A monument to South Africa’s anti-apartheid hero Chris Hani has been vandalized, just days after a court ordered the release of his far-right assassin.
The incident was described as a “provocative attack” by the ruling African National Congress (ANC) and its allies.
After anti-apartheid icon Nelson Mandela, Hani was regarded as South Africa’s most popular leader.
The court’s decision to grant parole to his murderer, Janusz Walus, has sparked outrage in ANC circles.
Walus assassinated Hani in a failed attempt to sabotage South Africa’s transition from white minority rule to democratic rule in 1993.
Hani was outside his house picking up newspapers when Walus shot him three times in the chin, behind the ear, and in the chest.
The anti-apartheid activist was 50 years old and the leader of the South African Communist Party (SACP), as well as a senior member of the ANC’s military wing.
Tens of thousands of people attended his funeral, which occurred about a year before Mandela became South Africa’s first black president, ushering in the end of apartheid, a legalized system of racial discrimination against black people.
South Africa’s highest court ruled last week that after nearly three decades in prison, Walus was entitled to parole and there was little prospect of him reoffending.
The monument to Hani was unveiled in 2015 in the cemetery where he is buried in Ekurhuleni, east of Johannesburg.
“The monument was vandalised on Saturday night. One of the pillars is badly damaged, one side just fell off. And the electric lighting system was stolen,” Ekurhuleni council spokesman Zweli Dlamini told AFP news agency.
It is unclear who vandalised it and an investigation has been opened.
In a joint statement, the ANC, South African Communist Party (SACP) and the country’s largest trade union federation said the vandalisation was “tantamount to a continuation of Chris Hani’s assassination in the grave”.
It should be viewed in the context of the court’s ruling, which “pleased unrepentant apartheid perpetrators,” according to the statement.
The ANC and Hani’s family had vigorously opposed Walus’ release, but the court ruled that he had “more than once” apologized to Hani’s family and that continuing to deny him parole was illegal.
Following his conviction in 1993, he was sentenced to death, but his sentence was commuted to life in prison after South Africa abolished the death penalty.
Limpho, Hani’s widow, called the court’s decision “truly diabolical.”
Walus is a Polish immigrant who lost his South African citizenship in 2017.
The South African government has ruled out deporting him to Poland, saying he would serve his parole in the country.
In prison, he became a symbol for young Polish nationalists and fascists.
A reporter for South Africa’s state broadcaster has tweeted a photo showing the damage to the monument:
— Abongile Dumako (@AbongileDumako) November 28, 2022