Hani suspect a key figure of far right: Former South African Conservative MP arrested in ANC murder inquiry is president of controversial London-based think-tank

Click to follow
The Independent Online
THE FORMER South African Conservative Party MP, Clive Derby- Lewis, is due to appear in court today in connection with the assassination of the ANC leader Chris Hani, whose funeral takes place today. Mr Derby- Lewis was elected president in February last year of the Western Goals Institute, a London-based anti-Communist think-tank which has close links to the French right-winger Jean- Marie le Pen.

Mr Derby-Lewis, 57, took over the role from Major Roberto D'Aubuisson, the notorious Salvadorean right-wing death squad leader accused of the assassination in 1980 of Archbishop Oscar Arnulfo Romero. D'Aubuisson, a pathological anti- Communist, had died of cancer.

In accepting his appointment, Mr Derby-Lewis, a vociferous figure in South African politics who was an MP from 1987 to 1989, said he was 'much saddened by the tragic loss of Bob D'Aubuisson who did so much for the institute and for the right- wing cause worldwide'.

On Saturday, the South African police arrested Mr Derby-Lewis, a retired officer in the South African Defence Force reserve - the Citizen Force - after intensive questioning of the man they believe fired the four shots that killed Hani, the Polish emigre Janusz Walus. The Minister of Law and Order, Hernus Kriel, said Mr Derby-Lewis had been arrested as a suspect in the murder case.

It was the first confirmation from the police of suspicions by the African National Congress that Hani's assassination was a right-wing conspiracy with potentially wide ramifications.

A statement received by the Independent from the Western Goals Institute on 24 February last year announced the appointment of 'Commandant Clive Derby-Lewis' (former commanding officer of the Witwatersrand Rifles Regiment) as its president. The institute, which caused a furore in Britain in December 1991 when it hosted a visit by Mr le Pen, described its aim as building 'a powerful international axis of the right'.

One of the more prominent figures associated with the institute, the statement said, was General John K Singlaub of the United States, whose main claim to fame was his involvement with Oliver North in the Iran- Contra scandal. A former chairman of Western Goals, Carl 'Spitz' Channel, pleaded guilty to charges against him in connection with the scandal.

The UK branch, whose guiding light is a certain Andrew Smith, has worked on behalf of Mozambique's right-wing insurgents, Renamo, which during the Eighties depended heavily on South African Military Intelligence (MI) for training, weapons and supplies.

Even by South African standards Mr Derby-Lewis has acquired over the years a reputation as a rabid racist. So much so that members of his own Conservative Party, who now favour a South Africa divided along racial lines, have been embarrassed by some of his pronouncements. In parliament in 1989, before he lost his seat to the National Party in the white election that year, his response to a report by a minister that an aircraft had had to brake to avoid a black man on the runway at Johannesburg's Jan Smuts airport was: 'What a pity'. Later he apologised for his remark, explaining that it had just 'slipped out'.

Mr Derby-Lewis's physical appearance and demeanour is of a piece with his name. A moustachioed caricature of a retired RAF officer, his style of dress is 'London gentleman's club' and he speaks with a distinctively English upper-class accent. He battled within the overwhelmingly Afrikaner Conservative Party to establish his 'Boer' credentials, which was one reason why in his public utterances he has always been more papist than the Pope. It was also why he renounced the Catholic Church, into which he was born, after pressure from his parliamentary peers and joined the Afrikaner Protestante Kerk - a far-right, whites-only church which broke away from the mainstream Dutch Reformed Church after it denounced apartheid in 1986.

He is also a member of the World Anti-Communist League, which used to be headed by General Singlaub and has campaigned on behalf of Jonas Savimbi's Unita movement in Angola (another MI beneficiary). And he is on the mailing list of the Pretoria- based World Apartheid Movement (WAM). This last connection is particularly interesting as WAM's leader, Koos Vermeulen, said last week his organisation would be paying Mr Walus' legal costs.

Mr Vermeulen was detained briefly in 1990 in connection with the murder of an ANC supporter in Durban who died after an explosive device hidden in a computer blew up in his face. Two men who were charged with murder - Henry Martin and Adrian Maritz - fled to Britain with false passports, and later revealed they had been MI operatives.

Mr Derby-Lewis was also involved in efforts early last year to forge links between the Conservative Party and Mangosuthu Buthelezi's Inkatha Freedom Party, yet another MI beneficiary. Late last year, Inkatha and the CP joined forces in the Concerned South Africans Grouping, a loose anti-ANC, anti-Communist alliance.

Mr Derby-Lewis's association with Mr Walus, according to the South African press yesterday, began in 1985 when they campaigned together in a parliamentary by-election. Mr Walus also belongs to the Stallard Foundation, a right-wing organisation for English-speaking South Africans of which Mr Derby-Lewis is a director.

(Photograph omitted)