A Polish immigrant who assassinated a South African anti-apartheid hero shortly before the country's first multiracial elections was granted parole on Thursday.

Judge Nicolene Janse van Nieuwenhuizen ordered the release of 63-year-old Janusz Walus, who shot Chris Hani at Hani's home outside of Johannesburg on the morning of April 10, 1993.

The release is to go in effect in 14 days. Walus has been in prison for 23 years at the Kgosi Mampuru II Prison in Pretoria.

The murder of Hani, a highly popular leader among South Africa's black working class, threatened to plunge the country into a civil war.

The intervention of the late Nobel peace laureate Nelson Mandela, who pleaded with the public to keep the peace, helped to calm the tension.

"The cold-blooded murder of Chris Hani has sent shock waves throughout the country and the world," Mandela said in a television address on the night of the assassination.

"Now is the time for all South Africans to stand together against those who, from any quarter, wish to destroy what Chris Hani gave his life for - the freedom of all of us," said the man who went on to become South African president.

Walus and Clive Derby-Lewis, who instigated the assassination, were sentenced to death for the crime. Their sentences were commuted to life imprisonment after South Africa abolished the death penalty.

Walus immigrated from communist Poland in 1981 to South Africa to join his family's small glass-manufacturing business.

He told South Africa's Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC), set up to investigate apartheid era crimes, that he chose the country because he believed that apartheid-era South Africa would never succumb to communism. 

He later joined the far right Afrikaner Weerstandsbeweging organization and was granted South African citizenship in 1988.

He said he feared that Hani would take over the country as he was a popular leader in the South African Communist Party. Walus said he saw himself being subjected to the Communist regime from which he had escaped in Poland. 

This made him apprehensive to the extent that "he vowed to do something to try and stop the handing over of his country to a communist ruler," according to TRC records.

Walus started numerous detailed discussions with Derby-Lewis about solutions to the deteriorating political situation.

In February 1993, Derby-Lewis handed Walus a hit list, which included the names of Hani and Mandela. 

Derby-Lewis, who was released on parole last year, testified to the TRC that their objective was to create chaos and a right-wing takeover.

Justice Minister Michael Masutha last year turned down Walus’ application for parole, saying he needed to further engage with the Hani family.

Walus has written to the Hani family to express his remorse.

South Africa conducted its first free election on April 27, 1994, with Mandela elected its first black president.

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