PRETORIA, South Africa (AP) — More than a thousand people gathered outside the Kgosi Mampuru II prison in South Africa on Wednesday to protest against the pending release of Janusz Walus, the convicted killer of anti-apartheid leader Chris Hani.
Members of the ruling African National Congress party and the South African Communist Party, of which latter Hani was the general secretary when he was killed in 1993, lined the streets of the capital Pretoria to voice their dismay at his scheduled release.
Hani was also the leader of the ANC’s military wing, Umkhonto we Sizwe. He was shot outside his home in Boksburg, east of Johannesburg. The assassination threatened to plunge South Africa into political violence ahead of its transition from white minority rule to democracy.
Police kept a heavy presence at the prison — where Walus, now 69, has spent over 28 years after being sentenced to life imprisonment — while awaiting the marchers to arrive.
Walus was scheduled to be freed on Thursday following a court ruling last week that he should be released on parole within 10 days as he had met the required threshold.
However, he is receiving medical treatment in prison after he was stabbed - allegedly by a fellow inmate - on Tuesday.
Many protesters told The Associated Press that Walus should not be released as they believe he did not fully disclose his motive for killing Hani and who else was involved in the murder.
“We are happy with what has happened, after hearing that he is in hospital. We ask God to do what is necessary,” said protester Nontokozo Shezi, referring to Walus being stabbed in prison.
SACP general secretary Solly Mapaila was among the protesters, and expressed the party’s solidarity with Hani’s family and supporters, saying “Chris Hani gave his life for this country and the manner in which the court judgement was released amounted to killing him for the second time."
“We are here to express our solidarity with the people of South Africa who feel aggrieved, from across all political parties and institutions who have sent us messages about this matter,” said Mapaila.
Mapaila said the party has briefed its lawyers to file court documents opposing Walus’ release.
Pinky Numa, one of the protesters, said she was not convinced that Walus was remorseful of his actions and that he continues to be respected by racists. “He is hailed as a martyr by racists of our country, by racists of the world. We do not know, upon his release, what other massacres they are planning against our people,” Numa said.
Walus has been granted an extension for residence in South Africa after his citizenship was revoked in 2017 while he was in prison.
According to the government, he will serve the rest of his sentence on parole in South Africa instead of being deported to his home country Poland.
Mogomotsi Magome, The Associated Press