Johannesburg - Families of prisoners serving life sentences who are eligible for parole but have yet to be considered have joined Struggle icon Chris Hani’s assassin Janusz Walus’s latest attempt to be freed after 29 years behind bars.
Non-profit organisation Families for Lifers has been admitted as an intervening party in the matter along with Tebogo Modise, who is the second intervening party, by the Constitutional Court.
Acting Chief Justice Raymond Zondo has given Families for Lifers until Friday to make its written submission in Walus’s bid to overturn the June 2021 Supreme Court of Appeal (SCA) judgment dismissing his application for leave to appeal an earlier North Gauteng High Court ruling denying him parole.
Families for Lifers is a group of concerned relatives of offenders falling under judgments delivered in matters involving prisoners serving life sentences –Cornelius van Wyk, Paul van Vuuren and Oupa Phaahla – fighting for their release as they believe their are long overdue their freedom.
In 2019, the Constitutional Court confirmed the North Gauteng High Court’s order declaring parts of the Correctional Services Act of 1998 invalid and inconsistent with the Constitution after Phaahla had challenged the statute.
The apex court gave Parliament 24 months to amend the act to apply parole regimes on the basis of the date of commission of an offence.
“Any person serving a sentence of incarceration for an offence committed before the commencement of chapters four, six and seven of the Correctional Services Act is subject to the provisions of the Correctional Services Act of 1959, relating to his or her placement under community corrections, and is to be considered for such release and placement by the Correctional Supervision and Parole Board in terms of the policy and guidelines applied by the former parole boards prior to the commencement of those chapters,” the country’s highest court ordered the provision to thus read.
Walus, who has been denied parole since he first applied in 2011, with several justice ministers refusing to release him including the incumbent Ronald Lamola, has told the Constitutional Court that the 1959 act still applies to prisoners sentenced to life before October 2004, and that the 1998 act is not applicable to him.
He accuses the various ministers who have denied him parole, including Lamola, who is cited as the first respondent, of continuously shifting the goalposts, providing new reasons for their refusal, continuously committing procedural irregularities, bias, incompetence of their advisers and the department, as well as the current minister acting irrationally and unreasonably.
In February last year, North Gauteng High Court Judge Elizabeth Kubushi dismissed Walus’s application to review and set aside Lamola’s refusal to grant him parole.
Judge Kubushi also dismissed Walus’s bid to appeal against her judgment.
Walus said Lamola’s refusal to grant him parole was not rationally connected to the information before the minister, and that his decision was so unreasonable that no person in his position could have made it.
He added that Lamola’s decision was arbitrary, capricious, unlawful and discriminatory.
Lamola told the apex court that Walusz was involved in a prominent political leader’s cold-blooded assassination for which careful preparations were made in advance, and that he was convicted of murder with no extenuating circumstances.
The SACP and Hani’s widow Limpho are also opposing Walus’s application, and in their response state that the assassination of the party’s general secretary was intended to be the first of many.
Hani’s name was the third on a list that contained 16 others earmarked for death, including former president Nelson Mandela, former SACP general secretary and chairperson Joe Slovo, retired Constitutional Court justice Richard Goldstone and former Cabinet minister and presidential spokesperson Mac Maharaj.
The matter will be heard next month.