Janusz Walus, the killer of South African anti-apartheid leader Chris Hani, has been stabbed in prison and is receiving treatment after news of his parole sparked widespread anger, authorities said.
Walus, 69, a far-right Polish citizen who fatally shot Hani nearly three decades ago, was granted parole by South Africa’s Constitutional Court last week and was expected to be released soon. The decision was met with fierce criticism and protests across the country.
“Inmate Walus is stable and DCS healthcare officials are providing the necessary care,” the Department of Correctional Services said in a statement on Tuesday.
He was stabbed by another inmate from the same housing unit, the department said. It did not provide further details on the incident or the identity of the suspect.
Days earlier, Hani’s gravestone had been vandalised, local authorities said.
The city of Ekurhuleni near Johannesburg, where the tomb and memorial site of the late Communist Party leader are located, said authorities had opened an investigation into the damage, which took place at the weekend.
On Saturday, members of South Africa’s ruling party, the African National Congress (ANC), protested outside the court after it had ordered the release of Walus.
One of the pillars of the monument was badly damaged, one side fell off and the electric lighting system was stolen, Ekurhuleni spokesman Zweli Dlamini told the AFP news agency on Tuesday.
Hani, a popular figure and fierce opponent of the apartheid regime, was gunned down in the driveway of his house in 1993, a year before South Africa’s first multiracial elections.
The shooting occurred just as negotiations to end apartheid were entering their final phase, stoking tensions that some feared would erupt into civil war.
Walus was sentenced to life in prison, and his applications to be released on parole had been rejected by several justice ministers.
However, after reviewing a 2020 decision to reject his application, the Constitutional Court described the minister’s ruling as irrational and ordered Walus to be freed in the next 10 days. He was expected to be released by Thursday.
Hani’s widow described the Constitutional Court’s decision as “diabolical”.
The sentiment was shared by the ANC and the South African Communist Party. In a joint statement with trade unions issued on Monday, the two parties condemned the vandalism of Hani’s memorial as a “provocative attack”.
“The judgment pleased unrepentant apartheid perpetrators, who celebrated, while the family of the victim, Chris Hani, and other victims of apartheid were hurt and deeply disappointed,” the statement said.
“This is how South Africa has now become redivided. It is in this context that the attack on the Chris Hani Memorial Site occurred, posing a threat to societal stability, just as the assassination of Chris Hani did,” it added.
On Monday, the Department of Home Affairs announced Walus would have to serve his parole in South Africa, saying he should not be allowed to return home to Poland given the “heinous crime committed”.