Clive Derby-Lewis has 'months to live'

Clive Derby-Lewis, convicted of the murder of SACP secretary-general Chris Hani in 1993, is launching an urgent application in the Pretoria High Court for his release. (Gallo)

Clive Derby-Lewis, convicted of the murder of SACP secretary-general Chris Hani in 1993, is launching an urgent application in the Pretoria High Court for his release. (Gallo)

Clive Derby-Lewis’ lawyers on Tuesday launched an urgent application in the high court in Pretoria in yet another bid to secure his release on medical parole.

The 78-year-old has lung cancer and was assaulted in prison earlier this year. Two previous medical parole bids were unsuccessful.

The application was postponed indefinitely after Derby-Lewis and the justice and correctional services minister reached an agreement about when his application for medical parole would be considered.

Derby-Lewis was admitted to hospital months ago suffering from a range of medical problems. He has been diagnosed with terminal lung cancer, which, according to his attorney Marius Coertze, is inoperable because he is too weak to survive surgery.

He said a scan of Derby-Lewis’s lungs showed one lung was already riddled with cancer and about to collapse.

Coertze said Derby-Lewis had been given only months to live, but correctional services had been dragging its heels on his release since May.

Shot in driveway
Derby-Lewis was convicted for the murder of SACP secretary-general, Chris Hani, who was shot dead in the driveway of his Boksburg home on April 10 1993. Janusz Walus, a Polish immigrant, pulled the trigger.

Derby-Lewis was convicted of being a co-conspirator and supplying the gun used by Walus. Walus had courted Hani for some time before the murder, even approaching him in a hotel while pretending to be a journalist. 

Walus told the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC): “I did not want to shoot him in the back. I called to Mr Hani. When he turned I fired the first shot into his body. As he turned and fell down, I fired a second shot at his head.”  

Hani’s daughter Nomakhwezi, who was 15 years old at the time, witnessed her father’s murder.

Murder sparked fears of violence
The timing of the murder, on the eve of the first democratic elections, sparked fears that violence would derail any attempts to ensure peaceful elections. 

Nelson Mandela addressed the nation shortly after Hani’s death in an appeal for calm.  “This is a watershed moment for all of us,” Mandela said. 

“Our decisions and actions will determine whether we use our pain, our grief and our outrage to move forward to what is the only lasting solution for our country – an elected government of the people, by the people and for the people. 

“We must not let the men who worship war, and who lust after blood, precipitate actions that will plunge our country into another Angola. Chris Hani was a soldier. He believed in iron discipline. He carried out instructions to the letter. He practised what he preached. 

“Any lack of discipline is trampling on the values that Chris Hani stood for. Those who commit such acts serve only the interests of the assassins, and desecrate his memory. 

“When we, as one people, act together decisively, with discipline and determination, nothing can stop us.”

Refused amnesty
Derby-Lewis and Walus applied but were refused amnesty by the TRC on April 7 1999. 
The TRC’s amnesty committee said the two had failed to make a full disclosure of the political motives for the murder, as it was “common cause” they were not acting under instruction from the Conservative Party as they claimed.

The committee found Walus was acting on instructions from Derby-Lewis.

Having been refused amnesty from prosecution by the TRC, Walus and Derby-Lewis were sentenced to death for Hani’s murder in 1993. Their sentences were later commuted to life imprisonment after the abolition of the death penalty.

‘Incompetence’ cause of declining health
Judge Andre Louw granted an order, joining the SA Communist Party and the late SACP general secretary Chris Hani’s widow Limpho as respondents in the application.

Derby-Lewis claimed in court papers administrative incompetence was the cause of his rapidly declining health, and political interference behind his repeated failure to secure parole.

Coertze said the fact that the SACP and Hani became involved proved his client was being treated as a political prisoner and not like any other inmate serving life imprisonment.

Louw ordered the Medical Parole Board to consider all medical reports applicable to Derby-Lewis by December 10 and to provide the minister with a written recommendation by December 15.

Minister Michael Masutha was ordered to consider Derby-Lewis’s application for medical parole by no later than January 31 next year, along with the representations of the SACP and Hani.

The SACP and Hani had until January 9 to submit their representations to Masutha. Masutha was ordered to provide Coertze with reasons for his decision by no later than January 31.

Sarah Evans

Sarah Evans

Sarah Evans is a Mail & Guardian news reporter.She's a recovering musician who became a journalist while interning for the Diamond Fields Advertiser in Kimberley.She spent three years reporting there before completing an internship at the Mail & Guardian Centre for Investigative Journalism (amaBhungane).Her areas of interest include crime, law, governance, and the nexus between business and politics.Her areas of disinterest include skyscrapers.
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