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Hani case defence throws in towel: South African murder verdict expected today amid suspense over fates of remaining two accused

THE CASE for the defence of Janusz Walus, the man accused of murdering Chris Hani, buckled yesterday under the weight of state evidence, and all that remains is the formality of the judge declaring him guilty, possibly as early as this afternoon.

After the state had closed its case yesterday, counsel for Mr Walus, a Polish immigrant, conceded that he was bereft of all arguments. The suspense now concerns the fates of the other two defendants, husband and wife Clive and Gaye Derby- Lewis, who are also accused of the murder of the African National Congress leader on 10 April.

Mr Walus and Mr Derby-Lewis having declined to testify, most of the day yesterday was devoted to the cross-examination of Mrs Derby-Lewis. The prosecutor, Klaus von Lieres, Johannesburg's attorney-general, set out first to establish her credentials as a fanatical anti-Communist, Mr Hani having doubled up as ANC leader and general secretary of the Communist Party. This Mr von Lieres did by quoting extensively from her articles for the Conservative Party mouthpiece Die Patriot, for which she worked as a journalist.

South Africa, she had written, was condemned to live 'under the yoke of Communist tyranny'; the country was being 'handed over to the Communists without firing a shot'; President F W de Klerk's National Party was 'selling out the whites'.

Mr von Lieres, a tall commanding presence in the courtroom, quoted Mrs Derby-Lewis' alarmist prose with ironic relish. Much taken by the 'yoke' image, which he repeated in mock understatement half a dozen times, he extracted chuckles from the gallery.

Mrs Derby-Lewis, 54, could not see what was so funny. Dressed in a severe brown and black polka-dot dress, bespectacled, with a no-nonsense short haircut - the image of the nun she once was in her native Australia - she responded with pursed lips and curt nods to the taunts. 'Yes, those are my beliefs, the National Party is giving the country to the Communists.'

A motive of sorts having been established, Mr von Lieres launched into the detail. In early January she had drawn up a list of 19 names, ten of whose addresses she had obtained by the end of the month. In the list were Nelson Mandela, Communist Party chairman Joe Slovo, four local journalists and the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Pik Botha, as well as Mr Hani. Was this a hit-list?

No. She had wanted to write articles about the rich lifestyles of the revolutionary leaders; about 'sell- out' white journalists, some of whom she believed to be paid agents of the state ('I can't understand how Afrikaner journalists can turn against their own people'); about Mr Botha's alleged illegal property dealings.

Curiously, she contended that she had never once - not even during the trial - talked to her husband about the list or, more surprisingly, about the alleged murder weapon, even though the case against him rests on substantial evidence that he supplied the gun to Mr Walus. This Mr von Lieres described as 'totally abnormal human behaviour'.

Perhaps the explanation lay in the answer Mrs Derby-Lewis had provided in the morning to a question from her husband's counsel. 'Are you and your husband very much in love with each other?' She paused. 'Well . . . well as much as any 10-year marriage could endure.'