlakplaas vintage. De Kock snuffed out the lives of hundreds of members of our liberation movement. I see no difference between standards that apply for his release on parole and the release on medical parole for Clive Derby-Lewis.

We thrive under a constitutional democracy which extols the quality of human dignity as a foundational human right value that even the likes of an unrepentant Clive Derby-Lewis, even though he denied that Africans could possess, cannot be excluded from. Even the jurisprudence of advanced democracies, such as the USA recognise this.

Our very own home grown jurisprudence endorses this. Conside the case of Stanfield v Minister of Correctional Services and Others () [2003] ZAWCHC 46; [2003] 4 All SA 282 (C) (12 September 2003)

Permit me to quote verbatim of what the judge said about a prisoner who suffered from ischaemic heart disease as well as incurable lung cancer and who had been turned down for medical parole.

Our courts, it was stated at para [87] are enjoined by section 39(2) of the Constitution, Act 108 of 1996, to promote the spirit, purport and objects of the Bill of Rights when interpreting section 69 of the Act. Section 7(1) of the Constitution describes the Bill of Rights, contained in chapter 2 thereof, as "a cornerstone of democracy" that "enshrines the rights of all people" and "affirms the values of human dignity, equality and freedom".

In this regard , it went on to declare at para [88] "section 9(1) of the Constitution propounds the value of equality by making it clear that "[e]veryone is equal before the law and has the right to equal protection and benefit of the law". Human dignity comes to the fore in section 10, where we are told that "[e]veryone has inherent dignity and the right to have their dignity respected and protected". Personal freedom is guaranteed in section 12 in the form of various rights, including (in section 12(1)(e) thereof) the right "not to be treated or punished in a cruel, inhuman or degrading way".

Every sentenced prisoner, declared the judgment at para [89] is " entitled to respect for and recognition of his equality, human dignity and freedom, in the sense of his right not to be treated or punished in a cruel, inhuman or degrading way. Section 35(2)(e) ensures that he has the right "to conditions of detention that are consistent with human dignity, including at least exercise and the provision, at state expense, of adequate accommodation, nutrition, reading material and medical treatment". What will be "consistent with human dignity" in any particular case will, of course, depend on the facts and circumstances of each such case.'

Indeed, "the right to acceptable conditions of detention or imprisonment, consistent with the tenets of human dignity has long been established in our jurisprudence.( at para [89]) Although the freedom of the detainees had been impaired by the legal process of imprisonment, "they were entitled to respect for what remained". In this regard the learned judge said:

They were entitled to all their personal rights and personal dignity not temporarily taken away by law, or necessarily inconsistent with the circumstances in which they had been placed".

So......

Its time we really moved on and not have our development be arrested by divisive issues as to whether Mr Lewis should be released or not.

Mine is a plea not to be confused with forgiveness.That virtuous privilege lies with Limpho Hani and family and I respect her decision. Government has to act with even hands, driven by the very virtue that Nelson Mandela possessed when he embraced Betsy Verwoerd in the spirit of reconciliation and forgiveness. It has to make a decision tempered with the very values that Mr Lewis regarded with contempt conditioned as he was by a sense of evil messianism.

That was a past and we cannot let that arrest our development forward.

We cannot achieve a sustainable reconciliation if we allow Mr Lewis to die in prison. He would become a martyr for rabid racists who lurk in crevices seeking a cause to extol what former president De Klerk did as a betrayal of their ignoble supremacist cause.

Let's not be silenced by the evil that Mr Lewis perpetrated and just when we accepted the medical parole of other compromised criminals and let us call upon Minister Masuta to do the right thing.

Saber Ahmed Jazbhay

15.6.2014

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