Walus: Should he stay or should he go?
Lawyers for both sides slug it out over whether Hani's killer deserves parole
It was a clash of justice versus alleged political sabotage in the parole application of Janusz Walus, one of the country’s most despised apartheid-era killers.
In the fight to gain his freedom for the third time, legal heavyweights – who were grilled by Judge Selby Baqwa – slugged it out in courtroom 4B of the North Gauteng High Court in Pretoria on Tuesday.
Central to the arguments were allegations of documents around Walus’s rehabilitation being manipulated or withheld, and Correctional Services Minister Michael Masutha and the parole board chairperson ignoring parole panel recommendations for his release.Walus has appealed to the court to be paroled and deported back to his home country of Poland, which Masutha and the Home Affairs Department argued was highly irregular.
Walus’s lawyer, Roelof du Plessis, slammed Masutha’s actions in denying his client parole as “unfair and unjust”, and argued Masutha unfairly prejudiced Walus by ignoring multiple recommendations that he be released on parole.
Citing the parole and deportation in July of two Taiwanese nationals who were convicted of murdering their victim, boiling her and feeding her to lions in 2002, Du Plessis said it was normal procedure for prisoners who were in the country illegally or who had their citizenship revoked – as Walus has had – to be deported.“We have Walus on one hand being treated like this and these murderers being treated differently. Why? Because of political reasons, with the intention to incarcerate him forever.”
He said one needed to look at what type of documents were before the minister and what he did and did not look at.
Du Plessis said in August 2017 that the Supreme Court of Appeal ordered Masutha to reconsider Walus’s parole application.
Masutha denied Walus parole in November 2017 – “yet, documents from the parole board showed Walus was a suitable candidate for parole”, said Du Plessis.
“But what happened? The parole board chairman wrote a report saying why Walus should be refused parole.
“An illustration of Walus’s application being manipulated so he was not granted parole include a letter by the parole board chairman to Walus requesting him to provide evidence of the course he had completed while in prison.
“This request was for certificates of anger management and life skills courses which he had completed. The request letter was sent on 6 November 2017, yet the chairman had already written a report saying why Walus should not be granted parole on 3 November 2017,” he said.
He said Walus’s prison case managers had written that he was the epitome of what correctional behaviour should be.“They found he should be reintegrated back into society with his risk of reoffending low. None of this was referenced to in the reports by the minister or the parole board chairman. Instead they elevated two other minor points raised by Walus social worker, without questioning her over them, took them out of context and used these to deny him parole.”
Du Plessis said the issues raised by the social worker were life skills and anger management, “which were addressed by Walus being placed on courses which he completed”.
“The minister and parole board chairman never took into account that he had completed these courses. Walus has shown remorse for what he did, killing Hani the husband and father and Hani the communist, yet the minister argues that if you do not change your views on communism you will go out again and kill communists which is ridiculous.”
He asked what more Masutha and the Hani family wanted Walus to do.
“He is incarcerated. He can write more letters, redo his courses and express remorse to the victims again. But, other than what he as already done what else can he do further, before his apologies are accepted as real?”
State advocate Marumo Moerane said Walus was sentenced to life imprisonment, “and pending parole, he is obliged to serve life in jail”.“One of Walus’s intentions was to plunge the country into a possible bloody racial war. He was convicted of a heinous crime. It was not a minor offence.”
He dismissed Du Plessis’s assertions that documents were either manipulated or ignored.
“Masutha was obliged to consider Walus’s application for parole, which he did several times. He did not negate his duties. He took into account the victim assessments and Walus’s rehabilitation.
“He considered everything necessary for whether parole should be granted, including how the cold-blooded murder, which was not committed out of anger, was meticulously planned.”
Moerane said Masutha could not ignore the experts who evaluated Walus.
“They expressed opinions, which include while Walus expressed remorse for murdering Hani the father, he didn’t express remorse for murdering Hani the Communist Party leader.
“The experts believe Walus still holds certain politically motivated views. The minister made a value judgment based on the lack of remorse. His decision was lawful.”Hani family and SA Communist Party lawyer Advocate Gcina Malindi said it was not a question of Walus being released because of time served and that one should feel empathy for him.
“There are risks which still exist [from Walus]. It simply not enough to say I accept democracy. At every stage Walus has refused to show that he appreciates the consequences of actions in 1993 which would have been disastrous.”
Judgment has been reserved, with no specific date given.