Death sentences for Hani killers

JANUSZ WALUS and Clive Derby-Lewis were sentenced to death yesterday in the Rand Supreme Court, Johannesburg, for the murder on 10 April of Chris Hani, the general secretary of the South African Communist Party and senior leader of Nelson Mandela's African National Congress.

Scenes of jubilation greeted the judgment inside the court and outside on the streets as ANC supporters and leaders celebrated the outcome of a trial in which the agents of justice had been the traditional enemy - an Afrikaner judge, Fritz Eloff, and the Afrikaner policemen who investigated the case.

But the monumental irony is that the the ANC, which is certain to head the government after elections next year, will probably save their lives. 'We don't want Walus and Derby-Lewis to hang,' said Tokyo Sexwale, the ANC's senior official in Johannesburg and a close friend of Hani. 'ANC policy is to oppose the death penalty and we will revoke it when when we are in government.'

In passing sentence yesterday afternoon the judge found that the 'aggravating factors' cited by the prosecution, which called for the death penalty, far outweighed the mitigating factors put forward by the defence.

The judge, reading from hand-written notes, said no analogy could be drawn between crimes committed in the past by the ANC's armed wing and the assassination of Hani.

During the morning session, Derby-Lewis's counsel, Hennie de Vos, said that in killing Hani his client felt he was 'striking a blow for Christianity, as he understood it, and for his fatherland'. Mr de Vos also provided the judge with his client's curriculum vitae, where it was recorded that last year he had been elected president of the London-based Western Goals Institute, a body committed to the fight against international Communism.

What Mr de Vos did not mention was that Derby-Lewis's predecessor at the institute was Roberto D'Aubuisson, who was heavily implicated in the assassination of El Salvador's archbishop, Oscar Romero, in 1982.

Neither Derby-Lewis's biography nor the pleas made on Walus's behalf, mainly concerning his oppressive upbringing in Communist Poland, made much impression on Justice Eloff.

The two assassins had planned the murder over many weeks with cold-blooded deliberation; they had known the act would have dramatic political consequences, to the point of possibly precipitating a civil war; and neither had displayed the slightest remorse. Walus had first opened fire twice on Hani and then, as he lay wounded, twice shot him in the head.

Justice Eloff said: 'I want to send out a message loud and clear to those who contemplate the assassination of political leaders.' The judge paused, and looking up from his notes, said: 'Accused number one, please stand. Janusz Jakub Walus: have you anything to say?' 'No, my lord.' 'You are sentenced to death. Accused number two, please stand. Clive John Derby-Lewis, have you anything to say?' 'No, my lord.' 'You are sentenced to death.'

The judge abruptly stood up and walked out of the court. The 80-strong black contingent in the public gallery broke into Nkosi Sikelele, South Africa's anthem of liberation. Hani's widow, Limpho, sang as if transported.