Two found guilty of murdering ANC chief: Brother pleads for life of Polish immigrant facing death penalty

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The Independent Online
WITOLD Stanislav Walus battled theatrically in court yesterday to save the life of his brother, Janusz Walus, after he had been found guilty along with his co-accused, Clive Derby-Lewis, of the murder on 10 April of the leading Communist in the African National Congress, Chris Hani.

Derby-Lewis' wife, Gaye, was acquitted on all counts and then promptly left the court, not waiting to hear the testimony of Stanislav Walus, summoned by the defence to argue the case in favour of mitigation of sentence. The death penalty is mandatory for murder in South Africa unless convincing extenuating circumstances are put forward.

Justice C F Eloff, who is expected to pronounce sentence today, ruled yesterday that Janus Walusz, 38, was guilty of having fired the four shots that killed Hani, an incident that precipitated a nationwide crisis. Derby-Lewis, who failed to testify, was pronounced guilty on the grounds that it was he who supplied Walus with the murder weapon.

Walus, a polish immigrant, and Derby-Lewis, a former Conservative Party MP, were also found guilty of the illegal possession of a firearm.

The judge said that while he found Mrs Derby-Lewis' testimony unacceptable and far- fetched, he had been unable to discern sufficient hard evidence against her.

During an adjournment shortly before judgment was passed, there was high drama in the courtroom when Hani's widow, Limpho, walked up to the dock flanked by two senior ANC officials. Cool and composed in an elegant cream-coloured dress, she stood before each of the three accused in turn and stared hard at them without blinking, expressionless.

Derby-Lewis, who at first did not know where to look, suddenly exploded. 'Why does she have to do this? She has seen my pictures in the newspaper already.'

Hani's young daughter, Nomakhwezi, was also in the courtroom. She was the first person to see Hani's body after the shooting. When told that the court had found Walus guilty, she gave a tiny nod and stared into her lap.

The afternoon session was devoted to the testimony of Witold Walus, five years his brother's senior. Led by counsel for Mr Walus, he laboured at length about the iniquities of the Communist system under which his family had toiled in their native Poland. Walus himself not having testified, it was the best insight yet provided in court into the guilty man's mind.

'Communism is a soul-destroying system that kills the dignity, kills the pride', said Mr Walus, himself - it emerged - a virulent right- winger and keen proponent of the virtues of apartheid. He and his family would queue for food; they endured endless waiting lists to acquire a house of their choice; his father's sweet factory was closed down by the Communist authorities; and suchlike.

But in 1975, anticipating his brother's move by seven years, he made it to Vienna, where his first stop was the South African Embassy. He met an immigration official who asked him a number of questions. 'One question I'll remember always,' he said in good English, with a strong Eastern European accent, 'was whether I could state with full confidence that I was anti-Communist. That was such a thrill] I was so proud, so thrilled and I said 'yes' and I had tears in my eyes.'

In a statement issued later the ANC said it was 'deeply disturbed' by Mrs Derby-Lewis's acquittal.

'While the hit-men who murdered Chris Hani were found guilty, the main plotters, including Gaye Derby-Lewis, got off scott free. Justice has not yet been done, nor seen to be done,' the ANC said. 'The ANC will continue to pursue investigations into this conspiracy to kill our leaders'.