Chris Hani salutes at a rally of the African National Congress (ANC) in this file picture taken December 16, 1991. Mike Hutchings/Reuters
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Former Wits SRC President, Mcebo Dlamini weighed in on the tensions between the South African Union of Jewish Students (SAUJS) and the Wits Palestine Solidarity Committee (PSC) by saying it shows how the university serves the interest of the Zionist. WATCH
Who do our struggle icons that fought against apartheid belong to?
Do they belong to the organisations that they were affiliated to while they were still alive, or do they belong to their families?
These are important questions, especially now in South Africa where the country is mired in confusion regarding the direction it must take.
It becomes necessary to look at the past to try and map out the vision for the future. Through ‘conversation and contestation’ we must always find ways to keep the ideas of our martyrs alive and this must be a collective exercise.
Not so long ago the country was remembering the death of towering Black Consciousness luminary Steve Biko, who died at the hands of white people in September 1977.
Organisations and political parties visited the works and the legacy of Biko to try and find solutions to some of the crises we face today. Political formations, analysts and social movements held memorial lectures and wrote opinion pieces on the life and times of Biko.
It is at this point that debates around who has the legitimate right to speak about or interpret the works of Biko started surfacing. Various people tried to compartmentalise his legacy, forgetting that he fought and died for the liberation of all black people.
Soon after that we saw Limpho Hani, the late Chris Hani’s wife threatening to take Lindiwe Sisulu to court over a comment she made regarding Hani during an interview.
Sisulu reportedly said: “Chris Hani was expelled from the ANC and, after a while, after the party felt that he had sufficiently atoned for his misdemeanour, he was brought back.”
Limpho Hani saw this as some kind of attack on her late husband and she responded by saying: “People should not lie about the dead because they are not here to speak for themselves.”
She insisted that Chris Hani never committed and/or was ever found guilty of any offence of misdemeanour by the ANC and/or any other forum. Yet, the statement by Sisulu is not only a historical fact but Limpho Hani read it out of context.
Let us provide a quick history lesson. Chris Hani and his comrades wrote a memorandum to the ANC where they raised concerns about the leadership of the ANC at that time. The memorandum critiqued the autocratic manner in which leadership was taking decisions that affected the organisation. Because of this all the signatories of the Hani Memorandum were expelled from the ANC.
This is not hidden information. It is readily available in the media and in the biographical texts of Chris Hani, one by Hugh Macmillan and another by Leon Engelbrecht, titled Hani – A Life Too Short.
This is information that Limpho should have known considering that she is the widow of Chris Hani.
The context in which Sisulu mentioned the expulsion of Hani was to highlight the importance of having a membership that is critical of an organisation that it belongs to.
She was using history and the events of history to draw a parallel with what is happening today. She was demonstrating that the ANC has always had members who are willing to stand for the truth even if it threatens their popularity amongst leadership or in certain factions.
Sisulu was using the life of one of the most principled leaders of the ANC to provide guidance as to what is to be done. It is baffling why Limpho would be touched by this and even think that the legacy of Chris Hani is being tarnished.
With all due respect, Limpho must not get ahead of herself and claim the sacrifices that Chris Hani made to this country all to herself. She does not have copyrights over who speaks about Hani – more so if the person who speaks is a member of the ANC.
It is also important that she reads history and contextualises statements before she jumps every time Chris Hani’s name is mentioned.
If she wanted to participate in the struggle she should have done so, like other women who joined the liberation movement. Being a revolutionary is not sexually transmitted or transferred through marriage.
Chris Hani and other iconic figures of this country sacrificed their lives for the total emancipation of South Africans, not for certain individuals. This is why they are commemorated with street names, buildings, etc.
It is important that we go to their graves to work with them and against them to build a society that is completely liberated.
Our struggle heroes must not be used as subjects of convenience where certain people want to monopolise their ideas so that they use them for their own personal benefits.
The people must be allowed to feast without fear in the ideas of those who laid bare their lives for all of us to be free.
- Dlamini is a former Wits SRC President and student activist. He writes in his personal capacity.Disclaimer: News24 encourages freedom of speech and the expression of diverse views. The views of columnists published on News24 are therefore their own and do not necessarily represent the views of News24.
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