As the years drag on there may be a danger that the memory, and life examples, of some of our great leaders and commanders who have passed away will slowly fade, and especially that our younger generation will not know them as they should, and learn from their exemplary lives, the selfless struggles that they fought, and the sacrifices that they made for our liberation.
For the Umkhonto we Sizwe Military Veterans Association (MKMVA) it is important that this should never happen. We see it as part of our sacred revolutionary duty to keep the memories of the great Commanders of our People’s Liberation Army, Umkhonto we Sizwe (MK), alive.
In this regard Comrade Martin Thembisile ‘Chris’ Hani has a special iconic place. Comrade Chris Hani was born on the 28th of June 1942 in the small town of Cofimvaba in the Transkei. He was the fifth of six children. Comrade Chris attended Lovedale school in 1957, and finished his last two years of schooling there. He was a brilliant student, and twice finished two school grades in a single year. From a very young age comrade Chris Hani showed a singular determination and commitment to be part of the liberation struggle. When comrade Chris was 12 years old, after hearing his father’s explanations about apartheid and the African National Congress’ resistance to apartheid, he was champing at the bit to join the liberation struggle, but he was at that tender age still too young to become a member.
However, at Lovedale School comrade Hani joined the ANC Youth League (ANCYL) when he was 15 years old. This he did although political activities were not allowed at black schools under apartheid. He also influenced other students to join the ANCYL and the ANC. 1n 1959, at the University of Fort Hare in Alice, Eastern Cape, comrade Hani studied English, Latin and modern and classic literature. He did not participate much in sport, saying: “I would rather fight apartheid than play sport”.
He was also a Rhodes University graduate. Following his graduation comrade Chris Hani immediately joined Umkhonto we Sizwe (MK). After having been arrested, and detained, under the Suppression of Communism Act, he went into exile in Lesotho in 1963. Because of comrade Hani’s involvement with MK he was constantly targeted by the South African apartheid regime and their security forces.
It was during this time that he took on the nom de plume of Chris, which stayed with him for the rest of his life as his adopted first name. Comrade Chris Hani received military training in the Soviet Union and served in campaigns in the Zimbabwean war of Liberation. He was part of joint operations between MK and the Zimbabwe People’s Liberation Army in the late 1960’s. He was also part of the Wankie campaign, and the Luthuli Detachment operations consolidated his reputation as a disciplined and fearless liberation soldier.
He became the Chief of Staff of MK, and was known as a commander who cared deeply for his fellow liberation soldiers, and who was a courageous fighter who was never scared to lead from the front. In return the liberation soldiers of MK were fiercely loyal to him.
From Lesotho comrade Chris organized many operations of MK into South Africa, and he was hated and feared by the apartheid regime. He was targeted by the apartheid security forces for assassination, and eventually he moved to the ANC’s Head Quarters in Lusaka, Zambia.
Comrade Chris often, at great risk, entered South Africa to carry out MK underground operations, but was only able to permanently return to South Africa after the unbanning of the ANC and the South African Communist Party (SACP) in 1990.
On the 8th of December 1991 comrade Chris Hani took over from comrade Joe Slovo as Secretary General of the SACP. He was initially opposed to the suspension of the armed struggle when the CODESA negotiations with the apartheid regime started, but when the majority in the NEC of the ANC supported the suspension of the armed struggle he registered his concerns but as a disciplined liberation soldier, who subscribed to democratic centralism throughout his whole life, he accepted the decision and as Chief of Staff of MK proceeded to implement it.
Comrade Chris Hani also raised his concerns about the so-called Sunset Clauses that became part of the negotiated settlement with the apartheid regime. While in this regard he again subjected himself to the discipline of democratic centralism, his concerns that the demands of the apartheid regime were over-accommodated proved to be very relevant in the manner that it subsequently prevented the ANC from moving decisively forward with the implementation of the Second Phase of the National Democratic Revolution (NDR), and especially with regards to bringing about the Radical Economic Transformation (RET) of the South African economy in favor of the majority of black (especially African) South Africans, which comrade Chris Hani always maintained was critical for full liberation.
We recall how comrade Chris often stated that liberation without the economic liberation and empowerment of the black (especially African) majority, was not liberation at all. This is part of comrade Chris’s legacy that deserves far more attention, and demands critical debate within the ranks of the ANC and the Tri-partite Alliance. MKMVA has always maintained that the political motivation for the assassination of comrade Chris had its roots in the uncompromisingly principled position that he held at all times for the full economic liberation of black South Africans. It is our believe that this matter deserves further attention and investigation, so that we can get to the full truth.
One of the most tragic days in the history of our beloved country was when comrade Chris Hani was on the 10th of April 1993 assassinated outside his home in Dawn Park. He was killed by a far-right anti-communist immigrant, named Janus Waluś. Clive Derby-Lewis, who was at the time a senior South African Conservative Party (CP) Member of Parliament, and interestingly enough the shadow Minister of Economic Affairs for the CP, was complicit in the assassination of comrade Chris, and it was his pistol that Waluś used to commit the murder. The assassination was truly a turning point in the history of our country. Both Janusz Waluś and Clive Derby-Lewis were sentenced to death for the murder of comrade Chris. However, the two men’s sentences were commuted to life imprisonment when the death penalty was abolished as a result of a Constitutional Court ruling in 1995 that the death penalty was un-constitutional.
Comrade Chris’ killers appeared before the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) and claimed that they were politically motivated with regards to the heinous crime that they committed, and applied for amnesty. Fortunately their applications were rejected by the TRC. However, after several failed attempts, Derby-Lewis was granted medical parole in May 2015, after having been diagnosed with terminal lung cancer, he died eighteen months later. It was always the considered view of MKMVA that the treacherous crime that the killers of comrade Chris Hani committed against all the people of South Africa, by robbing us of one of our greatest leaders, was so heinous that neither of them should ever have been granted any form of parole. We remain of that view.
MKMVA appreciates the local and international honors that have been given to one of our greatest commanders, in recognition of his unwavering and selfless service to our country, and for international solidarity with all the oppressed and exploited people of the world.
⁃ In 1993 the French philosopher Jacques Derrida dedicated Specters de Marx to comrade Hani.
⁃ In 1997 the Baragwanath Hospital, one of the largest hospitals in the world, was renamed the Chris Hani Baragwanath Hospital
⁃ In September 2004 comrade Chris Hani was named one of the Top 100 Greatest South Africans.
⁃ Many songs honoring comrade Chris have been composed, among these are the songs ‘#36’, and ‘Everyday’ by Dave Matthews, which contain lyrics about comrade Hani’s shooting. A short opera by composer Bongani Ndodana-Breen with a libretto by Mfundi Vundla was commissioned by the Cape Town Opera and the University of Cape Town and premiered at the Baxter Theatre on the 21st of November 2010.
⁃ The District Municipality in the Eastern Cape which includes Cofimvaba, the birth place of comrade Hani, was renamed the Chris Hani District Municipality, and the Thembisile Hani Local Municipality in Mpumalanga also bears his name.
⁃ In 2009, after the extension of Cape Town’s Central passenger railway line, the new terminus serving the eastern areas of Kayelitsha, was christened after comrade Chris Hani.
All these honors, and many more, testify to the great admiration and love of the people of South Africa, and progressive people throughout the world, for comrade Chris Hani, and the deep and irreplaceable void that we suffered with his assassination.
MKMVA has no doubt that comrade Chris Hani, having been the dedicated revolutionary and true communist that was, would have played a central role in advancing the full economic liberation of our people. His assassination was a carefully planned and executed treacherous act to avoid the ideals of economic justice and the economic empowerment of black South Africans that he stood for, from being achieved. On this 77th birthday of our great commander, and former Chief of Staff, we pledge that we will continue to work tirelessly for those ideals of true and full economic liberation. We will do so in his honor, and will not rest until they are fully realized. In conclusion MKMVA reaches out to comrade Chris’ family and loved one’s, especially his wife, comrade Limpho Hani, and all his children – we know that the loss that they suffered with comrade Chris’ assassination was more personal and even deeper than ours. We honor and respect them for having shared their remarkable husband and father with our whole nation both in life and in death. We also know that on days, such as this 77th birthday of comrade Chris, there are many memories, deeply felt emotions and a huge sense of loss. Our revolutionary love and commitment goes out to all of them. In the name of our icon and martyr, comrade Martin Thembisile ‘Chris’ Hani, we rededicate ourselves to the struggle for full liberation. ALUTA CONTINUA!