ANC STATEMENT ON THE OCCASION OF THE COMMEMORATION OF 80 YEARS SINCE THE BIRTH OF CHRIS HANI
The African National Congress joins the mass democratic movement, progressive forces and South Africans at large in commemorating the 80th anniversary of Comrade Chris Hani. Comrade Hani played an important role in the ANC, as a member of the NEC since 1982, within Umkhonto we Sizwe as political commissar and Chief of Staff, and as leader of the South African Communist Party. After 1990, although he was initially skeptical of the suspension of armed struggle, he was involved in the negotiations.
Thembisile Martin Hani was born in Cofimvaba in the Eastern Cape to Gilbert and Mary Hani. He completed his school at Lovedale, where at the age of 15 he joined the ANC Youth League. Initially wanting to become a priest, Hani graduated from Fort Hare University and moved to Cape Town to do his articles as a lawyer. It was here in 1962 that he was recruited into the ANC underground and Umkhonto we Sizwe, and after a short arrest left for exile in May 1963.
Meeting OR Tambo and Duma Nokwe in Dar es Salaam at the ANC offices being set up, he was send with thirty others to the Soviet Union for military training. Upon his return, using the nom de guerre ‘Chris’, he was tasked to start ANC military bases in Tanzania and later Zambia, and participated in the Wankie Campaign with ZAPU of Zimbabwe. After two years of detention in a prison in Gaborone, he was released and returned to Umkhonto we Sizwe camps. Chris Hani and others of his generation played a critical role in the convening of the ANC 1969 Morogoro Consultative Conference, after their criticism that the ANC leadership focusedtoomuchoninternationalwork,andnotenoughoninternalmobilization. In1974hereturnedtoCapeTowntoestablished an underground infrastructure, and upon completion of this task, moved to Lesotho where he was based for seven years.
Chris Hani at young age was attracted to the ideals of socialism, because of his experience of the exploitation that black workers suffered. He recalled: “I had seen the lot of black workers, extreme forms of exploitation. Slave wages, no trade union rights, and for me the appeal of socialism was extremely great.”
As General Secretary of the SACP, Chris Hani remained committed to serving the needs of the masses, and he called for the Party and Alliance to take up the Triple H campaign, against Hunger and for decent Health care and Housing.
Hani foresaw the damaging impact that the sins of incumbency could have on the ANC and SACP, and remarked shortly before his death in 1993: “I think, finally, the ANC will have to fight a new enemy. That enemy would be another struggle to make freedom and democracy worthwhile to ordinary South Africans. Our biggest enemy would be what we do in the field of socio-economic restructuring. The perks of a new government are not really appealing to me. Everybody would like to have a good job, a good salary, but for me that is not the all of struggle. What is important is the continuation of the struggle. The real problems of the country are not whether one is in Cabinet, but what we do for social upliftment of the working masses of our country.”
On 10 April 1993, at a critical point in the negotiations, ‘Chris’ Thembisile Martin Hani was gunned down in front of his house in Boksburg at the age of 51. Clive Derby-Lewis and Janusz Waluch were convicted for his assassination. On the day of his death, Nelson Mandela made the statement, calling for calm: “A man of passion, of unsurpassed courage has been cut down in the prime of his life.”
As we commemorate 80 years since the birth of this great activist, patriot and communist, we must celebrate his example of principled and ethical leadership, and his unwavering commitment to the cause of the people. He is a martyr to the cause of justice and peace. His death demands of us that we pursue that cause with even greater vigour and determination.
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