|Born||28 June 1942|
Cofimvaba, in a rural, Xhosa, village called kuSabalele, then, Transkei
|Died||10 April 1993 (Age 50)|
Dawn Park, Boksburg
|Party||African National Congress, South African Communist Party|
Chris Hani, born Martin Thembisile Hani was the leader of the South African Communist Party and chief of staff of Umkhonto we Sizwe (MK), the armed wing of the African National Congress (ANC). He was a fierce opponent of the apartheid government. He was assassinated on 10 April 1993.
Chris Hani was born on 28 June 1942 in the small town of Cofimvaba in a rural village called kuSabalele Transkei. He was the fifth of six children. He attended Lovedale school and later studied modern and classical literature at the University of Fort Hare.
Political and military career
At age 15, Chris Hani joined the ANC Youth League. As a student he was active in protests against the Bantu Education Act. Following his graduation, he joined Umkhonto we Sizwe (MK), the armed wing of the ANC. Following his arrest under the Suppression of Communism Act, he went into exile in Lesotho in 1963.
He received military training in the Soviet Union and served in campaigns in the Rhodesian Bush War in what is now Zimbabwe. Though the combined operations of MK and ZIPRA in the late 1960s were a military failure, they consolidated Hani's reputation as a brave soldier of the first black army to take the field against apartheid, despite the fact that the Rhodesian Government did not endorse apartheid. His role as a fighter from the earliest days of MK's exile (following the arrest of Nelson Mandela and the other internal MK leaders at Rivonia) was an important part in the fierce loyalty Hani enjoyed in some quarters later as MK's commander. In 1969 he produced and signed, with six others, the 'Hani Memorandum' which was strongly critical of the leadership of Joe Modise.
In Lesotho he organised guerrilla operations of the MK in South Africa. By 1982, Hani had become prominent enough that he was the target of assassination attempts, and he eventually moved to the ANC's headquarters in Lusaka, Zambia. As head of Umkhonto we Sizwe, he was responsible for the suppression of a mutiny by dissident anti-Communist ANC members in detention camps, but denied any role in abuses including torture and murder.
Having spent time as a clandestine organiser in South Africa in the mid-1970s, he permanently returned to South Africa following the unbanning of the ANC in 1990, and took over from Joe Slovo as head of the South African Communist Party in 1991. He supported the suspension of the ANC's armed struggle in favour of negotiations.
Chris Hani was assassinated on 10 April 1993 outside his home in Dawn Park, a racially mixed suburb of Boksburg. He was accosted by a Polish far-right immigrant named Janusz Waluś, who shot him in the head and at the back as he stepped out of his car. Waluś fled the scene, but was arrested soon afterwards after Hani's neighbour, a white Afrikaner woman, called the police. Clive Derby-Lewis, a senior South African Conservative Party M.P. and Shadow Minister for Economic Affairs at the time, who had lent Waluś his pistol, was also arrested for complicity in Hani's murder. The Conservative Party of South Africa (Konserwatiewe Party van Suid-Afrika) having broken away from the ruling National Party out of opposition to the reforms of P W Botha, was the second-strongest party in the House of Assembly, and opposed F W de Klerk's dismantling of apartheid.
Historically, the assassination is seen as a turning point. Serious tensions followed the assassination, with fears that the country would erupt in violence. Nelson Mandela addressed the nation appealing for calm, in a speech regarded as 'presidential' even though he was not yet president of the country:
- "Tonight I am reaching out to every single South African, black and white, from the very depths of my being. A white man, full of prejudice and hate, came to our country and committed a deed so foul that our whole nation now teeters on the brink of disaster.
- "A white woman, of Afrikaner origin, risked her life so that we may know, and bring to justice, this assassin. The cold-blooded murder of Chris Hani has sent shock waves throughout the country and the world. ... Now is the time for all South Africans to stand together against those who, from any quarter, wish to destroy what Chris Hani gave his life for – the freedom of all of us."
While riots did follow the assassination, the two sides of the negotiation process were galvanised into action, and they soon agreed that democratic elections should take place on 27 April 1994, just over a year after Hani's assassination.
Assassins' conviction and amnesty hearing
Both Janusz Waluś and Clive Derby-Lewis were sentenced to death for the murder. Clive Derby-Lewis's wife, Gaye Derby-Lewis, also a senior Conservative Party figure, was acquitted. 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.
Chris Hani's killers appeared before the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, claiming political motivation for their crimes and applying for amnesty on the basis that they had acted on the orders of the Conservative Party. The Hani family was represented by anti-apartheid lawyer George Bizos. Their applications were denied when the TRC ruled that they were not acting on orders. They are still in prison, parole having been denied most recently by the Cape High Court on 17 March 2009.
Conspiracy theories surrounding assassination
Chris Hani's assassination has attracted numerous conspiracy theories about outside involvement. The final report of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, however, said that it "was unable to find evidence that the two murderers convicted of the killing of Chris Hani took orders from international groups, security forces or from higher up in the right-wing echelons."
Chris Hani was a charismatic leader, with significant support among the radical anti-apartheid youth. At the time of his death, he was the most popular ANC leader after Nelson Mandela, and was sometimes perceived as a rival to the more moderate party leadership. Following the legalisation of the ANC, Hani's support for the negotiation process with the apartheid government was critical in keeping the militants in line.
In 1994, French philosopher Jacques Derrida dedicated the critically acclaimed Specters of Marx to Chris Hani.
In 1997, Baragwanath Hospital, one of the largest hospitals in the world, was renamed the Chris Hani Baragwanath Hospital in his memory.
In September 2004, Hani was voted 20th in the controversial Top 100 Greatest South Africans poll.
A short opera Hani by composer Bongani Ndodana-Breen with libretto by film producer Mfundi Vundla has been commissioned by Cape Town Opera and University of Cape Town premiering at the Baxter Theatre 21 November 2010.
A township on the outskirts of Pietermaritzburg, KwaZulu Natal, is named "Haniville" in his honour.
One of the District Municipalities in the Eastern Cape was named the Chris Hani District Municipality. This district includes Queenstown, Cofimvaba and Lady Frere.
An all-male residence at Rhodes University in Grahamstown (Eastern Cape, South Africa) is named after Chris Hani. The residence was opened in 2008 and accommodates 73 students.
The University of the Western Cape also named a residence after him.
- "Martin Thembisile (Chris) Hani"
- "The ‘Hani Memorandum’" introduced and annotated by Hugh Macmillan, Transformation, 2009
- "My Life" Chris Hani
- "Hani Truth hearing resumes"
- "Tomorrow is Another Country", Allister Sparks, published (1994) by Struik
- "Waluś denies Hani killing was his idea"
- "Hani killers denied amnesty"
- "Amnesty Decision", Truth and Reconciliation Commission
- "Conclusions about the Chris Hani Assassination"
- "Obituary: Hamba Kahle Chris Hani"
- "Tonight - 'Bonsai opera' revitalises genre"
- "Sunday Times - 'The Struggle Continues'"