When those who continue to step on our necks come out and parade themselves as revolutionaries, quoting the likes of uTat’Hani I can’t help but wonder why they think we are blind to the truth. Tat’Chris Hani, was a beacon of hope for the oppressed not only in South Africa but the Mother continent and the rest of the world. He stood out from those he led with as a true revolutionary of the working class and the poor at a time, when the leadership of the mass democratic movement had abandoned the vision for a just, classless, socialist society. He was a firm revolutionary that was feared by the system.
His Early Life
On the 28th of June 1942 Mme Nomayise and her Husband Tat ‘Gilbert Hani welcomed a beautiful baby boy into the family, in a small town called Cofimvaba which is in the Eastern Cape. He was the fifth of their six children and was named Martin Thembisile Hani (Chris was adopted by Thembisile as a pen name, it was also his brother’s name). He grew up under oppressive and impoverished conditions, like most working class Africans across the colonised continent which led to his father having to leave their home to look for employment. Tat ‘Gilbert found work in the Transvaal mines and began his career as a migrant worker for the same capitalist system that forced him out of his home and into joining the reserves of native migrant workers who sold their labour for cheap. He would send what he could back home, but it was not enough to sustain the household. Thembisile and his siblings stayed with his mother who was now the head of the household like most African mothers, she supplemented the household income through her work as a sustenance farmer.
The Hani family were devout Christians and the children would walk 25 kilometres to go to church on Sundays, at the age of 8 young Thembisile became an altar boy and actually wanted to become a priest one day, a dream the father had no interest in. Now with his father being away from home young Chris tended to the livestock until he was a suitable age to start with school. The distance to school was the same as that to church, Young Chris and his siblings would walk 25 kilometres to school on weekdays.
During his mid-teen years, the South African government introduced the Black Education Act of 1953, which formalised the segregation of black schooling and it laid the foundation for the emergence of ‘Bantu Education’. He was now awake and his eyes were opened to the limitations the apartheid regime had put in place for the native youth of South Africa. In his own words, “This angered and outraged us and paved way for my involvement in struggle.” He now understood that Bantu Education was designed to indoctrinate native students into accepting the supremacy of europeans and their exploitation.
In 1956 when the Treason Trial began, Chris joined the African National Congress an organisation his father was a member of. He then joined the Youth League the following year which could have been influenced by one of his teachers at school, Tat’ Simon Makana. He then matriculated from Lovedale High School in 1959 and enrolled at the University of Forthare to study modern and classical literature in English, Greek and Latin. The university of Forthare was known to be a liberal campus, this was also where he was introduced to the Marxist philosophy which heavily influenced his future career. During this time the extension of the university education act (1959) had put an end to the attendance of natives in white universities especially in Cape Town and the Witwatersrand, this then led to the birth of separate institutions for Europeans, Coloureds, Indians and lastly Natives.
Tat’Chris Hani was a very active student on campus protests over the takeover of Forthare by the Department of Bantu Education, he then graduated in 1962 from the Rhodes University of Grahamstown with a Bachelor’s Degree in classics & English right before his expulsion for participating in political activism. With a mind like his and the qualification he accumulated opportunities to study abroad presented themselves, instead of taking up the offer he chose to stay and form part of the struggle in South Africa, he joined the revolutionary armed struggles in his own words, “My basic objective is the struggle in South Africa. You know I could have left you see, as others did to go and study. I had a degree from Rhodes University but I, felt that I was not going to go and study. It was my revolutionary duty to be part of the armed struggle of the revolution in South Africa.”
About The Communist Party
The Communist Party of South Africa was founded in 1921, Hani’s uncle was a very active member until they dissolved the organization in response to the Suppression of Communism Act of 1950. Despite this, ex-communists continued to operate in secret this then led to the underground formation of the SACP in 1953.
Tat’Chris joined the SACP in 1961 after moving to Cape Town, in his own words: “In 1961, I joined the underground SACP as I realised that national liberation, though essential would not bring about the economic liberation. My decision to join the Party was influenced by such greats of our struggle like Govan Mbeki, Bram Fischer, JB Marks, Moses Kotane, Ray Simons etc.”
He then joined the military wing of the ANC, and with his level of intelligence he was quick to rise through the ranks. He had come to the realization that there was a need to take up arms in for them to challenge the apartheid state’s supremacy that was maintained by its monopoly.
Arrest & Exile
In 1962, Tat’Hani was arrested for the first of many times under the suppression of communism act. After being tried and exhausted all possible legal appeals against his conviction, in 1963 upon his release he went into exile with his father in Lesotho. Being the revolutionary leader that he was, he joined multiple military training operations which were based in Zimbabwe, Zambia, Botswana, Lesotho and South Africa.
Tat ‘Hani was then sent to the Soviet Union for military training and returned to Africa in 1967 so he could take an active role in the Rhodesian Bush War, where he acted as a political commissar of the Zimbabwe People’s Revolutionary Army. ZIPRA which was under the command of Tat ‘Joshua Nkomo operated outside the Zambian borders, Hani was present for the three battles during the Wankie Campaign and identified as being a part of the Luthuli detachment of combined ANC & Zimbabwean African People’s Union forces. The campaign at the time had gained traction due to the propaganda that was put out about the struggle in Rhodesia and South Africa, but could be viewed as a flop when looked at from a military lens – they could have achieved more if it weren’t for those locals who frequented the police stations to alert them on guerrilla groups. During that same year, Hani managed to narrowly escape into Botswana only for him to find the police waiting to arrest him on the other side for being in possession of weapons. He then went back to Zambia during the last few months of 1968 and continued his work with ZIPRA.
Due to his growth within the ranks of the ANC, MK and the SACP he was transferred to Lesotho in 1973 where he was tasked to organize units of the MK for guerrilla operations in South Africa. By 1982 he had become prominent in such a way that he became the main focus for assassination attempts which also included the bombing of his ca not only from the apartheid regime but the sell-outs that were now in the ANC. He was then transferred from the Capital of Lesotho Maseru, to the centre of the ANC political leadership base in Lusaka. During the same year, he was elected into the ANC’s National Executive Committee and by 1983 he had been promoted to Political Commissar of the MK where he worked with student recruits who had joined the ANC in exile after the 1976 uprising.
When the dissident members of the ANC who were being detained in concentration camps based in Angola mutinied against their harsh treatment between 1983-1984, it was Hani who suppressed the call for uprisings. He continued to rise through the ranks and was made chief of staff in 1987 of the MK, and had also been granted the status of being a senior member of the SACP.
Coming Back Home
When the ANC and SACP were unbanned in 1990 on the 2nd of February, Tat ‘Hani came back home and he did not stop with his activism, he became a charismatic popular voice in the townships. By 1990 he was known to be a close link to the SACP’S secretary general at the time, Joe Slovo. The two were seen as a threat to the AWB and the Conservative Party. When Slovo announced that he had cancer in 1991, Hani took over as the SG.
– In 1991 when Nelson Mandela was elected as the president of the ANC, Tat ‘Hani contested the position of DP against Thabo Mbeki.
-In 1992 Tat ‘Hani stepped down as the chief of staff of the MK so he could devote more time to the organization of the SACP.
Communists were prominent in the ANC and the Council of South African Trade Unions but they were under threat due to the collapse of the Soviet Union in Europe which discredited the global movement. Despite this Tat ‘Hani remained unshaken and campaigned for the SACP in townships and around South Africa, seeking to redefine its place as a national political party. It then began to do well, better than the ANC especially when it came to the young people of South Africa. The youth had no real experiences of the pre-apartheid era and no commitment to the democratic leaders of the more moderate Mandela and his cohort.
It was no secret that Tat’Hani was loved by Native south Africans, he was known to be a charming, passionate and charismatic leader. Hence those who loved him were seen as cultists. This got to the point where he became the only leader who had an influence on the radical township self-defence groups that had distanced themselves from the authority of the ANC. Hani’s SACP would have proved a serious match for the ANC during the elections of 1994.
Why Did They Take Him Out?
Tat’Chris Hani’s views got him killed by his own comrades and the regime, they could not even act disheartened or angry about his passing. Their outrage was very subtle and they were quick to extinguish the fires created by the masses who were angry. He was a leader whose views could not be bought, a voice of the voiceless and a true leader of the people. Here are five of his fiery quotes:
“It makes me realise with impatience the need to defeat this regime, I don’t mince my words when I am speaking about this regime I hate it intensely.”Chris Hani
“I disagree with a lot of people who think that FW De Klerk and others have changed.”Chris Hani
“Some of us have got reservations about the amnesty they are talking about. Before you consider amnesty, let us see what they did. When we were coming back they forced us to fill in forms to say what we did and I think that should apply to them as well.”Chris Hani
“I want to be honest, I was annoyed. I was angry and bitter that this decision was taken without comprehensive consultation.”Chris Hani
“When there was a press conference early in the morning announcing the suspension of military activities, I felt like crying.”Chris Hani
Relationship with uMama Winnie
Chris Hani was prepared to fight until the end to secure a freedom that was genuine hence his close relations with Mama Winnie. The two had a very strong bond and they were viewed as a threat to the apartheid regime and the right-wingers in the ANC. In a touching tribute to her father during the 25th anniversary commemoration event held in Boksburg at the Thomas Nkobi memorial park, Lindiwe had this to say “My father loved uMama Winnie and she loved him as well. As a child coming to South Africa from Lesotho, it was incredibly overwhelming. We didn’t know what to expect, when our parents told us that we would be staying with Mama Winnie and her family in Soweto. This was not a strangers’ name, we grew up hearing about uMama Winnie and you could hear the love and respect in my father’s voice when he spoke about her.” Lindiwe goes on to say “Her name came up when uDaddy would tell his girls that there is nothing that we couldn’t do once we put our minds together, and that we are just as strong and powerful as boys, if not more so, and she would be illustrated in that example” [Citypress, 10 April 2018].
This is a perfect example of the relationship the two families had, and through this we are reminded of why Mama was coined the Mother of the Nation. It is unfortunate that we grew up reading articles that ridiculed uMama and Tat ’Hani where we were spoon-fed heroes to look up to and were ridiculed for falling in love with the radical revolutionaries who the masses on the ground relate to. The Hani family inspire me, because they made it a point to ensure that the legacy of Tat ‘Chris continues to live on, safeguarding it from the vultures who parade themselves as comrades and yet they spread the distorted versions of who Chris Hani was and his views, despite books being accessible.
On the 10th of April 1993, on his way back to his Dawn Park home, he was assassinated by Jansuz Waluz who was an anti-communist Polish refugee that had close links to the white nationalist AWB. The day before his assassination his daughter Lindiwe and her mother drove to Lesotho for the Easter Holiday, it was the late Nomakhwezi who witnessed the brutal murder of her father. When Mme Limpho received the news and relayed it to Lindiwe the dream she had of being the prefect family was shattered. His death also came at a time when the SACP was on the brink of attaining significant status as an independent political party- but it was now bereft of funding and without a strong leader. The democratic process was faltering and those who till this day continue to act dismayed by his passing allowed their seniors and peers to use his assassination as a persuasive tool to push negotiations of a multi-party negotiating forum to come up with a date for the first South African democratic elections. They were also very calm for an angry people you see this in the statements they made in articles during interviews. Matamela as the Secretary General of the ANC used his platform to divert the attention from looking for the main culprits who gave the order from within the ANC, to pushing for the CODESA negotiations Hani and Mama were against. To expose his disconnect from the masses on the ground he had the following to say “Hani’s death should act as a catalyst, to make sure the negotiations process gathers momentum. It is what Comrade Chris would have expected all of us to do” He should have just said it is what they wanted and the apartheid regime.
We are still angry and bitter towards those who were part of these negotiations because they continue to act dismayed only a few were genuine, the likes of Peter Mokaba a fiery leader of the ANCYL spoke in a language we understand and these were his words “We’re always being told to be calm when we want to hit back, for 3 years now we’ve been negotiating. The leaders talk of a political solution, but the so called peace process is not on, what is on is war.” Those who called for war were quickly hushed by the ones who were leading the negotiations.
Hani was brutally murdered and his family was robbed of a husband, father, brother, uncle and the nation…a leader! The system and it’s minions took him out because he advocated for freedom against the supremist capitalist system which continued to assault the revolutionary socialist project! He was taken out because he advocated for our freedom through a revolutionary construction of a worker-led socialist society.
He was taken out because he posed as a threat to the system and the sell-outs within movement. In an interview on the Huffpost which aired sometime in August 2017, Mama Winnie had this to say:
It is scary how our leaders were quick to shift the focus from investigating the gruesome murder of one of their own to promoting the negotiations that led to his assassination, it is also scary how the very same regime was worried about the safety of our leaders hence they provided them with protection and the ANC was comfortable with that because a hit-list was found? Why not investigate? What good is your protection when the killers are among us?
When Walzus & Derby were captured, sentenced and jailed after the 6 months they were sentenced to death-row but it did not happen because South Africa and its new constitution entered a new dawn where the death sentence was scrapped off. Their sentences were changed into life imprisonment, they even applied for amnesty in 1997 during the TRC claiming to have committed a political act because of their affiliation to the Conservation Party, this lousy move was however ruled out but the TRC found that Hani’s assassination was by right-wing extremists who did so independently.
To the not so innocent bunch who continue to act disheartened, you need to find another home for that fakeness. You allowed things to spiral out of control, you kept quiet when several opportunities presented themselves to you for the truth to be told, you chose to dine with the enemy and spread the falsified version, unlike before we shall continue to spread the parts of the tales that were hidden from us. When there are loopholes in a story, you only prompt us to dive deep. May the spirit of Chris Hani continue to live on and may his legacy be respected.
2 thoughts on “Remembering Chris Hani”
I’m going to get the book, thank you for this La Nkosi.
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I did not know about Cyril, lol. Thanks for this Lankosi lomuhle.
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