Call to ‘work for country Hani died for’

10 April 2013

South Africans owe it late SA Communist Party leader Chris Hani to work together on building the kind of country for which he fought and died, President Jacob Zuma said on Wednesday.

Zuma was speaking at a ceremony at Thomas Titus Nkobi Memorial Park in Elspark, east of Johannesburg to mark the 20th anniversary of Hani’s assassination.

‘Selfless, fearless leader’

Addressing a gathering that included members of the Hani family and leaders of the African National Congress (ANC), the SA Communist Party and trade union federation Cosatu, Zuma said that South Africa’s debt to Hani could only be repaid by an unwavering commitment to freedom and prosperity for all South Africans.

Hani had proved on many occasions that he was a courageous and fearless leader, Zuma said. He never used his position for selfish gains, but “took his responsibilities very seriously in all structures”.

Zuma said South Africans inside and outside the government needed to work towards ensuring that the ideals of economic and social freedom Hani fought for were realised.

SA Communist Party General Secretary Blade Nzimande described Hani as not the kind of leader “who was hungry for wealth and positions … He was not about the arrogant display of wealth and ‘bling’, but a true revolutionary committed to the cause of liberating the people of South Africa”.

Daughter’s tribute

Comrades, family and friends all described Hani as a “selfless revolutionary” who died for his political beliefs. But he was also a devoted family man who struggled to balance his political and family life.

Hani’s daughter Lindiwe recalled a time “when we as his children were complaining that we did not see much of him. He convened a family meeting and he made us understand that he will never be happy doing anything else other than fighting for the liberation of his people.

“I miss my father every day, just as the nation misses Chris Hani … We miss his courage and amazing leadership … As long as we hold on to his memory, he will always be with us.”

10 April 1993

On 10 April 1993, Hani was shot and killed in the driveway of his home in Boksburg, east of Johannesburg, by Januzs Walus, an anti-Communist Polish refugee who had close links to the white nationalist Afrikaner Weerstandsbeweging (AWB).

Walus and Clive Derby-Lewis, at the time a Conservative Party member of Parliament, were sentenced to death for Hani’s murder, but ironically were saved from the gallows by South Africa’s new Constitution, which rules out the death penalty. They are both serving life sentences in Pretoria.

Hani’s death came at a critical time for South Africa, with negotiators still busy hammering out the agreements that would enable the country to hold its first democratic elections a year later.

It was Nelson Mandela, president of the African National Congress (ANC), who stepped up to prevent the widespread anger at Hani’s murder from spilling over into bloodshed.

Appearing on state television, Mandela said: “To the youth of South Africa, we have a special message: You have lost a great hero. You have repeatedly shown that your love of freedom is greater than that most precious gift, life itself. But you are the leaders of tomorrow. Your country, your people, your organisation need you to act with wisdom. A particular responsibility rests on your shoulders.”

An art and photo exhibition celebrating Hani’s life and work opened at the OR Tambo Cultural Precinct in Wattville, Benoni on Wednesday. The exhibition, open to the public free of charge until 10 May, aims to educate people about the role Hani played in making South Africa the democratic country it is today.

SAinfo reporter and SAnews.gov.za