Convicted killer Clive Derby-Lewis might have to have his lower right leg amputated because of gangrene, his lawyer said on Tuesday.
Derby-Lewis was in surgery on Tuesday to have all the dead tissue removed in an attempt to save his leg, Marius Coertze said.
The removal area formed a large section of the fleshy part of his leg.
“The lost tissue will probably never be replaced,” he said. “If the leg doesn’t respond to treatment in the next couple of days, they’ll have to amputate the leg.”
Coertze said Derby-Lewis had injured himself on a piece of metal jutting out from a loose, iron bed-base standing in one of the corridors of the prison.
“It didn’t seem serious at the time, because it wasn’t an open wound, just a bruise,” he said.
However, a few days later the injury worsened and started swelling. In pain, Derby-Lewis went to the prison doctor who prescribed antibiotics and painkillers.
He went for medical treatment again last Monday, when the doctor ordered X-rays and blood samples be taken.
“That instruction was not executed. Nothing happened,” said Coertze.
When Derby-Lewis’s wife, Gaye Derby-Lewis, saw him during visiting hours on Sunday — nearly a week after his second medical examination — his leg was twice its normal size and was blackening. The skin was bluish and purplish and hard to the touch, Coertze said.
“She was quite concerned about the leg injury.”
An urgent interdict was sought in the North Gauteng High Court in Pretoria, which ordered on Monday that Derby-Lewis be taken to a private hospital for treatment.
‘These are not conditions you get overnight’
The Freedom Front Plus on Tuesday questioned why it was necessary to obtain a court order and claimed “double standards” were being applied. Coertze said it was only as a result of the leg injury that doctors found out Derby-Lewis was also suffering from skin cancer and high blood pressure.
Dried blood found in Derby-Lewis’s hair turned out to be from skin cancer. He was bleeding from both temples, and it seemed he had been for a couple of weeks, perhaps “even longer”.
“We are concerned that the prison staff hasn’t picked up on it a lot sooner,” Coertze said.
Derby-Lewis’s blood pressure was measured at 172/140. An independent doctor told the South African Press Association a man of that age should have a reading of between 120 and 140 over between 60 and 80.
“These are not conditions you get overnight. That situation regarding his health has been quite systematically building up over a period of time. Over a year or two,” Coertze said.
There appeared to have been “a lot of neglect” of Derby-Lewis, medically, in prison over the past year, he said.
Correctional Services Departmental and ministerial spokespersons were not available to comment on Tuesday afternoon. Derby-Lewis is serving a life term in Pretoria Central Prison for the murder of South African Communist Party (SACP) general secretary Chris Hani in April 1993.
Hani was shot in the head as he climbed out of his car outside his home in Dawn Park, Boksburg, by Polish immigrant Janusz Walus, using a pistol lent to him by Derby-Lewis, who was a Conservative Party MP.
Six months later, Walus and Derby-Lewis were convicted of murder and conspiracy to commit murder, and were sentenced to death. However, this was commuted to life imprisonment in 1995, when capital punishment was abolished.
Coertze said he was “not allowed to say” which private hospital Derby-Lewis was being treated in, “because we don’t want the SACP, Congress of South African Trade Unions, etc, toyi-toying outside and making a circus of the whole thing like they did at the parole hearing in June
“We don’t want a repeat of the whole thing.”
Derby-Lewis’s doctor had indicated he would remain in hospital for five days (until Saturday) if all went well.
Coertze said that the last he had heard was that Derby-Lewis’s latest application for parole — which has been widely opposed by political parties — was with the National Council on Correctional Services (NCCS), also known as the parole board, and had yet to be referred to Correctional Services Minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula. — Sapa