Chris Hani's killer Janusz Walus given parole in South Africa

Chris Hani salutes delegates at the closure of their first congress inside South Africa in 41 years, in Soweto on 8 December 1991Image source, AFP
Image caption,
Chris Hani was shot as he picked up the morning newspapers at his home

A court in South Africa has ruled that the killer of anti-apartheid hero Chris Hani should be freed on parole after more than 22 years in prison.

Hani's widow, Limpho condemned the white judge's decision to free Janusz Walus as racist.

Walus' lawyers argued he should be freed in the spirit of reconciliation.

He was convicted in October 1993 and was serving a life sentence for the murder which threatened to derail South Africa's transition to democracy.

"It's very sad for South Africa. It's a very sad day. I am not upset, but I am highly irritated that this white woman can tell me how to feel," Ms Hani told the BBC's Milton Nkosi.

"She comes with a white superiority complex to tell me I should forgive, I should move on. It is not her husband that was murdered."

The government had previously refused to grant Walus parole as he was said to have shown no remorse.

Judge Janse van Nieuwenhuizen, at the High Court in the capital, Pretoria, ruled that Walus should be freed in two weeks' time, and a parole board should set the conditions for his release.

Image source, AFP
Image caption,
Hani's murder triggered protests across South Africa
Image source, AP
Image caption,
Walus wanted to prevent the advent of democracy in South Africa

The justice ministry said it would study the judgement, before deciding whether to appeal.

The South African Communist Party (SACP), which Hani led at the time of his death, also reacted with disappointment.

South Africa's Truth and Reconciliation Commission, formed after minority rule ended in April 1994, refused to give Walus amnesty.

Hani was shot dead by Walus while picking up the morning newspapers from his driveway at his home in Boksburg, east of Johannesburg.

Regarded as the most popular politician in South Africa after Nelson Mandela, he was also head of the military wing of the African National Congress (ANC), the former liberation movement which is now in power.

Analysis: Farouk Chothia, BBC News

Image source, AFP
Image caption,
South Africans of all races voted together for the first time in 1994

The murder of Hani backfired on South Africa's white supremacists. They hoped that the killing of a politician who was idolised by most black people but hated by many of their white counterparts would escalate conflict in South Africa, and open the way for them to seize power in the ensuing chaos.

But the opposite happened, as it galvanised Mr Mandela to press South Africa's then-President FW de Klerk to set a date for the first democratic election to end centuries of racial oppression.

Mr De Klerk agreed, and power ebbed away from him with Mr Mandela becoming South Africa's first black president just over a year later.

Walus, who killed Mr Hani by shooting him at point-blank range in the chin, behind the ear and in the chest, is alive only because Mr Mandela's ANC abolished the death penalty, believing that it should not do what the former regime had done - execute its enemies.

Walus, 63, was involved in far-right politics, and opposed moves to end apartheid, which legalised discrimination against black people.

The decision to free him was a "great disappointment", but not surprising because the judge "kept asking questions which suggested that she will make an order such as the one she made", said SACP spokesman Alex Mashilo, the local Eyewitness News reports.

Walus had been sentenced to death, but this was commuted to life after South Africa abolished the death penalty at the end of minority rule.

His co-conspirator in the murder, Clive Derby-Lewis, was released on parole in June 2015.

Derby-Lewis, 79, had given Walus the gun used to kill Hani.

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