Among the graves at the South Park Cemetery in Boksburg, and next to Chris Hani’s special commemorative monument in the Thomas Nkobi Memorial Park, two bigger marquees accommodated a couple of hundred people attending the main event.
It was government-sponsored, and although Gauteng Premier David Makhura was on the programme to deliver the keynote address, it was Arts and Culture Minister Nathi Mthethwa who made the main speech.
There was some grumbling among the comrades that SACP general secretary Blade Nzimande’s address, alongside his comrades from the ANC and labour federation Cosatu, was relegated to the “messages of support” part of the programme. Chris Hani, who was murdered in front of his Boksburg home exactly 25 years ago on Tuesday, was, after all, from the SACP.
Hani, who is often quoted as warning about the future material trappings of power, might not entirely have approved of all the state resources spent on the anniversary of his death every year, but his murder was a big moment in history. It shook the country in a time of great distrust, when it was transitioning to democracy. Even though two people, Clive Derby-Lewis and Janus Waluś, were jailed after Hani’s death, questions remain about who really was behind Hani’s assassination.
Mthethwa, in his speech, spoke about these questions and the disinformation campaign in the months before Hani’s death.
“The story of his life and that of many others is an example of total commitment and willingness to sacrifice one’s life for an ideal,” he said.
He also reminded the crowd, among which were Hani’s wife, Limpho, and daughter Lindiwe, both in black dresses and ANC doeks, of what Hani stood for.
“Comrade Chris lived an important (sic) values of our movement: Collectivism; unity of purpose and revolutionary discipline amongst others. This was a political project and the movement that counted, not individuals, because no one would have made it on their own.”
Nzimande, as well as ANC head of organising for elections, Fikile Mbalula, used the occasion to settle a few political scores.
At the start of his speech Nzimande remarked that the police had still not apprehended the man who, a year ago, brandished a firearm at the party’s second deputy general, Solly Mapaila, when he was making his speech, and booed off stage. He said 2017 also happened to be an ANC election year characterised by fierce, and often violent, contestation.
This contestation is apparently still continuing, with a video clip emerging of an ANC meeting in KwaZulu-Natal where men in party clothes brandished guns at each other.
Nzimande hinted that there were people amongst the SACP’s allies who knew the suspect. “Come give the name to us,” he said amongst some half-hearted clapping.
Waluś, who pulled the trigger on Hani, was still in jail and should stay there, Nzimande continued.
“There are many things that didn’t come together in their story to the [Truth and Reconciliation Commission]. We still want the whole truth and will not rest until we get the whole truth,” he said.
Nzimande, as in most of the previous years, called for unity in the alliance and said the alliance should be reconfigured to reflect that it now was in a time when leaders cared about deployment.
“We are not an NGO,” he said.
The political left was weak and needed to be strengthened by uniting with other left-wing unions and parties, he said.
As for President Cyril Ramaphosa’s “new dawn”, Nzimande said it should be supported, but the SACP should give it “class content”.
The immediate challenge, however, was to “dismantle these parasitic networks in our state”.
With obvious reference to former president Jacob Zuma’s associates, the Gupta family, Nzimande said:
“They were busy capturing the state, but when the state wants to capture them, they run away.”
That was criminality, he said.
It took Mbalula’s clowning, however, for the crowd to come to life.
He spoke about Hani not being “a fashionable leader” and leading “from the front”.
Mbalula, who was recently sacked from his position as police minister by Ramaphosa, said people in the ANC became “indebted to factionalism” and when they’re not given positions they don’t work.
“You don’t do your job and expect the ANC to re-elect you. We must never patronise positions, positions are borrowed,” he said.
Then, joking with Nzimande, who was re-appointed transport minister after being sacked by Zuma in 2017, Mbalula said, “when you’re minister, you even forget your name”, because people only referred to ministers by their title.
From the government-sponsored platform, Mbalula did the electioneering that he’s paid by his party to do.
“The DA will never change the lives of our people. We are not going to fight for scrambles. We want votes so that we can exercise power,” he said, “to change the lives of our people for the better.”
At least this sentiment of fighting for the people closely approximated Hani’s values. DM