Crazy conspiracies taint our Hani memories

2014-10-12 06:00

Princess Diana was killed by British intelligence because she had become such an incredibly popular figure she was eclipsing the government and the rest of the royal family, and she could therefore inspire a popular revolt if she wanted to.

Crazy? Well, that is what many people in the UK believe lay behind her death in a Paris tunnel in 1997.

Among the many other conspiracy theories circulated by those who do not want to accept that her death was a pure car accident: she was carrying boyfriend Dodi al Fayed’s child, a horrific spectre that would introduce Arab blood into the British royal family.

Others believe she faked her own death so that she could escape ceaseless media attention and that she is living in anonymous bliss somewhere.

American rapper Tupac Shakur is also believed to be alive in Cuba, despite going down in a hail of bullets in full view of the public on a busy Las Vegas street following a Mike Tyson fight.

Those who believe he is dead say he was killed by the FBI because his militant lyrics were fanning the flames of revolution among the African-American underclass.

Fellow rappers and their bosses have also been blamed for their part in the conspiracy to remove him from mother earth.

Rock legend John Lennon – who was shot dead by a mentally unstable and delusional man who used to see little people climbing walls – was actually killed by the CIA because his stance on the Vietnam War was finding resonance among American youths.

Even Whitney Houston has attracted the attention of the conspiracy theorists, with some saying that she was killed because she would be worth more to the recording industry dead than alive – something that has been supported by how much her music has been downloaded since her death.

There is also a popular theory that she was sacrificed by some occult sect. Proof of this is to be found in the number of the hotel room she died in: the individual numbers 434 add up to the symbolically significant occult number 11.

By far the most popular subject of conspiracy theories is John F Kennedy. Numerous books, documentaries, films and articles have been written about the question of who really killed JFK.

The alleged culprits have included the Soviet Union, which was the US’s arch-enemy at the time; Fidel Castro’s Cuba, with whom JFK had been involved in the missile standoff; Cuban exiles in America, who felt he was too soft on Castro; the Mafia, against whom he and his attorney-general brother Bobby were waging a crackdown; the military-industrial complex, who wanted a friendlier president who would free up more money for defence spending and of course the CIA because they are the CIA and are involved in every conspiracy.

If you are still reading this you are probably convinced that I have been spending way too much time in Mamelodi inhaling the Pretoria township’s most famous manufactured product. I swear I have not.

But there is a point to all of this. It has to do with the conspiracy theories around the death of South African struggle icon Chris Hani which, like all the ones above, have descended into the realm of lunacy.

Kept alive and encouraged by the SA Communist Party (SACP), the Hani conspiracies have grown wilder by the year since his death in 1993.

Shrinking in relevance, the SACP understandably needs to hold on to something that can disguise its lack of ideas and fresh thinking on South Africa’s current issues.

There have been mutterings – never spoken outright – that former president Thabo Mbeki had a hand in the murder because he and Hani were the ANC’s crown princes.

The prize of ANC leadership for either man would be the first post-Nelson Mandela president of South Africa.

Mbeki haters in the upper echelons have for the past two decades perpetuated this theory with the telling refrain: “Who stood to gain most from Hani’s death?”

Never mind the fact that South Africa’s liberation and therefore Mbeki’s dream of succeeding Mandela could have been badly set back by the conflagration that nearly followed the assassination.

So we are led to believe that Mbeki had some mysterious line to the right-wing that enabled him to marry his ambitions with the intentions of extremists Clive Derby-Lewis and Janusz Walus.

Believers dismiss this doubt by pointing out that the CIA – of course there has to be a CIA somewhere in there – has the ability to make these things happen.

You see, Hani was an unreconstructed communist and Mbeki had quietly turned his back on the SACP in the wake of the collapse of the Soviet empire.

Sensing Hani’s huge mass appeal, the Americans could not take the chance of having a Bolshevik run such a strategically important country. He had to go before democracy arrived in South Africa.

And so the CIA manoeuvred to have the more acceptable Mbeki get pole position by removing his main rival through the hands of the far-rightwing. It all makes sense.

This week anti-arms deal campaigner Terry Crawford-Browne came up with another outlandish theory.

Crawford-Browne told the Seriti Commission of Inquiry that late defence minister Joe Modise, who was Hani’s superior in the ANC military but was despised by the rank and file, conspired to have Hani killed because the latter knew he was already making deals with arms traders even before the ANC got into government.

In terms of Crawford-Browne’s theory, Walus and Derby-Lewis were actually contracted by British arms company BAE Systems, which had Modise in its pockets. Modise was in turn poisoned in 1998 and died in 2000 because “dead men tell no tales”.

Crawford-Browne had previously done marvellous work using the economic and financial rationale to point out the folly of the arms and linking the possibility of corruption.

He was one of those who kept the fires burning in the face of insistence by the government that South Africa was the first country in human history to achieve a clean arms deal.

By the time he landed back in Cape Town, men in white coats were waiting to whisk him off to the Valkenberg mental facility. It is understood he resisted and they let him go.

Crawford-Browne’s testimony was just another sad chapter in our continued demeaning of the Chris Hani legacy.

By insisting that his death was more than just a right-wing plot – possibly involving more than just two men who were convicted of the murder – we encourage the proliferation of crazy conspiracy theories.

We do a massive disservice to his memory.

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