Editorial | Hani’s words still resonate today

Protestors march through the streets after Chris Hani's assassination on April 14 1993
Protestors march through the streets after Chris Hani's assassination on April 14 1993
Image: Gallo Images/Media24 Newspaper Archives

As memorial events continue countrywide in the build-up to the state funeral on Saturday of struggle stalwart Winnie Madikizela-Mandela, so, too, we pause to remember another hero from our troubled past this week.

Yesterday marked the 25th anniversary of the death of former Communist Party and Umkhonto we Sizwe leader Chris Hani.

South Africans will remember this as an event so tragic and shocking that many feared it would result in civil war, and undo the important gains made towards a united and democratic South Africa by that stage.

But thankfully this did not come to pass; not least due to the monumental calming influence of South Africa’s icon, Nelson Mandela.

“What I fear is that the liberators emerge as elitists who drive around in Mercedes Benzes and use the resources of this country to live in palaces and to gather riches.”
Chris Hani

Hani died on April 10 1993 outside his home in Boksburg after being shot in the head and back by Polish far-right extremist Janusz Walus.

Following a lifetime of challenging a brutal and unjust system, Mama Winnie was able to see the fruits of her tremendous toil in her old age; she will go to the grave knowing all the sacrifices she and others made had crystallised in a South Africa where all citizens are free.

Hani, cruelly cut down in his prime by an assassin’s bullet, would never have that privilege.
Be that as it may, the legacies of both deservedly live on, their names forever part of the story of how South Africa was able to emerge from the darkness and into the light.

But the struggle is far from over, as MaWinnie herself knew and as we South Africans must acknowledge.

Racism and inequality remain rife, and poverty is still the daily reality of millions.

It is especially at this time that the words of Hani should echo loudest from the past:

“What I fear is that the liberators emerge as elitists who drive around in Mercedes Benzes and use the resources of this country to live in palaces and to gather riches.”

And: “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.”

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