Remembering Commander Hani

Twenty years after his cowardly assassination, this is how I remember Commander Chris Hani, writes Karl Cloete, Numsa’s deputy general secretary.

On the SACP and the ANC
“This was unique for a liberation movement to develop those close relations between a nationalist movement, basically, and a working class organisation. I think this history should be known to our people, because the richness of our national liberation is due to the existence of these proper tendencies within the mainstream of the national liberation movement.

The struggle for national liberation, for freedom and democracy, but at the same time saying, that freedom and democracy must be prefaced by the need to bring about deep-going socio-economic changes in our society.”.

On the enemy
“I think finally the ANC will have to fight a new enemy. That enemy would be another struggle to make freedom and democracy worthwhile to ordinary South Africans. Our biggest enemy would be what we do in the field of socio-economic restructuring. Creation of jobs; building houses, schools, medical facilities; overhauling our education; eliminating illiteracy; building a society which cares; and fighting corruption and … the gravy train of using power, government position to enrich individuals. We must build a different culture in this country, different from Africa, different from the Nationalist Party. And that culture should be one of service to people.”

On why he didn’t want to go into the future government
“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 cabinet, or a key minister, but what we do for social upliftment of the working masses of our people.”

On the SACP
“We must never forget that the SACP champions the interests of the workers and the poor. Therefore our role has become, in my own view, even more critical … The Party in this country can only be strong if it spends some of its time on building and consolidating itself as an independent entity. ”

“We can only become influential if everybody can see we are really independent, we are strong, we’ve got presence in regions, we’ve got branches, and we’re beginning to tackle some of the issues that face the workers and the poor in this country.”

On death
“The police see me as the brains and key strategist. I have given up trying to prove that I am campaigning for peace. These guys see me as someone who is bad news. I fear that there are people who have the capacity to eliminate me. I am frightened about what they are planning.”

On the army
“A new South African army must be loyal to a democratic government and accountable to parliament or, if you like, civilian authority and the constitution. The army must never be used by any political party to entrench itself in power. Armies must be seen as the helpers of the people, who help during natural disasters, building bridges. We would not want a future army to be deployed to stop people from exercising their right to demonstrate.”

On peace:
“What we need in South Africa is for egos to be suppressed in favour of peace. We need to create a new breed of South Africans who love their country and love everybody, irrespective of their colour.”

On life and the struggle
“I’ve never wanted to spare myself, because I feel there are people who are no longer around and died for this struggle. What right do I have to hold back, to rest, to preserve my health, to have time with my family, when there are other people who are no longer alive – when they sacrificed what is precious: namely life itself.”