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Killer says murder of anti-apartheid activist was act of war

August 19, 1997

PRETORIA, South Africa (AP) _ A former right-wing politician told an amnesty panel Tuesday that he will not apologize for killing a popular anti-apartheid activist, saying it was an act of war.

Clive Derby-Lewis, a former Conservative Party lawmaker sentenced to life in prison for the 1993 killing of Communist Party head Chris Hani, is seeking amnesty from South Africa’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission.

The panel is investigating abuses by all parties during the apartheid era to help reconcile the nation, and is authorized to grant amnesty for some politically motivated crimes.

The killing of Hani, one of the most popular black leaders in South Africa after President Nelson Mandela, was intended to throw the country into chaos before the first all-race elections in 1994, Derby-Lewis has testified. Four people died in protests at Hani’s funeral, but there was no widespread disorder.

On the third and last day of tough cross examination by a lawyer for the Hani family, Derby broke his usual stoic demeanor and said in exasperation: ``How could I apologize for an act of war? War is war!″

The lawyer, George Bizos, repeatedly asked how Derby-Lewis justified Hani’s killing _ particularly because four days before his death, Hani had publicly called for peace and a stop to political turbulence in the transition period which ended 30 years of apartheid rule.

``He (Hani) didn’t call me up and say, `Listen, I’m going to make a speech ... that I am a man of peace,′ ″ Derby-Lewis said.

The comment brought jeers from Hani supporters.

Derby-Lewis and his accomplice, Janusz Walus, a Polish immigrant also convicted in the murder, have argued that Hani was a military target because he served in the armed wing of Mandela’s African National Congress.

Walus also is seeking amnesty.

Derby-Lewis, who denied being a racist, said he still believes the apartheid policy of separate development is the answer to South Africa’s problems.

``I believe my people are entitled to a territory where they are able to exercise their right to self-determination,″ he said.

Derby-Lewis said he felt he had already paid a high enough price for Hani’s death.

``I believe I have done my bit as far as the freedom struggle is concerned,″ he said. ``I have been detained for four-and-a-half years and I have seen my grandchildren only once. This is one of the things I regret about this situation. I love my children and my grandchildren.″

Hani’s family, the Communist Party and the ANC oppose amnesty for the Derby-Lewis and Walus.

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