University of Limpopo, 24 March 2007
National Secretary of the Young Communist League, Comrade Buti Manamela,
Members of the Provincial Executive Committee of the YCL in Limpopo,
Leadership of the ANC, SACP, Cosatu and ANC Youth League present,
Comrades and friends,
It is an honour and a privilege for me to deliver the Chris Hani Memorial Lecture that marks 14 years since the brutal murder of one of our most outstanding leaders of our movement in general and the General Secretary of the South African Communist Party. It is also significant that I am today talking about a comrade who was of my generation and with whom I shared the same feelings as the youth about our struggle and our organisations. This therefore evokes deep emotions within me personally given the times, experience and challenges we faced together.
Comrade Chris was a well-known member of the ANC, who grew through its ranks to the level of its leadership. He served in the ANC NEC for many years. The ANC was his organisation for which he vowed to fight in defence and in service of our people.
Comrade Chris was also an MK member, as it is known, again growing through its ranks, becoming a member of its leading commanding structures and finally became its commissar. As an MK cadre he displayed the required bravery and was prepared to lay down his life for the freedom of our people. He fought in the late 60´s in Zimbabwe side by side with other MK combatants. He was therefore an MK cadre with battle experience.
Comrade Chris was a member of the SACP – again he grew through the ranks of the Party, becoming one of its Central Committee members and a politburo member for many years. When he was brutally murdered, he was serving as the SACP´s General Secretary.
All this clearly demonstrates that Comrade Chris Hani was one of the leading examples of a comrade who was a member of the three organisations at the same time and served them without difficulties. He articulated their objectives without contradiction. He was indeed an outstanding cadre to all three organisations. He vigorously defended the policies and programmes of the ANC, and equally defended the ideology of the SACP as well as the Alliance. He always spoke his mind without any hesitation on all the relevant matters.
He understood the national and class questions in general but more specifically in the South African context. He understood the national democratic revolution on one hand and socialism on the other – and therefore the socialist revolution. He understood the harmony on one hand and tensions on the other, within our broad movement and also understood as to how to handle these for the good of our broad movement.
He relied on his well-rooted theoretical understanding of our broad movement as well as its specific complexities. He was a well-rounded cadre but specifically believed in the Marxist-Leninist ideology. He passionately believed in socialism and communism as the systems that would solve the problems of the workers and the poor, and as the ideology that would do away with class antagonisms.
Given the fact that this lecture is organised by his comrades in the South African Communist Party, I would like to start by quoting the Manifesto of the Communist Party by Karl Marx and Fredrick Engels because comrade Chris loved and believed in this Manifesto. He argued that the Manifesto emerged as the relevant summary of the beliefs of Marxism, has remained relevant since then, and will continue to be so until class antagonisms in society cease to exist.
“The history of all hitherto existing society is the history of class struggles.
Freeman and slave, patrician and plebeian, lord and serf, guild-master and journeyman, in a word, oppressor and oppressed, stood in constant opposition to one another, carried on an uninterrupted, now hidden, now open fight, a fight that each time ended, either in a revolutionary reconstitution of society at large, or in the common ruin of the contending classes.’
This speaks volumes of what has happened since then and what is happening now, what has happened to different organisations and what interpretations have emerged as people analysed different conditions at different times guided by specific interests – some objective, some subjective. It also speaks to how revolutions have been undermined by others on the same basis and other revolutions have succeeded depending on how the interpretation has been appropriately done. But in a word, it says the class struggle continues all the time, whether we are aware of it or not.
This is what Comrade Chris Hani would always say when reflecting on his Marxism-Leninism.
Not only does the Communist Manifesto provide the most accurate analysis of society as it evolves, it also provides the agenda for socialist formations the world over.
I hope that his comrades who are in the Party are doing justice by studying the ideology Comrade Chris Hani believed in for he used to say it was not enough to know or to be aware of Marxist-Leninist ideology but that it needed to be studied and properly understood. He said that without a proper, scientific understanding, people find it difficult to apply it to concrete conditions.
Comrade Chris believed that the Marxism-Leninism had to be applied in all situations that would affect people in the struggle for liberation as well as in the reconstruction of our country, and enhancing of freedom in every respect.
It is now 14 years since Comrade Chris was brutally murdered in April 1993. At his funeral, the then President of the ANC, Comrade Nelson Mandela said the following:
“Of the highest priority will be the issues that were closest to the heart of Chris Hani: the reconstruction of South Africa so as to ensure that apartheid is not reformed, but uprooted in its entirety.
In the interests of all our people we will build national unity, drawing on the wealth of our human resources, the courage and strength of all our people. We want to build a nation free from hunger, disease and poverty, free from ignorance, homelessness and humiliation, a country in which there is peace, security and jobs.
These achievements will be living monuments to the heroes like Chris Hani, who died fighting for such a vision.’
These words were able to move us from the sheer horror and anger at his assassination, and mass mourning across our nation, to focus on the task of completing the process of negotiations and building our country.
During that time, as was the case many times prior and consequently, the resilience of our movement was put to the test. Our movement prevailed and was able to overcome that bleak period in our history because of one primary reason – we acted in unity. We wept together, we grieved together, we comforted one another and we held each others´ hands as we moved forward to confront the challenges that lay ahead. As partners in the Alliance, we all knew our tasks and set out to attain that vision articulated by the then President Mandela.
One of our greatest strengths is that we are a multi-class movement – an amalgamation of all class forces into one movement building this country. At the core is the political clarity, the glue that holds our movement together, as well as the working class and the poor who form the larger body of this movement. That is why we always maintain that this movement must remain worker and poor biased.
This is true for two reasons – the working class is in the majority and it has the organisational muscle needed to drive change. For this reason, the working class was central to the fight against apartheid and should remain pivotal to the economic, social and political reconstruction and development of South Africa.
In South Africa, we have a Communist Party which has been at the forefront of organisations mobilising the working class for revolutionary struggle to achieve a united, non-racial and democratic South Africa. Together with the ANC and the trade union movement, the SACP has been part of the lead force for national liberation. The contribution of the SACP to the liberation struggle – through its ideas and grooming of cadres – can never be underestimated.
One of the main challenges for the Party is that, in addition to maintaining its vanguard role, championing the interests of the poor, it must remain one of the key repositories for political thought development, perception and intellectual engagement in the broad movement. In my view, the relaunch of the Young Communist League has played a significant role in grooming a new generation of clear-thinking communists who will meet this challenge.
While the SACP and the YCL have made great strides in articulating the needs, problems and challenges facing the working class and the poor, they have to step up efforts to ensure that these are addressed. The ongoing class struggle remains their responsibility. The SACP is one of the key front-line representative voices of the majority of our people, the poor and the working class.
Within our Alliance, there should never be antagonism to the voices of the working class. Those who were part of managing the relationship in the Alliance before us are instructive in this regard.
Former SACP General Secretary, Comrade Moses Mabhida had this to say:
“Our Party´s relationship with the ANC is based on mutual trust, reciprocity, comradeship in battle and a common strategy for national liberation. Our unity of aims and methods of struggle is a rare instance of positive alignment between the forces of class struggle and national liberation’.
Comrade Chris Hani spelt out the relationship in greater detail:
“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 order for this Alliance to work in the manner envisaged by such heroes of our struggle, there are among others two essential tasks – nurturing of political tolerance and refocusing on our broad national agenda.
Political tolerance relates to both how we engage one another as Alliance partners as well as with other parties. Communists should be smooth, scientific and use advanced methods in undertaking this task of handling the political relations for the good of the organisations as well as for the country.
Again I would like to draw on the wisdom of Comrade Chris who had this to say on the issue of political tolerance:
“We as the ANC-led liberation alliance have nothing to fear and everything to gain from a climate of political tolerance. We do not fear open contest and free debate with other organisations. Open debate can only serve to uncover the bankruptcy of our political opponents.’
But we should equally emphasize the need and importance of open debate and discussion within our broad movement because it will produce different results to those of our opponents. It will develop our cadres to an advanced level with a deepened understanding of the scientific and revolutionary theory.
A climate in which we resist open engagement on issues of national interest due to political intolerance or fear, will never allow the growth of political consciousness. It is fatal to the democratic values and culture of debate on which our movement is built, and on which the SACP in particular thrives.
We are witnessing in the world around us how the lack of political tolerance and debate lead to the disintegration of democratic values and the destruction of nations. That should not be allowed to happen in our country and in our broad movement.
We should lead by example so that we assist others in our country and outside to respect opposing views. After all, that is what made us grow politically and command respect as a leading democratic force.
The second task is equally challenging in the sea of competing interests driven by the different classes. What is our broad national agenda and what are our roles in realizing it. As quoted above, in the wake of Comrade Chris´s murder, President Mandela told us that it was “to build a nation free from hunger, disease and poverty, free from ignorance, homelessness and humiliation, a country in which there is peace, security and jobs´.
I believe the agenda for us can be best described as the creation of a caring, a healthy and a learning nation.
A caring nation is one that must, in the first instance, address the needs of the overwhelming majority of the people. The fight against poverty, as spelt out in our January 8 Statement, is central to this task. The provision of basic services to millions of our people who live in hardship will help create a more humane society.
A caring society also means fighting all forms of crime, particularly against women and children, and helping the victims of crime overcome the resulting trauma and fear.
In order for a society to be caring, it must also be just. This does not only relate to legal justice, but social and economic justice to address the gap between the rich and poor, the rural and the urban.
The youth has a particular task in the cultivation of a caring nation. We are creating a society you will one day have a responsibility to lead. Therefore it is an imperative that we build communities that are compassionate and considerate of the needs of others.
Developing a healthy nation means advancing efforts to create an affordable, efficient and quality public health system. This requires providing resources as well as paying health workers decent living wages. Health workers themselves must rededicate themselves to the provision of quality service and helping those who are sick.
It also means stepping in to assist in the implementation of our government´s comprehensive strategy to combat HIV and AIDS. In this regard, I want to propose to our youth formations to look into the establishment of Youth Brigades on HIV and AIDS. These brigades should be tasked with door to door visits, promoting HIV education, healthy lifestyles and testing, as well as counselling for those infected and affected by the disease. The introduction of these brigades can also allow us to take on other challenges in society and I believe the YCL could take a lead in this initiative.
The third facet of our agenda is the creation of a learning society. The youth must make use of the opportunity created by our new dispensation to educate themselves and others both formally and informally. This is in line with the COSAS motto: “Each one teach one’.
In this regard, the YCL has a particular role in political education to teach other young people and adults about the history of societies, class struggle and its manifestations in the current period. I would however like to congratulate the YCL and others in the Progressive Youth Alliance for their energy and focus on the issue of education as this is an essential element in the task of nation-building
As part of the Alliance´s Know Your Neighbourhood Campaign, led by the SACP, we should be identifying children who should be at school and are not. It is all our responsibility to make sure that there are no such children in our communities. Orphans need particular attention in our communities, and are more vulnerable given the scourge of HIV and AIDS.
Adult Basic Education and Training and skills development are crucial to the effort to create a nation in progress. Illiteracy levels remain unacceptably high and we need more community-driven efforts to deal with this problem. Schools, church buildings and halls lie idle after hours and should be turned into centres of learning to tackle illiteracy. We have a history of the night school movement in the 40´s and 50´s which produced many leaders of the national liberation struggle. Such an initiative would make Comrade Chris proud.
Every year there are thousands of matric dropouts, people who cannot proceed to higher education or find jobs. It is wrong for us to focus only on tertiary qualifications as a means to participating in the economy. The training of artisans and good, old-fashioned basic skills such as plumbing, welding and boiler-making will fill much needed gaps in the job market and promote SMEs.
We must really encourage a change of attitude in the areas our young people chose to study. These must be work related.
Those who impart education are equally important – we need a well remunerated teaching core, committed to the culture of teaching. Teaching must go back to being a passion not just a job. It is a most noble profession to nurture and educate young minds.
Communities must also take up the challenge to ensure that no matter where they are located, each classroom has an environment conducive to learning.
I have posed concrete challenges, particularly to the youth, in order to advance the national agenda of our movement. In a multi-class society where there are unequal resources, fierce class struggles are waged.
As Marx said: “Man make history but not under circumstances of their own choosing’. This means we must always understand that what we seek to achieve, must be struggled for.
As I said earlier, there was never a contradiction in Comrade´s Chris´s roles in the SACP, the ANC and Umkhonto we Sizwe. He aptly defined the nature of our ongoing struggle and the roles we can play in it as follows:
“The perks of a new government are not really appealing to me. Everybody of course, would like to have a good job, a good salary, and that sort of thing. But for me, that is not the be-all of a struggle. What is important is the continuation of the struggle – and we must accept that the struggle is always continuing – under different conditions whether within parliament, or outside parliament, we shall begin to tackle the real problems of the country. And the real problems of the country are not whether one is in the cabinet, or a key minister, but what we do for social upliftment of the working masses of our country.’
Therefore, wherever we find ourselves in this revolutionary Alliance, none of us should see any contradiction in carrying out our tasks.
In conclusion, I would like to say that in memory of Comrade Chris Hani we should defend our organisation the African National Congress, its values and traditions. We should equally defend the SACP and its proud legacy in the political landscape of our country. We should also vigorously defend the Alliance, its unity and revolutionary traditions as a broad leader of the South African people. We should treasure it and deepen its successes.
We should always remember that without the ANC, the SACP and the revolutionary trade union movement, South Africa would not be what it is today. That means the future of our country is in the hands of this combined leading force.
I thank you