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Different strokes for different folks mar TRC principles

By unknown | Mar 23, 2009 | COMMENTS [ 0 ]

The measure of how just we are is not so much as how we treat saints, but rather what we do with sinners. In fact, if we were all pious, the very concept of being just would not even come up.

The measure of how just we are is not so much as how we treat saints, but rather what we do with sinners. In fact, if we were all pious, the very concept of being just would not even come up.

I firmly believe that Clive Derby-Lewis has been treated unfairly. Yes, I mean that guy who connived with Janus Walusz to kill one of South Africa's best-loved freedom fighters, Chris Hani, is a victim of an injustice.

The duo were denied amnesty and now Derby-Lewis could rot in jail after a high court decided that it did not have jurisdiction to decide whether he should be allowed out on parole.

Let us start with the amnesty. The Truth and Reconciliation Commission decreed that people who admitted political crimes and revealed all they knew about such a crime would be freed from jails if incarcerated or if not yet prosecuted, pardoned such applicants were required to be fully honest and reveal all they knew for them to qualify for the amnesty.

Derby-Lewis and Walusz admitted the crime, a no-brainer considering that they had already been convicted and sentenced. But they were denied amnesty because they did not get pardoned because they did not satisfy the requirements because they did not give "full disclosure".

But if there is some other truth out there beyond what they have told us, why is it that nobody has come out with it? To say that the two are withholding some truth is to admit knowing what that truth is.

So in theory, there is someone out there who knows who else was involved in the killing of Hani, but that person chooses to remain silent. How just or freedom loving could that person be, if they are to go on with their lives knowing that a conspirator in the assassination of a national icon is living it up somewhere? In my book that person is as guilty as the two.

I don't know what the parole laws say about 75-year-old life-sentenced prisoners who have already spent 15 years behind bars. But if, ordinarily, a person meeting such a bill would be freed, then by all means free Derby-Lewis. If they would not be freed, then he must stay and, as some have put it, rot in jail. It is the flipside of the justice I am talking about.

I expect that a family's opinion on whether to release on parole would be a mere recommendation rather than the last word on the matter. I don't know of any person who would happily recommend that the killers of their loved ones be allowed back in the streets before finishing their sentence.

This has nothing to do with condoning murder. Or not appreciating Hani's significance in the history of our country and its struggle for freedom.

It is saying that if we accepted the principles laid out for how the TRC would work, we cannot pick and choose who should benefit from these principles and who should not. Hani lived and died for justice for all. He died so that the very Walusz and Derby-Lewis will be equal with all of us before the law.

We don't have to like Derby-Lewis. He either qualifies in terms of the standards set or he does not.

The TRC never said that amnesty would be denied if your victim was universally loved. It is about the principle. Just like it is if an ill prisoner at death's door is allowed to go home.


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