Daily Maverick

Court gives justice minister 120 days to decide Janusz Walus’ fate

The North Gauteng High Court has set aside Justice Minister Michael Masutha's decision to refuse Janusz Walus parole. Walus murdered Chris Hani in 1993 and attempts to be released have repeatedly been denied. The decision now goes back to Masutha, who has 120 days to decide the fate of the man who murdered a liberation hero.

Justice Minister Michael Masutha’s 2017 decision to deny Chris Hani’s murderer, Janusz Walus, was set aside by the North Gauteng High Court on Thursday because the parole board failed to include relevant information in its recommendation to the justice minister and did not offer Walus a chance to reply to its suggestion that he remain incarcerated.

Judge Selby Baqwa gave Masutha 120 days to rule on Walus’ parole application and said the minister must take into account all relevant information.

In November 2017, the minister rejected Walus’ application for early release after the parole board said he should remain in jail. The board’s submission to Masutha differed sharply from that of the case management committee, which assessed Walus at Kgosi Mampuru II Prison, where he is incarcerated.

The committee said Walus was the “epitome” of correctional behaviour and proof that rehabilitation works. It said he had a good relationship with his family and could be reincorporated into society. It noted signs of good behaviour and recommended “the offender be given a second chance to be reintegrated in the community and contribute positively to society”.

The parole board disagreed and told the minister that Walus should remain in jail. Baqwa, however, said it failed to offer Walus a chance to comment on the recommendation before it was sent to the minister. The board also said Walus hadn’t completed therapeutic and psychotherapy sessions, which he had.

The court found in favour of Walus’ review application and said parole decisions need to be made in line with the law.

In other words the process ought to be conducted fairly and decisions ought to be taken in accordance with the law and consistently with the relevant legislation. If these prescripts are met and if the decision is one that a reasonable authority could make, the court will not interfere with the decision,” said Baqwa’s judgment.

Walus was given 30 days to reply to the parole board’s decision. Interested parties, such as Chris Hani’s widow Limpho Hani, who was in court on Thursday, and the SACP, then have 30 days to comment on Walus’ submissions. Masutha will then have another 30 days to decide whether or not to grant parole.

Walus murdered Hani, who was Umkhonto we Sizwe chief of staff and general secretary of the SACP, outside his Boksburg home in 1993. He was sentenced to death later that year. Summarising the 1993 judgment, Baqwa said said the murder was a “calculated, cold-blooded assassination of a defenceless victim”.

Walus’ sentence was later commuted to life in prison. He was denied amnesty by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission and has tried multiple times to get parole, which has been denied and repeatedly gone to court.

Walus’ co-conspirator in Hani’s murder, Clive Derby-Lewis, was released on medical parole in 2015. He died the following year.

SACP spokesperson Alex Mashilo said on Thursday: “Our position has not changed. We’re going ahead with our opposition to the parole.

We remain firm. We believe that he must rot in jail. We stand for the truth and nothing is going to deter us from that mission,” he continued.

Walus has attempted to meet Hani’s family to prove his remorse and has met Hani’s daughter Lindiwe. But the family and SACP say he has failed to show regret for his actions and can still reveal more information behind the plot to murder the liberation icon and destabilise the transition to democracy.

We want to have a full disclosure of the truth. We don’t believe that Janusz Walus should be released from prison. He’s an unrepentant murderer,” said Mashilo.

He said the SACP will submit its reasons on why Walus should not be released. If Masutha grants Walus parole, Mashilo said the SACP will challenge the decision in court and take it to the Constitutional Court if necessary.

Walus might have another chance at getting parole, but the court denied two of his other requests. He asked for the decision to not only be ruled invalid, but for the court to order he should be released on parole, rather then sending the decision back to the justice minister.

Baqwa said the court only had the power to review the legality of Masutha’s decision, not whether it was right or wrong, and could not infringe on the separation of powers between the executive and the judiciary.

Walus also asked Home Affairs to arrange his immediate deportation if his parole was granted. In 2016, the director general of Home Affairs said Walus would be deported to his native Poland if he was granted parole, but the decision was later overturned by the Home Affairs minister.

An offender on parole is not free simply by virtue of being out of prison. He remains an offender who is serving his term of imprisonment which has been converted from effected imprisonment in a prison to parole which requires the serving of the remainder of whatever period determined by the parole conditions to be served outside prison,” said Baqwa in dismissing the application. DM

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