Clive Derby-Lewis: The SACP's odious behaviour

Rian Malan says Party's cruel treatment of a sick old man makes them look even smaller and nastier than John Vorster's bunch

Thulas Nxesi's excuse for keeping a sick old man in jail

Comrade Thulas Nxesi's essay on the need to keep Chris Hani's assassins in prison forever boils down quite nicely to a single claim. Here it is:

"It is generally accepted that Hani's killing was part of a vast political conspiracy which, in all probability, involved more than a Polish immigrant, Yanus Walus, and Clive Derby-Lewis of the Conservative Party. The two culprits have, over the years, steadfastly refused to fully disclose the scale and scope of this conspiracy, or to reveal the other parties involved."

Was there a conspiracy? Several legal inquiries into the Hani murder have found no evidence of any such thing. On the contrary: the facts unearthed by a trial, an appeal, protracted TRC amnesty proceedings and several parole hearings show that  the case is actually very simple: Hani was assassinated by an Anglophile militarist with a double-barrel last name and a Pole bent out of shape by a nasty childhood behind the Iron Curtain. Motive: they wanted blacks to seek indiscriminate and bloody vengeance, thereby forcing the white masses to get off the fence and join the right wing in a fight to the death against the liberation movements.

Communists (and their lawyer Bizos, otherwise known as a human rights activist) are reluctant to accept this because it diminishes their cause and their hero. They believe history is driven by vast impersonal class forces, not individuals. It follows that Hani, as a leader of the proletariat, was surely murdered by mighty imperialist enemies, not by two ordinary men with lowly racial motives and no discernible connection even to the apartheid state. Hence their need to imagine "a vast political conspiracy" and to keep Walus and Derby-Lewis in the dungeons until they name names and disclose details.

I knew Mrs. Gaye Derby-Lewis several years ago. To me, she seemed like the wife of a 15th century Spanish Jew, doomed to spend the rest of her life twisting in the wind at the whim of irrational religious fanatics.  I said, "Why not just give them what they want? Tell them that you and your husband represented the CIA in an international assassination plot managed by Pretoria's secret services and designed to clear the way for neo-liberals to take over the ANC and betray the revolution." (As we know, this is the only story that will satisfy the Communist inquisitors.)

Mrs. Derby-Lewis is a principled woman. She was not amused by my suggestion. At the time, she still believed that the outcome would be determined by facts. It seems she was wrong. People like Nxesi are determined to make her husband a martyr to Marxist-Leninist theory.

It was brave of ex-president Kgalema Motlanthe to admit that Derby-Lewis's plight is a source of agony to him. Clearly, Motlanthe is concerned about the honour of the ANC-SACP alliance in a way that entirely escapes Nxesi.  There was a deal in this country. All parties agreed that those who told the truth about political killings would be granted amnesty and set free.  Thousands of ANC-aligned fighters have benefited from this understanding, but Derby-Lewis is left to rot in prison. And not because he lied: because he failed to tell the story Communists want to hear.

As for precedent, Nxesi missed an important one: when Bram Fischer fell ill with cancer, the Boers let him go home to die. This is the decent thing to do, and the Boers did it, even though they considered themselves to be at war with the ANC and SACP. Communists should take note. Their cruel treatment of a sick old man makes them look even smaller and nastier than John Vorster's bunch. And if Derby-Lewis dies behind bars, the judgement of history will be merciless.

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