These are dog days indeed

Colleague and friend Namhla Tshisela nearly jolted me out of my seat when, with a deadpan face, she said: "You know, I miss Walus."

I initially thought she was having a bout of a rare brain disease caused by too much reading.

Well, ask Namhla what she wants as a special gift, or just what to buy her as a friend. She will certainly say it should be a book, and promptly give you its title and author.

And we all remember what our elders were wont to say about reading too many books.

"You will go mad, my child's child, just like so-and-so's grandson ."

This is not suggesting that young Namhla is loco. How else would she warmly refer to Walus with a poker face if she was not trying to stir up some intellectual controversy?

Janusz Walus, by the way, is the Polish immigrant who together with local former right-wing politician Clive Derby-Lewis, is languishing in jail for murdering the people's hero, Chris Hani, in 1993.

This pair of antiheroes is using all kinds of tactics and tricks to get out of prison, where both have been condemned for life.

They tried the Truth and Reconciliation Commission route but failed after not getting any joy from the country's courts.

Now they say they want to meet the South African Communist Party chiefs and spill the beans in the hope that they will get a pardon.

Enough. We all know President Thabo Mbeki has said they can plead for mercy until they are blue in the face.

Namhla says she met Walus during her pre-varsity days. It was in her hometown of East London in the Eastern Cape. I think it was shortly after Hani's assassination, when his cold-blooded murder stopped the world.

Walus, and of course Derby-Lewis, then a Conservative Party MP, made international headlines when they were arrested and charged with the SACP general secretary's killing.

It was during this period that Namhla's acquaintanceship with Walus grew. She speaks of him being spotted in the town's streets or how his imposing physique intimidated those who wanted to get past him.

But then, no matter how earnest her eyes remained when she told me all these things about Walus, I still waited to hear her say something that would convince me her encounters or shenanigans with Walus were a figment of her imagination.

You see, I have this uncanny way of looking at you straight in the eye and quietly saying: "Oh, yeah."

This means I might think you are crazy, a genius, or both. And that is exactly how I looked at Namhla all the time she narrated this tale about her and Walus.

I was thinking, what a storyteller, while listening to her description of seeing Walus for the first time.

She told me: "There he was, perched in the front seat of the car next to my father.

"He was the cutest puppy ever seen. I was sad when I returned home from university to find my dog Walus had died of old age."

Yes, Namhla had a dog she named Walus.