Possible appeal of Derby-Lewis parole

MAY 30, 2015


The justice ministry would explore whether it has any grounds to appeal the High Court's decision to grant Clive Derby-Lewis medical parole.


He is serving a life imprisonment sentence after being jailed in connection to the 1993 murder of SA Communist Party leader, Chris Hani.


"We note the judgement and we will obviously reflect on all the issues raised by the judge... We are going to determine if there are valid grounds upon which we can take it on appeal," justice spokesperson Mthunzi Mhaga told reporters in Pretoria.


Judge Selby Baqwa on Friday overturned Justice Minister Michael Masutha's ruling to deny the ailing Derby-Lewis parole.


The 79-year-old is dying from lung cancer. The disease was detected last year while he was being treated after being stabbed in prison.


Delivering his judgement, Baqwa said he had found flaws in Masutha's review of Derby-Lewis's medical parole application.


This included Masutha's views that Derby-Lewis had not expressed remorse for his part in the murder of SA Communist Party leader, Chris Hani.


During the hearing, in an effort to show that Derby-Lewis had shown remorse, his lawyer said there had been an invitation to Hani's widow, Limpho, to visit him in hospital for a face-to-face apology. She had not taken up the offer.


Escaped the death penalty


Baqwa said: "In the circumstances I have come to the conclusion that the flawed nature of the process adopted by the first respondent [Masutha] cannot be cured.


"In my view it becomes patently clear that the respondents have fallen foul of the provisions of section 6(2)(b) of PAJA (Promotion of Administrative Justice Act). Service of the representations and any other document which the first respondent was in possession of on the applicant was mandatory in the circumstances outlined herein. Failures to do so cannot but constitute a serious irregularity," he said.


He also slammed Masutha's counsel for failing to furnish Derby-Lewis's legal team with the victim's statements, who are the SACP and Hani's wife, Limpho.


"It appears that a line of communication and exchange of documents had been established between the first, third and fourth respondents to the exclusion of the applicant. The documents exchanged would be relied on by the first respondent in reaching his decision to the detriment of the applicant without him having been given the opportunity to respond."


But despite this, Mhaga said the judgement was not critical of Masutha.


"But of importance to us is the fact that nowhere in the judgement does he say the minister's decision was irrational but he stressed the importance of the time frame given the condition of the applicant," said Mhaga.


The 79-year-old Derby-Lewis, who escaped the death penalty when capital punishment was abolished, has served over 21 years in prison.


While his medical parole was granted with immediate effect, Masutha and the medical parole board had until next Friday to determine his parole conditions.


Masutha, Hani's wife and the SACP were also ordered to foot the bill for for Derby-Lewis's legal costs.


Friends of Derby-Lewis welcomed the ruling.


"We are all very thankful that the court came to a point where it could have ubuntu, where they could actually reconciliate and not try pull them more apart," said family friend Elize Strydom.


Hani's wife, however, refused to speak to the media.

However, ANC Secretary General Gwede Mantashe told the SABC that the party will respect the country's judicial system, by accepting Friday's High Court ruling.

He says Derby-Lewis' release will bring back a sad tale of an incomplete confession of how Hani died.

"I hope that Derby-Lewis would have appreciated that giving information about the assassination of Chris Hani [would have made] it possible for him to be released without grievances. Now the problem we are going to have is that the court gives the order, he goes to the society; there will be people who are still feeling the pain because there is a view that not all the truth has been told. But if the court order in a democracy, we must comply with it, allow those in the state to execute," says Mantashe.


---News24wire and SABC