Janusz Walus, who killed the charismatic anti-apartheid leader Chris Hani in 1993, was stabbed just before he was due to be freed on parole. The parole board’s decision to release him ignited anger in South Africa, with many feeling that he had not served enough time for such a heinous crime. Fortunately, Walus survived the attack and is currently serving his sentence in a South African prison.
Walus’s crime caused shock and outrage around the world, and his release on parole has only served to reopen old wounds. For many South Africans, Walus is a reminder of the country’s dark past, and his release is a slap in the face to those who suffered under apartheid.
A widely reviled apartheid-era assassin in South Africa was stabbed by a fellow inmate on Tuesday, just days before he was scheduled to be released on parole, prison authorities said. According to officials, the inmate, who has not been identified, was stabbed multiple times in the chest and died of his injuries.
This is the latest in a series of high-profile attacks on prisoners in South Africa. In 2016, another apartheid-era assassin, Eugene de Kock, was attacked by inmates while he was on his way to a court appearance. And earlier this year, two prisoners were killed in a brawl at a Maximum Security prison in the country.
The assassin, Janusz Walus, is often regarded as having brought South Africa to the brink of civil war during the tumultuous twilight era of apartheid in the 1990s for his killing of the charismatic anti-apartheid leader Chris Hani.
Mr. Walus survived the attack, which took place in a Pretoria prison, and he was in stable condition afterward, South Africa’s correctional services department said.
Last Monday, South Africa’s chief justice, Raymond Zondo, ordered that Mr. Walus be released on parole after serving 28 years in prison. The Constitutional Court decision drew expressions of outrage from Mr. Hani’s family and set off a national debate on the punishment of apartheid-era criminals.
Mr. Walus had approached South Africa’s highest court after the justice ministry rejected his parole request in 2020. Chief Justice Zondo ruled that rejecting the appeal would set a negative precedent for other prisoners serving life sentences. He found that under South Africa’s post-apartheid constitution, all were equal before the law, and ordered that Mr. Walus be released within 10 days.
In the days after the ruling, a memorial site dedicated to Mr. Hani was vandalised.
The judgment drew swift criticism, with the African National Congress and its allies releasing a statement saying the ruling “pleased unrepentant apartheid perpetrators.”
“This is how South Africa has now become redivided,” the statement said. The A.N.C. and its allies also said they were planning a march to the prison on Wednesday to protest the decision.
By the late 1980s, as violence roiled South Africa, Martin Thembisile Hani — popularly known as Chris — had become one of the most powerful figures in the anti-apartheid struggle. The leader of the South African Communist Party and the guerrilla leader of the African National Congress’s armed wing, Mr. Hani’s call for intensified attacks on South Africa’s white population, specifically the security police, resonated with millions of angry young South Africans driven to take up arms to oppose the brutality of the apartheid government.
Amongst the ranks of the ANC, few leaders were as highly regarded as Oliver Tambo. After the death of Nelson Mandela, he was seen as the most likely candidate to take over as leader of the party and the country. His charisma and ability to connect with people made him a natural leader, and many saw him as the future of the ANC.Sadly, Tambo passed away before he could take on the role of president, but his legacy as one of the great leaders of the ANC will live on.
His assassination in 1993, during tense negotiation with the apartheid government, brought the country to the brink of civil war. As anger gave way to violence in Black townships, Mr. Mandela addressed the nation, appealing for calm. He also pressed the government of F. W. de Klerk to set a date for the country’s first democratic election in April 1994, averting further unrest.
In the years since his death, Mr. Hani has become something of a martyr, with his disciplined leadership and views on economic redistribution held up by South Africans frustrated by the stubborn inequality and corruption that have sullied the reputation of the governing A.N.C.
Mr. Walus, along with his co-conspirator, Clive Derby-Lewis, was sentenced to death in 1993 for their roles in the assassination of South African Communist Party leader Chris Hani. Walus was also denied amnesty by South Africa’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission. His death sentence was commuted to life imprisonment in 2000, after South Africa abolished the death penalty.
Mr. Walus, a Polish national, has been ordered by the South African government to remain in the country while he is on parole. This is due to the fact that Mr. Derby-Lewis, who was granted medical parole in 2015, died just over a year later. The South African government wants to make sure that Mr. Walus does not pose a similar threat to the safety of its citizens.