We have ancestors who can help us find coordinates for our struggles

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Chris Hani and Winnie Madikizela-Mandela in Lusaka in the 1980s Picture: Rashid Lombard
Chris Hani and Winnie Madikizela-Mandela in Lusaka in the 1980s Picture: Rashid Lombard

Under what conditions do we invoke the spirit of the dead?

In Africa it is often when we seek guidance, light and blessings in our lives.

At times, the dead are raised by those with evil intentions to use them against us, to use them to perpetuate suffering and inflict pain.

It is therefore quite clear that for us black people, death means something totally different – a transition instead of an end.

It is important that we protect the spirits of the dead from those who seek to use them opportunistically, but also we must not be afraid to summon the spirits when things become difficult for us.

This year marks 27 years since Chris Hani was assassinated – on April 10 1993 – on the eve of what was meant to be a year of liberation for black people in this country.

There are many conspiracies around the motive for Hani’s assassination but what seems to be a common factor is that he was a threat to the script that the negotiations and the transition were supposed to follow.

Many might suggest that if Hani was still alive he would not be a member of the ANC and that hypothesis would not be farfetched

Throughout his life, Hani had always been a rabble-rouser and at some point was expelled from the ANC.

Before he died he had just expressed how unhappy he was with the ANC’s decision to prioritise peace over justice.

As a leader of the SA Communist Party, he was quite clear about who the enemy was and what the struggle was against: the exploitation of the workers by the capitalists.

I am giving this brief biography of Hani as a revolutionary to make sense of the present.

Perhaps many might suggest that if Hani was still alive he would not be a member of the ANC and that hypothesis would not be farfetched.

There has been much degeneration in the party that even those who love the liberation movement with all their hearts can see clearly.

Corruption in the past few years has increased while inequality and poverty continue to grow.

The hierarchies that existed during apartheid still exist, there is an elite group of people that controls the economy while the majority languish in squalor without access to the economy.

This all points to the painful fact that there is a chasm between the freedoms we were promised and the freedom we got.

Hani foresaw this, hence his disappointment with the outcomes of the Convention for a Democratic SA (Codesa) negotiations.

But if Hani was going to leave the ANC he would have done so, perhaps after the Morogoro conference in Tanzania or during his expulsion.

But he did not. He remained principled because he understood that division was the last thing that people needed.

Always forthright in his approach, he refused to be silenced.

Perhaps that was what led to his death, because he was seen as a disruptor. He always spoke when he was not supposed to.

Subversive and always discontent with reform, he wanted proper liberation.

But instead of hypothetical scenarios about what Hani would have done we must rather focus on what drove him, what ignited a fire that made him the comrade who was loved by the people and hated by the apartheid regime.

The fearlessness of Chris Hani must always be carried within us until we attain complete liberation

With these invocations of Hani I am attempting to suggest that we have ancestors we can look to in order to find coordinates on how to fashion the struggle.

A reading of Hani’s character may assist us in responding to some of the challenges we face today.

But time is not in stasis so we must work with and against Hani to find solutions to the problems we are currently faced with.

The fearlessness of Chris Hani must always be carried within us until we attain complete liberation.

Those tasked with the responsibility of leading the masses must apply the Hani ethic as a guide.

In times of uncertainty, we must never be afraid to invoke those who came before us because even though they might be dead their ideas can still be kept alive.

Dlamini is a former Wits University students’ representative council president and youth activist


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