Parole board to pronounce on Derby-Lewis within 30 days

The Pretoria Correctional Supervision and Parole Board (CSPB) on Wednesday heard submissions on whether to grant parole to South African Communist Party (SACP) leader Chris Hani’s killer, Clive Derby-Lewis.

“The parole board is expected to study all submissions, apply their mind and make their recommendations to the National Council on Correctional Services within 30 days,” said correctional services department spokesperson Manelisi Wolela in a statement.

“We wish to state that the parole board hearings on applications of lifers is only the beginning of a process that culminates in a decision to grant or not to grant parole by the minister of correctional services.”

According to the Correctional Services Act of 1998, those serving life sentences can only be granted parole by the minister on recommendation from the National Council of Correctional Services (NCCS), he said.

Submissions were received by the Hani family, the SACP, the Congress of South African Trade Unions and lawyers representing Derby-Lewis.

Derby-Lewis was convicted for his part in the murder of the SACP general secretary in 1993. He was sentenced to death, but this was commuted to life imprisonment when capital punishment was abolished.

His last application for parole was dismissed by the High Court in Pretoria in March last year.

News of Derby-Lewis’s parole bid was met with fierce opposition.

Independent Online reported that Hani family lawyer, George Bizos, would put forward a range of arguments “to persuade them (the parole board panel) that they haven’t got all the information before them”.

The report quoted Bizos as saying: “Derby-Lewis is a symbol of people who have not accepted our Constitution, who have not accepted our democracy… who killed Hani in the hope that black people would kill lots of white people so that white people would revolt against De Klerk’s government; so that the generals could take over to save the country from communists.

“This was their own evidence when they applied for amnesty.”

SACP spokesperson Malesela Maleka said a delegation led by the party’s general secretary Blade Nzimande made a presentation to the parole board on the party’s opposition to Derby-Lewis’s bid.

The Young Communist League (YCL) in a statement described his application as “opportunistic”. The YCL added that releasing the rightwinger on parole was a “lost opportunity” to get to the whole truth about the murder.

“The YCLSA has been consistent on the call for an inquest into the tragic death of Comrade Chris Hani and it seems to have fallen on deaf ears,” the league said.

“His release will be a travesty of justice and affirmation that our justice system still continues to serve and protect the minority.”

His crimes, the YCLSA said, were “tantamount to treason”.

The Democratic Alliance said Derby-Lewis should not be considered for parole until he had served a “substantially longer sentence”.

“Whilst it is true that in terms of legislation Clive Derby-Lewis is entitled to a parole hearing after serving 15 years in prison, which is the amount of time that he has served to date, the vast majority of inmates with life sentences wait 25 years before being considered for parole,” spokesperson James Selfe said in
a statement.

He said the case should be viewed in light of Derby-Lewis’s “particularly heinous” crimes that nearly brought South Africa to the brink of civil war.—Sapa

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