Power to the People: In Memory of Chris Hani
Wallacedene, Cape Town, 21 April 2007
I would like to acknowledge the invitation by this branch for inviting me once again to commemorate the late General Secretary of the SACP, Martin Thembisile Hani, otherwise known by his nuem de guere of Cde Chris.
Let us continue remembering our heroes
It is very significant that we remember our heroes, gallants, fighters, liberators and freedom fighters so as to ensure that we remind ourselves of the vision that we struggled for and the objectives we seek to attain. The greatest mistake that any liberation movement can commit is to try and wipe out sections of its history of struggle and liberation, its leaders – both dead and alive – and the price at which our liberation came with.
Chris Hani is but one of those cadres that we as the youth and the current generation should always remember and pride ourselves with. General Secretary of the SACP at the time of his death, former soldier of Umkhonto we Sizwe and Chief of Staff of that liberation movement, an Organiser, militant, fighter and committed cadre of the struggle for socialism, Comrade Chris espoused the kind of leader that our revolution needs.
Our liberation was not a miracle
The death of Comrade Chris demystified the notion that the South African revolution was a miracle. Miracles are not performed through bloodshed and loss of life. Nelson Mandela did not just break from Robben Island like some Houdini and walk into the city of Cape Town to declare freedom once and for all. There was no ‘long prayer´ or ‘long fast´, or even a walk into Mount Sinai that resulted into a change of heart on the part of De Klerk and the Apartheid regime to liberate us. The people where their own liberators. The people are the ones who rendered the country ungovernable, demanded the release of Nelson Mandela, participated in stay aways and became a force that shook the foundations of Apartheid.
When Chris Hani was gunned down in 1993, April 10, the conspirators clearly intended to ensure that they bring the peace process into a standstill and frustrate the negotiation process. They knew very well that because we loved Chris Hani so much, we would not stand by but ensure that we fight forth and bring the country to a point of crises. It is at that point that the country, astonishingly and to the disappointment of the conspirators, was propelled to move forward and within weeks an election date was announced where the ideal of one man one vote would be attained.
To the dismay of many, the assassination of Chris Hani came at a time when he decided to talk peace and persuade his own comrades who were in the underground military to demobilize and participate in the peace process. Such is the irony that characterized the life of Chris Hani.
Never one shy to express his views explicitly, Comrade Chris at all times ensured that his views are well known and appreciated, whether agreed with or not, and never minced his words when speaking for the workers and the poor.
Close the gap between the Leaders and the People
I said consistently “Amandla Ngawethu’ and “All Power to the People’ as a dedication to the memory of Chris Hani because of his own believe that power belongs to the people. The National Liberation Movement, the ANC, the SACP, COSATU and the Mass Democratic Movement relied on the power to the people to defeat Apartheid. Chris Hani did not believe in the centralization of power in the hands of few elected officials. The one major challenge that we face as the elected leadership of these formations is to ensure that we close the gap between the leadership and the people. The advent of democracy and the occupation of new positions by our leaders have widened this gap between them and the people.
One of the most significant characteristics of Chris Hani was his ability to engage and pick up issues that affects the people. The political distance created between the people and their leaders makes this impossible. When the real challenge about access to Health for those who do not have, education for those without, food for the Hungry and the challenge of the socialization of the means of production into the hands of the people are the issues that affects our societies; the leaders provide wrong solutions for this problems. When we want food and houses, they use the land for golf courses and game farms. When we want health care and education for free, they tell us these can be provided if we can afford. In memory of Chris Hani, we should claim power as the people and direct our leadership.
This community is one of the most under-developed. With house shortages, electricity, hunger, water shortages, unemployment and HIV/AIDS as some of the challenges that you face in this community. We need to ask ourselves the question, can we get all these issues sorted out by relying on the leaders, or do we need to mobilise and unleash the power and capacities of the people to ensure that all of these are achieved. If we are made to believe the propaganda that ours was a miracle, then we are likely to lay back and expect the same miracle to take forward our liberation and defend it. But if we believe in our own power, then, and only then, we will ensure that we give meaning to our democracy.
Socialism is about simple things
Chris Hani ensured that he demystifies the notion of socialism as a theory of big concepts mainly meant for some professors in University Campuses. In defining socialism, insisting that it should be about simple things, Chris said that:
“The crisis of socialism cannot spell the end of history. I’m saying this because we’ve got to go back to the reasons for the emergence of the theories of scientific socialism…. That is still the position in capitalist countries, we have a class which own the means of production, and we have workers who only sell their labour power. So long as that contradiction of social production and private appropriation remains, there’ll always be a case for socialism.
“Socialism is not about big concepts and heavy theory. Socialism is about decent shelter for those who are homeless. It is about water for those who have no safe drinking water. It is about health care, it is about a life of dignity for the old. It is about overcoming the huge divide between urban and rural areas. It is about a decent education for all our people. Socialism is about rolling back the tyranny of the market. As long as the economy is dominated by an unelected, privileged few, the case for socialism will exist.’
Through this, Chris Hani ensured that he does not speak in tongues to use big concepts to confuse the people, but ensured that he empowered them in order to for them to fight for all of these ideals. Let us take for instance the ANC Strategy and Tactics Discussion Document whose discussion will culminate into an approach for the members of the ANC towards transforming our society. The language and style used in the ANC S&T is inaccessible to the ordinary member of the ANC, too elitist, too abstract and too long and is meant to ensure that these members are unable to engage and access it. We need to do away with this new speak and double speak, whose main intention is to become a red herring to confuse the people on the ground.
Chris Hani and the kind of SACP we need.
One of the admirable traits of Chris Hani was his ability to bring to practice his own assertions and theoretical ideals. Thus, under his leadership as General Secretary of the SACP, he led the Triple H Campaign (for Health, Housing and against Hunger). Chris Hani therefore created a campaigning, organising and activist SACP which would close the gap between them and the masses. As the YCL, we are taking forward all of these issues that Chris Hani raised through our Defiance Campaign and the 10 Youth Demands. Thus, our critical message was that we want to be like Chris.
We are proud today of the leadership of the SACP under the guidance of the General Secretary, Blade Nzimande, which has taken back these issues that Chris Hani had raised as those of an ideal South Africa. The issues relating to a once-off amnesty in the credit bureaux, land for the landless for sustainable farming, access to micro finance and basic services for all.
Do not corrupt our youth.
There is a tendency that has been creeping into our movement of buying young people from their principles due to their poverty and unemployment. Because of the energy that we have as the youth of this country, and our ability to get things done, many young people are promised jobs and money in exchange of votes in ANC or SACP meetings. This tendency, of members who join members or belong to members; and of ‘the deeper the pocket the greater the chances of being elected´ needs to be dealt with, especially in the light of the SACP 12th National Congress and the ANC National Conference in December. We are aware of people who have committed financial resources to ensure that certain people are elected in those conferences, that our organisations are reduced to some Clinton-Obama battle (being based on who have a deeper pocket).
We want to say today as the YCL in memory of Chris Hani, that young people should not be drawn into this corruptive tendencies of buying votes in our organisation as this has led to fakes, fong kong and phony leadership that has created a political distance with the people. When promised jobs, when promised money, we call on they youth to take these and still go on and ensure that they keep their principled positions. We must not allow our principles to be bought that cheaply.
We call on an Inquest on the assassination of Chris Hani
There are talks about a possible amnesty or presidential pardon for both Waluz Janus and Clive Derby-Lewis, the only two people arrested and prosecuted for the assassination of Chris Hani. As the YCL we call on our government and President Thabo Mbeki not to even consider this amnesty or pardon. As the YCL we would want to see both of them rotting in hell mainly because they are not prepared to assist with more information on whom else was involved in the assassination of Chris Hani.
Information on the assassination of the late General Secretary of the SACP has been brought forth to the attention of the National Prosecutions Authority in order for it to open an inquest. The challenge that we should bring forth new information is malicious, because we consistently said that the information concerning this assassination has been there and was never followed up.
To quote from a Mail and Guardian, of 31 January 197, it states that it “is in possession of two documents, at least one which appears certain to have been delivered to the old South African Defence Force’s Department of Military Intelligence (MI) before the assassination. Julie Wilken, long-time girlfriend of MI agent Eugene Riley, says in a sworn statement that she typed the documents, which Riley had composed for his MI handlers. She has passed a lie-detector test on the contents of her affidavit. Riley died of a single gunshot wound to his head on January 31 1994. His death remains a mystery.
“The documents raise the question why MI, pre-warned, had done nothing to prevent Hani’s death. More surprisingly, they claim an unidentified group of African National Congress operatives had a hand in Hani’s death. About two weeks before Hani’s assassination, Laher started giving Riley information on an assassination attempt that would be launched against an unnamed “prominent political figure”. In follow-up meetings, Laher gave more detailed information, including that Hani would be the target. Wilken states she was present at some of the earlier meetings.
We need to ask the question if it is true that the Military Intelligence and the ANC Intelligence was involved in the assassination, or whether it was truly aware of any plot to assassinate Chris Hani.
Defend the Alliance
In the words of Chris Hani, we have a challenge to defend the alliance, and to quote directly from what Chris Hani said: “We have fought together with the ANC and progressive trade union movement. We feel our presence in this broad alliance has actually strengthened the alliance, and brought about a situation where the interests of the workers and the poor are embraced in the basic programme of the ANC and the trade unions. I think that’s a major contribution that we have made. And I don’t think we should feel shy about saying openly that we actually radicalised the ANC. We have moved the ANC from being a narrow nationalist movement championing the interests of a few, to a movement which has embraced the interests of the workers, the oppressed intelligentsia, the black middle class and I think that is our basic achievement…
“The ANC despite being a multi-class organisation, must still retain that element which has made it appealing to the majority of our people, namely, the radical element, the element of addressing some, not all of the aspirations of the working class…
“This is also the time where we should consolidate this alliance. And this alliance cannot work in the old way, a few communists working with the ANC and COSATU to strengthen these organisations… Let’s accept that there’s always going to be a struggle within the ANC (not a hostile struggle) for the predominance of the ideas of the various classes within the ANC; there’ll always be an attempt to balance these tendencies within the ANC. The ANC has always got to have these tendencies, otherwise it wouldn’t be the ANC.’
In line with power to the people, we should ensure that the people in the first instance are the true defenders of the Alliance. The ANC, the SACP or COSATU does not belong to their elected officials but to the people. The Alliance should be defended as a centre of peoples power. The troubles of the alliance, its division and the struggle for power in an elitist fashion, for instance, is gradually leading to the Democratic Alliance taking over power in municipalities in the Western Cape.
The alliance is currently undergoing an unprecedented crises which is as a result of arrogance, uncensored insults hurled at the leaders of the SACP and COSATU by some members of the ANC NEC. We want to reiterate our call to President Thabo Mbeki to act judiciously and astutely in the interest of a strong alliance. However, power to defend the alliance rest in you, the branches and members of all of these structures.
Defend the Alliance! Power to the People!