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Polish hitman and far-right cult figure Janusz Walus could soon come home

Pretoria, South Africa – Janusz Walus, who shot dead South African communist leader and fierce opponent of the arartheid government Chris Hani, may yet get parole and a lighter punishment following latest court ruling. He is currently serving a life sentence in South Africa for the 1993 Easter Sunday assassination.

A Polish-South African citizen, Janusz Waluś was initially granted parole by a court in Pretoria in 2016 before the decision was overturned and his parole denied in 2017 by the South African minister of justice, Michael Masutha. In September, a latest ruling by the Pretoria High Court set aside Masutha’s decision and referred the matter back to him for a fresh decision, giving him 120 days to reconsider the parole application.

Walus, who wishes to return to Poland to be with his family, could be released as early as next year. The 64-year-old Polish immigrant has served almost 25 years of his life sentence for shooting Chris Hani to death in his driveway in 1993.

Chris Hani, leader of the South African Communist Party and chief of staff of uMkhonto we Sizwe, the armed wing of the African National Congress (ANC), was considered by many as a potential successor to Nelson Mandela as leader of the ANC. His assassination on 10 April 1993 brought South Africa to the brink of a race war, as the transition from apartheid to democracy was at its most fragile.

Waluś, who opposed the peace process, was initially sentenced to death for the murder, but his sentence was later commuted to life in prison after the death penalty was abolished in 1995.

Chris Hani was considered as a potential successor to Nelson Mandela as leader of the ANC.

Waluś has become a cult figure to some in Poland who see him as a modern-day resistance hero, who fled the Polish communist dictatorship and whose killing of Chris Hani was motivated by a desire to prevent the spread of communism in South Africa.

“The cult of Janusz Walus started in the 1990s, but it has really spread in the last couple of years because of his recent parole applications, and of course it coincides with the rise of the far right in Poland,” said Rafał Pankowski, the director of an antiracism campaign group, to The Guardian.

While Waluś’s sympathisers provide more than just moral support, collecting money to pay his legal fees, his release is also supported by a number of politicians in Poland who argue that he is a political prisoner and the Last Cursed Soldier, a reference to Polish fighters who were tortured and executed under the Stalinist era.

During this weekend’s march celebrating Polish independence in Warsaw, certain media outlets reported chants in honour of Janusz Waluś.