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New Fame for Polish Man who Killed a South African Icon

Huge banners bearing the portrait of Janusz Walus can often be seen draped around football stadiums in Poland calling for the freedom of a man serving a life sentence in South Africa for the 1993 murder of prominent anti-apartheid leader Chris Hani. Many feared that Hani’s killing could provoke a racial war, coming at a crucial point in talks for the white minority to hand over power, which eventually happened when Nelson Mandela became president the following year after the country’s first all-race elections. It is unclear how Walus became a symbol for young Polish nationalists and fascists but about 10 years ago, he started receiving letters from supporters in Poland, journalist Cezary Lazarewicz, who interviewed Walus for his book, told the BBC. Walus, an immigrant from Poland who had acquired South African citizenship, and his co-defendant Clive Derby-Lewis, were sentenced to death shortly after Hani’s killing, but the sentence was commuted to life sentence after South Africa abolished the death penalty. They both appealed for amnesty during the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) in 1997, with Walus saying that he was driven by political, anti-communist motives to kill Hani, who was then the secretary-general of the South African Communist Party (SACP), and also a leading figure in the armed wing of the African National Congress. The two parties were close allies in the fight against apartheid. Their appeal was rejected. Derby-Lewis, who provided the gun used to kill Hani, died in 2016, a year after he was granted parole for health reasons.