Knowledge Session: The Life Of Chris Hani


Chris Hani, born Mar­tin Them­bisile Hani (28 June 1942 – 10 April 1993) was the lead­er of the South Afric­an Com­mun­ist Party and chief of staff of Umk­honto we Sizwe, the armed wing of the Afric­an Nation­al Con­gress (ANC). He was a fierce oppon­ent of the apartheid gov­ern­ment. He was assas­sin­ated on 10 April 1993

At age 15 Hani joined the ANC Youth League. As a stu­dent he was act­ive in protests against the Bantu Edu­ca­tion Act. Fol­low­ing his gradu­ation, he joined Umk­honto we Sizwe (MK), the armed wing of the ANC. Fol­low­ing his arrest under the Sup­pres­sion of Com­mun­ism Act, he went into exile in Leso­tho in 1963.

He received mil­it­ary train­ing in the Soviet Uni­on and served in cam­paigns in the Rhodesian Bush War in what is now Zim­b­ab­we. Though the com­bined oper­a­tions of MK and ZIPRA in the late 1960s were a mil­it­ary fail­ure, they con­sol­id­ated Han­i’s repu­ta­tion as a brave sol­dier of the first black army to take the field against aparthied. His role as a fight­er from the earli­est days of MK’s exile (fol­low­ing the arrest of Nel­son Man­dela and the oth­er intern­al MK lead­ers at Rivo­nia) was an import­ant part in the fierce loy­alty Hani enjoyed later as MK’s com­mand­er. In Leso­tho he was the tar­get of assas­sin­a­tion attempts, and he even­tu­ally moved to the ANC’s headquar­ters in Lusaka, Zam­bia. As head of Umk­honto we Sizwe, he was respons­ible for the sup­pres­sion of a mutiny by dis­sid­ent ANC mem­bers in deten­tion camps, but denied any role in abuses includ­ing tor­ture and murder.

Hav­ing spent time as a clandes­tine organ­iser in South Africa in the mid-1970s, he per­man­ently returned to South Africa fol­low­ing the unban­ning of the ANC in 1990, and took over from Joe Slovo as head of the South Afric­an Com­mun­ist Party in 1991. He sup­por­ted the sus­pen­sion of the ANC’s armed struggle in favour of negotiations.[2] How­ever, he stated that he would not rule out viol­ence in a speech on Nation­al tele­vi­sion shortly before his death.

Chris Hani was assas­sin­ated on 10 April 1993 out­side his home in Dawn Park, a racially-mixed sub­urb of Boks­burg. He was accos­ted by a Pol­ish far-right immig­rant named Janusz Waluś, who shot him in the head as he stepped out of his car. Waluś fled the scene, but was arres­ted soon after­wards after Han­i’s neigh­bour, a white woman, called the police. Clive Derby-Lewis, a seni­or South Afric­an Con­ser­vat­ive Party M.P., who had lent Waluś his pis­tol, was also arres­ted for com­pli­city in Han­i’s murder.

Han­i’s assas­sin­a­tion was part of a plot by the far-right in South Africa to derail the nego­ti­ations to end apartheid.

His­tor­ic­ally, the assas­sin­a­tion is seen as a turn­ing point. Ser­i­ous ten­sions fol­lowed the assas­sin­a­tion, with fears that the coun­try would erupt in viol­ence. Nel­son Man­dela addressed the nation appeal­ing for calm, in a speech regarded as ‘pres­id­en­tial’ even though he was not yet pres­id­ent of the coun­try: “ Tonight I am reach­ing out to every single South Afric­an, black and white, from the very depths of my being. A white man, full of pre­ju­dice and hate, came to our coun­try and com­mit­ted a deed so foul that our whole nation now teeters on the brink of dis­aster. A white woman, of Afrik­an­er ori­gin, risked her life so that we may know, and bring to justice, this assas­sin. The cold-blooded murder of Chris Hani has sent shock waves through­out the coun­try and the world. … Now is the time for all South Afric­ans to stand togeth­er against those who, from any quarter, wish to des­troy what Chris Hani gave his life for – the free­dom of all of us. ”  While riots did fol­low the assas­sin­a­tion, the two sides of the nego­ti­ation pro­cess were gal­van­ised into action, and they soon agreed that demo­crat­ic elec­tions should take place on 27 April 1994, just over a year after Han­i’s assas­sin­a­tion.

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Rishma Dhaliwal

Rishma Dhaliwal

Edit­or / PR Con­sult­ant at No Bounds
Rishma Dhali­w­al has extens­ive exper­i­ence study­ing and work­ing in the music and media industry. Hav­ing writ­ten a thes­is on how Hip Hop acts as a social move­ment, she has spent years research­ing and con­nect­ing with artists who use the art form as a tool for bring­ing a voice to the voice­less. Cur­rently work­ing in TV, Rishma brings her PR and media know­ledge to I am Hip Hop and oth­er pro­jects by No Bounds.

About Rishma Dhaliwal

Rishma Dhaliwal
Rishma Dhaliwal has extensive experience studying and working in the music and media industry. Having written a thesis on how Hip Hop acts as a social movement, she has spent years researching and connecting with artists who use the art form as a tool for bringing a voice to the voiceless. Currently working in TV, Rishma brings her PR and media knowledge to I am Hip Hop and other projects by No Bounds.

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