Chris Hani Remembered

Compiled by Satyagraha Reporters

April 10th marks the 15th anniversary of the death of liberation struggle leader Martin Thembisile (Chris) Hani. Hani was assassinated outside his Boksburg home, in front of his daughter in 1993. At the time of his death, Hani was the general-secretary of the South African Communist Party (SACP) and an African National Congress (ANC) National Executive Committee (NEC) member.

Activist and Friend                                 
Hani's political involvement began in 1957 when he became a member of the African National Congress Youth League (ANCYL). Three people significantly influenced Hani in his youth. They were his father, his uncle, Milton Hani, and the veteran activist Govan Mbeki, father of President Thabo Mbeki. Govan Mbeki taught the young Hani the finer aspects of Marxism-Leninism. Soon afterwards, while at university, Hani took part in protests against black education or Bantu education as it was known. The Freedom Charter played an important role in honing Hani's political philosophy. Hani was active in the Eastern and Western Cape ANC before leaving South Africa in 1962. Hani joined the underground SACP in 1961 and this decision was influenced by great struggle heroes like Govan Mbeki, Braam Fischer, JB Marks, Moses Kotane and Ray Simons. Hani joined the ANC's armed wing, Umkhonto weSizwe in 1962, and quickly rose through the ranks from Commissar to Deputy Commander and Chief of Staff.

Hani and former President Nelson Mandela worked closely together in the NEC of the ANC. At his funeral in Johannesburg Mandela described Hani as a fighter, revolutionary and soldier for peace – one who never succumbed to the glamour and glitter that was offered to him. “We had vigorous debates and an intense exchange of ideas. You were completely unafraid. No task was too small for you to perform. Your ready smile and warm friendship was a source of strength and companionship. You lived in my home, and I loved you like the true son you were,” said Mandela. “You laid down your life so that we may know freedom. No greater sacrifice is possible. We lay you to rest with the pledge that the day of freedom you lived and died for will dawn. We all owe you a debt that can only be repaid through the achievement of the liberation of our people, which was the passion of your life,” added Mandela.

A commemoration service marking the death anniversary of Hani was held at South Park Cemetery in the Ekurhuleni metro. The service was attended by many family members and friends including his widow Limpho and his daughter Lindiwe Hani, Tokyo Sexwale of the ANC‘s NEC, Cosatu general secretary Zwelinzima Vavi, SACP secretary-general Blade Nzimande and members of the SACP and Congress of SA Trade Unions. Lindiwe Hani, who was 12 years old when her father was assassinated, said she felt a sense of loss and she is still shocked by the killing of her father. Speaking at the commemoration service she said “The people who killed my father should pay the price and they should serve their sentences fully.” Nzimande said talking about Hani is like closing the gap between the old and the new generation. He reminded people that they should remember Chris Hani as a person who would never have been in Parliament nor was he interested in self-enrichment. “Chris Hani hated to be office-bound. He enjoyed being on the streets all the time,” Nzimande said. Sexwale, who represented the ANC‘s NEC and also spoke as a family friend, commended Hani as a “good and progressive nationalist” who understood the ideology of the working class.

Heritage route
A national liberation heritage route has also been launched at Hani’s birth place in Sabalele village in the Eastern Cape, in his honour. The National Liberation Heritage Route project is aimed at preserving and promoting the significant events, people and places that narrate the history of South Africa's liberation and rewriting South Africa’s distorted history. The route will be proposed to be listed on the world heritage register, which would be the first of its kind to be recognised by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (Unesco) World Heritage Committee.

National Heritage Council chief executive officer Sonwabile Mancotywa said “We took a strategic decision that such a liberation route should be located in the Eastern Cape for a number of reasons. Eastern Cape has played a pivotal role in the liberation struggle in almost all epochs.” Mancotywa said “The diamond of the province lies in its heritage. The presence of the route will make sure poverty is reduced.” Chris Hani District Municipality mayor Mafuza Sigabi said the route would ensure future generations do not forget the history of the liberation struggle. Sigabi added that the objective is to preserve South Africa’s history and remind and educate the youth about the liberation struggle.

Top Honour
Meanwhile Hani is to receive the highest honour from the ANC in recognition of the role he played in the liberation struggle. ANC secretary-general Gwede Mantashe said “The national executive committee of the ANC has taken a decision that Chris Hani be awarded Isithwalandwe – the highest award in the ANC.” “The award would be in recognition of the role, sacrifice and selflessness Hani had displayed in the struggle,” said Mantashe.

Additional Sources: South African History Online and history