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Umsebenzi Online

Volume 3, No. 7, 7 April 2004

In this Issue:


Red Alert

A nation that forgets its past has no future! Remembering Chris Hani in the context of 10 years of our freedom

By Blade Nzimande, General Secretary

Before his death, there was no election date. His death stirred a nation, believer and non-believer, rich and poor. In our anger, shock and sorrow we were drawn together. His death carved the election date in stone. He died for all of us… As we move forward to elections and a new South Africa, let us never forget the ideals for which our fallen comrade lived and died.” from a leaflet on elections issued in April 1994.

This Easter weekend we commemorate the 11th anniversary of Chris Hani’s assassination. It was a slaying that was intended to spark a race war and capsize the negotiations process, postponing the first ever non-racial elections in our country, perhaps, forever.

As we commemorate Cde Chris, we cannot forget the contributions made by thousands of dedicated freedom fighters and millions of people who were struggling against oppression on a daily basis. In particular we also remember that revolutionary leader of our people, Cde Oliver Tambo, former president of the ANC, who also passed away within 2 weeks of the assassination of Cde Hani. Amongst these heroes and heroines are several thousands of communists who worked side by side with other democrats and all our people for the vision of a democratic, non-racial and non-sexist society.

In the days following April 10 1993, millions of grieving South Africans poured on to the streets of our country in a massive but disciplined demonstration of popular power in protest against this cowardly asssassination of Cde Chris. On Wednesday 14th April 1993 and again on Monday 19th April, the day of the funeral, four million workers stayed away. These were the two largest stayaways in the history of our struggle. In addition to workers, millions of students and unemployed also observed the two days.

In the end, the assassination achieved exactly the opposite outcome from that intended by the killers. Within weeks, an obdurate apartheid government was finally forced to concede a firm election date (April 27) one year hence.

We know who pulled the trigger, but we should also never forget the sustained character assassination and disinformation campaign that was also waged against cde Chris personally in the months before his death. Richard Ellis, correspondent for the London Sunday Times, and apartheid disinformation specialist, wrote an article titled “South Africa’s Saddam stakes his claim” in January 1993. The regime spread a lie that Hani was assembling a “renegade army of MK and Apla dissidents in Zimbabwe”, and that he was planning a bank robbery! The disinformation machinery had him firmly in their sights.

The apartheid government and much of the liberal media were hoping to detach so-called ANC/SACP “hawks” from so-called ANC “doves”. They hoped to achieve some kind of negotiated elite pact between “moderates”. Writing in January 1991, senior NP journalist Piet Muller said that the transition to a “new South Africa…requires a consortium of political forces, made up of both white and black leaders…This consortium will decide that it has sufficient legitimacy to proceed on its own with a political settlement. It also follows logically that such a consortium”, he added chillingly, “would accept responsibility for the violent repression of radicals and revolutionaries.” (Rapport, January 20, 1991).

Of course, nowadays it would be hard to find anyone who did not speak well of Chris Hani, the MK combatant, energetic organiser, SACP general secretary, people’s hero. But there is praise and…well, “praise”. Some of the “praise” keeps Hani and all that he stood for buried, decisively, on the far side of April 1994. Comrade Chris is honoured as a “romantic” fighter, an admirable “idealist” who would not really have coped with the supposedly sober, pragmatic, post-1994 reality. His killing is remembered as something tragic, but somehow fitting (because it fits the idea of a “revolution completed”, an elite-driven transition, a business-as-usual view of our country and world).

This is why it is crucial to assert, once more, that Chris Hani’s ideals and struggle are alive and more necessary than ever. Part of this struggle is the struggle to remember what actually happened in the early 1990s. Consider, for instance, what Jonathan Oppenheimer, son of Nicky and heir to the family fortune recently said: “In the run-up to the 1994 elections, we found uniquely a positive way to build a new constitution, which allowed us to transform the apartheid past to this wonderful nation that we are today…That was a miracle.”

This is one memory of our recent past – no struggle, no assassinations, no dispossession, no illegitimate profits, just a miracle. Jonathan Oppenheimer would like us to believe that the revolution never happened, just a miracle.

It is important to note how radically divergent these complacent and self-congratulatory views are from, for instance, the ANC’s 2004 election manifesto – “a people’s contract to create work and fight poverty”. The ANC and its alliance partners are, naturally, proud of the huge changes achieved since 1994. We certainly intend to celebrate the first decade of freedom. But the tone and content of our perspectives are so very different from Oppenheimer, “Aluta continua”, is our message. “Learning from experience: we can do more, better”, is the point.

The recent media images in our newspapers say it all. President Mbeki talking to poor whites in Cape Town, or engaging a lively rural community, or squatting on the floor of a modest township home, listening to the concerns, frustrations and aspirations of ordinary South Africans. These are not just “photo opportunities”, they capture what the president and tens of thousands of ANC and alliance activists have been doing, day in and day out, door-to-door, over many months.

We can think of no better way of honouring Chris Hani. After all, it was exactly what he was doing in the weeks and months before his own tragic death. It is what the SACP is going to be doing in the next few days before April 14, and beyond!


SACP message to the ANC National Siyanqoba Rally, 04/04/04, at the FNB Stadium, Soweto, Johannesburg  

The SACP, together with the Young Communist League, calls on workers, the poor and the youth of our country to vote in millions for the African National Congress on the 14 April 2004. Let every worker vote count and let the voice of every woman, our youth women be heard.

As the ANC gathers today, South African communists have, together with the workers and the African National Congress, travelled the length and breadth of our country. We have listened to organized workers, farmworkers, domestic workers, students, unemployed youth, burial societies, street traders, stokvels, owners of spaza shops and indeed to all sections of the working class, in their workplaces, their homes, in the streets and in mass meetings. From this experience we come out convinced that only, and only the ANC, is best capable of responding to the needs of the workers and the poor, the challenge of poverty eradication, creation of work opportunities, a comprehensive HIV/AIDS strategy, learnerships for youth as part of an overall thrust towards sustainable livelihoods, households and communities.

The ANC has, over the last ten years proved itself in practice, that it is the only organization whose commitments has brought significant socio economic improvements to millions of our people. Indeed still more needs to be done, and only the ANC can!

A nation that forgets its past has no future. It is for this reason that we also take this opportunity, during this month of April, to honour and remember all our heroes who sacrificed to liberate our country, and contributed towards its reconstruction over the past ten years. In particular as the SACP, together with millions of other South Africans, remember and honour that great revolutionary and gallant fighter, Cde Chris Hani, whose cowardly assassination directly led to the securing of 27 April 1994 as the date for our first ever democratic election! In the name and memory of Chris Hani, the SACP shall intensify the election campaign over the next nine days under the banner of the Chris Hani Election Trail!

As the SACP we are calling upon the workers and the poor to vote for the ANC for the following five main reasons:

For a strong public sector – The rich can buy what they need from the private sector. The workers and the poor need a strong public sector for education, health care, water, sanitation, policing housing and social grants. Over the last 10 years government has learnt that only in those areas where it has taken a direct lead, that we have changed the lives of our people for the better – electricity, housing, telephony and water.

For worker rights – The ANC government has passed many laws to strengthen worker rights, including sectoral determination for the most vulnerable workers, farm and domestic workers

For land and agricultural reform – The ANC manifesto commits the ANC government to redistribution of one-third of agricultural land by 2014. The SACP welcomes this and commits itself to mass mobilization of rural motive forces to ensure that indeed this goal is realized!

For jobs and sustainable livelihoods – We welcome and support the commitment of R100 billion for extended public works programmes. We call upon the working class to use its organized muscle to pressurize private capital to invest more in infrastructure, in our townships and rural areas for job creation and work opportunities. We must roll back the profit grabbing rich and push for labour intensive methods in our economy

Power to the workers and the poor – The ANC commits itself to the promotion of credit co-operatives, small businesses, self employed youth, expansion of social grants, and creation of 1 million job opportunities. Let us mobilize the worker and the poor to pool together their resources, in burial societies, stokvels, pension and provident funds to create work opportunities and sustainable communities.

The SACP commits itself to organize the working class to take responsibility for its vote for the ANC, by ensuring that it is this class, acting in concert with government and all progressive forces, that should be at the head of the implementation of the ANC manifesto.



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