Dashiki Dialogues: Chris Hani and the meaning of our peace

When they murdered Chris Hani, the right wing performed its boldest attempt at killing our collective dreams of peace and prosperity.

However resolved and desperate they may have been, our collective will to create a better day kept those dreams in reach.

On that fateful day, when Janusz Walus and Clive Derby-Lewis cut Hani down, they understood that though everyone seemed committed to a new day in our land, there was a chance, however small, that their darkness might prevail. They took that chance and, by God, they failed and hell did not break loose.

A level-headed leadership appealed for calm and it held. But as the nation sent them to jail, we were still all one leader short. Hani was no more.

But what did he die for?

Hani joined a great many young people in fighting against the dispossession and terror wrought on the majority by the minority white government of his day. That is to say he fought to secure peace and undo the poverty that continues to consume the majority of our people. He was a soldier who understood the paradox of going to war for peace.

We should then ask if, by dying, he brought us closer to the dream of peace and prosperity for all, if not for the majority of South Africans.

So far, a problematic peace has been bought with Hani’s blood, along with the blood of many other martyrs. This peace is problematic because it will mean nothing without achieving the economic redress for people in whose name the struggle was fought.

It is true, peace might be a singular end in itself in our national project. But we must remember that the apartheid state, too, was trying to enforce a type of peaceful existence for its privileged minority. But the poor masses of Hani’s ilk refused to starve and die in peace.

They understood peace and stability mean nothing if all they guarantee is to suffer in poverty quietly.

Hence, this week, as we remember Hani and the martyrdom of others like him, we should commit to a deeper reflection of our debt to them. It will not do to go on with business as usual.

Not when it’s possible for people like Andries Tatane to be murdered for demanding better from the state, or for children at public schools to expect to find their way when passing with only 30%. Not when Mido Macia can die at the hands of brutal police officer in a democratic state – might I add, a democracy founded on sacrifices like Hani’s.

All the achievements afforded us by history will come to nothing unless we collectively resolve to make good on the prosperity part of the phrase, “peace and prosperity”. It’s a dialogue we must face with well-fitted dashikis.

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