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Chris Hani would not be proud of SA today

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OPINION: Chris Hani would be outraged by the problems of the movement in our political environment today and there’s no doubt he would be outraged by the levels of poverty, unemployment and inequality, writes Lechesa Tsenoli.

A statue of Chris Hani. Picture: Ian Landsberg/African News Agency (ANA)

THE ASSASSINATION of Thembisile “Chris” Hani in 1993 provided a clearly unanticipated tempo of acceleration badly needed then.

If his assassination was intended to derail the negotiations process he was keenly participating in then, for profound political change to take place, it failed dismally.

Instead, it thrust Nelson Mandela into a decisive leadership role, with FW de Klerk marginalised, before his formal election, to calm the country against the right-wing malcontents who killed Hani.

The country, he asserted, must create an environment to move forward decisively, which was Hani’s goal, and that happened.

Skilfully, the liberation movement extracted the date of elections, and serious preparation began for the most significant political transition of the century.

In the meantime, the seething anger and frustration, receded only slowly as Hani was second only to Mandela in popularity. Comrades despaired at the loss of Hani. They cried in desperation and anger when we asked: Of all leaders why Chris?

His funeral was emotionally charged and electrifying. Given the violent repression that took place before the negotiations and his encouragement of self-defence units, the country was on tenterhooks.

The man was loved for his humaneness, his humour, character, his ability to listen, irrespective of the status of a comrade, his admirable adorable memory, mostly never forgetting his comrades’ names and their loved ones.

He was revered, admired too for his courageous, brave and passionate spirit.

Few remark about him without reference to his fitness and charismatic presence.

Wherever he was, soon you would hear frequent bursts of laughter – his mischievous sense of humour at play.

His humility was also striking, one comrade remarking that despite seeing him often, he knew only that Chris was an ANC NEC member after the party’s unbanning.

Others, on the same train of thought of remembering his humility, recall staying with a variety of people in Limpopo. Lying down on the grass after addressing a meeting, he answered questions fully, patiently.

His courage, bravery and passion were always tempered by discipline.

It was this courage that led him to co-sign a memo with 11 other comrades to challenge the ANC leadership in 1968. It led in the end to the decisive Morogoro Conference in Tanzania in 1969.

Long before that, he had volunteered to join and participate in the leadership of the first guerrilla attempt, Wankie Campaign, to break a path via the Zambezi river into South Africa.

This they did under the watchful, encouraging presence of OR Tambo. The effort by Umkhonto we Sizwe (MK) and Zipra (Zimbabwe People’s Revolutionary Army) was not successful but was critical in influencing the political environment.

He survived that difficult period bravely. It was at this conference that the conference decided that there would be the then four pillars of the Struggle.

These were the underground, armed Struggle, mass work and the international isolation of the apartheid state. This guided the momentum towards the ’90s’ breakthrough.

Hani would be outraged by the problems of the movement in our political environment today.

Clearly, he would take umbrage at the slow process to unite former MK comrades for which he was chief of staff.

No doubt the scandalous levels of corruption in society and those levelled at some who are in the leadership of his organisation would sadden him.

No doubt he would be outraged by the levels of poverty, unemployment and inequality.

It is for this reason he certainly would be proud of the relaunch of the Health, Hunger, Human Settlement & Water campaign he originally launched during his time as SACP general secretary.

His life’s commitment was to the working class – the poor. The campaign speaks to the poor and working class he fought for and alongside.

His forthright, yet disciplined, approach would be valuable in contributing to solving the problems we face.

His killers, we insist, must talk.

Truth is painful but it liberates those who speak it, just as it relieves those who receive it.

It is appropriate to observe, remember him and what he stood for in the same month he was assassinated, as we also celebrate our 27th birthday as a democracy.

This election date was extracted from the National Party government immediately after his assassination. It was made clear to them that angry people would accept nothing less.

We have had four successful elections at local government and five at national and provincial levels. The decline in our performance in both elections is not a happy record at all.

Nevertheless, we remain indebted to the confidence the people have given us.

The disillusionment has been the result of increasing levels of corruption, poor management of the finances of the government and equally poor service delivery.

The decision to support the commission on state capture, to unravel the magnitude of corruption and maladministration and recommend solutions, has been painful but an appropriate step to persuade people that we will leave no stone unturned to clean up. That nobody is above the law. That we will not retreat from strengthening the state machinery to turn it into a developmental vehicle that serves the people. That’s the best tribute we could pay to Comrade Chris Hani.

* Lechesa Tsenoli is a member of the SACP central committee. He is also Deputy Speaker in the National Assembly.

** The views expressed here are not necessarily those of the DFA and Independent Media.