Note: I have published this article at the request of the author, who is a freelance writer. There are one or two aspects with which I do not agree, but I believe it is right to provide an outlet for his writing insofar as I am able .
If I were to recount the moments in my life that left me with an incessant lump in my throat, 19 April 1993, will take the prize
Thousands of fellow angry militant young lions got on buses en route to the FNB stadium in Jozi. Not even the holy Easter period could derail South Africa from the results of a vile act of murder that gripped the country in panic and distress.
All I wanted I was an opportunity to bury my hero Chris Thembisile Hani , the most feared and misrepresented Chief of staff of the ANC’s guerrilla army Umkhonto We Sizwe.
Hani was brutally killed by white right-wingers in his driveway nine days earlier. The motive was to halt the CODESA negotiations aimed at bringing much needed stability, peace and democracy to our violence wrecked country.
I was barely fourteen years old, impatient, angry and highly politicised by the events that led to the release of Nelson Mandela from prison three years earlier.
This led me to develop a voracious appetite for protest poetry and protest political literature .
This was not all, I joined the ANC’s pioneer movement – Masupatsela a Walter Sisulu- (ANCYL Pioneers) and soon thereafter the Congress of South African Students (Cosas).
I heard of Hani’s killing on radio while I was studying policy documents of the South African Communist Party (SACP) at the party’s Kimberly district office. This was a prerequisite before your membership of the party could be accepted I was told.
His death paralyzed me with shock and anger; Hani preached peace shortly before his assassination.
I could not fathom why he could be brutally killed on South African soil when not so long ago Nelson Mandela announced the unilateral suspension of the armed struggle and urged us to ‘throw our weapons into the sea’ This was to assert peaceful negotiations as the new terrain of struggle.
It was not long after that, we saw an upsurge of people being butchered and maimed on the trains by what was believed to be Inkatha Freedom Party Vigilantes- this happened through the assistance of the apartheid government’s Military Intelligence who supplied them with guns and ammunition.
Thanks to the combatants of MK who had just returned from exile, a call was made that we form self defence units to defend not only the ANC and the rest of the democratic forces but also the communities we lived in. Their training proved useful and is indelible to this day.
Young and courageous, I was part of a group that received paramilitary training and armed to the teeth.
We had to sacrifice our childhood and at times and wrongly so, our education in order to take part in in the ‘peoples war’.
Our hero of all time was comrade Chris, the guerrilla fighter who when time dictated that he take up arms he did that, and when the time came to talk he preached peace.
This is what I somewhat envied in him, he was truly an all round cadre, neither a hawk nor a dove.
My strict father did not approve nor share my commitment to the liberation struggle ‘I send you to school to get educated so that you can look after me in my old age….but no you decided not to learn instead you learned COSAS and MK’ he complained.
‘The Boers will send you to jail and kill you like a dog’ he added.
Each time I attended a political events or paramilitary training at night, my father would Sjambok me almost to the point of unconsciousness.
At times I wondered if the ‘Boers’ were not more merciful than he was.
In the run up to Hani’s burial he confiscated all my clothes including my over sized MK uniform making sure that I was not going to join the ‘crusade’ to the FNB stadium ‘those looters and and anarchists further provoking these Boers’ he added.
I had to watch the funeral almost half naked from a neighbour’s television set. As the MK combatants marched and drilled in the stadium, I kept on clutching my Russian made pistol, which I had hidden in my underpants.
Neither my mother Councillor Keitumetse Mthukwane who was sympathetic to my cause nor my indifferent father even knew that I had a pistol and a Russian hand grenade in their house- what a risk!
Hani was buried and I was not there, for this I came to a point where I almost hated my father, the spanking and beatings he unleashed on me were by no means ‘abuse’. It was a necessary African way of instilling discipline and first getting your basics right.
I appreciated it more during my tenure as a Xhosa initiate in 1997, Xhosa initiates are trained to be strong and be able to endure whatever difficulty in the interests of them becoming better persons in a tough world out there.
Today the movement that trained me is in the hands of people who were not there when all these defining moments took place, today being an ANC cadre is to sing the praises of and be a darling poodle of the ruling elite. We have been rubbished by the current leadership of our once glorious movement, typical to a pig that eats its own offspring.
Young people must never allow themselves to be used by unscrupulous politicians, they must arm themselves with the best education our country can offer, coupled with organic knowledge, they must at all times invest a lot in their own personal development.
Politicians can never be trusted they will let you down. The liberation movement is fraught with more politicians than revolutionaries. The stolen movement of Chris Hani is no exception.
On this day we said farewell to Chris Hani, he would never let you down, he is a martyr and martyrs do not mislead, may we emulate his example to create a more humane, just and equitable and egalitarian South Africa.
Douglas Ntozakhe Mthukwane
Freelance Writer and Photojournalist
Member of Safrea (Southern African freelancers Association)
Member of Projourn (Professional Journalists of SA)
Cell: 079 191 62 42