Hani's 20-year memorial turned into a political charade

President Jacob Zuma lays a wreath at the Hani memorial.(Nickolaus Bauer, M&G)

President Jacob Zuma lays a wreath at the Hani memorial.(Nickolaus Bauer, M&G)

Tripartite alliance politics took centre stage at the 20th anniversary commemorations of former South African Communist Party (SACP) general secretary Chris Hani in Boksburg.

Top officials from the ANC, Cosatu and SACP were in attendance, but instead of the ceremony focusing on the fallen Hani's memory, the occasion was used to fire broadsides at foes within the alliance.

On April 10 1993, Hani was assassinated by Pole Janusz Walus with a gun arranged by right-winger and former Conservative Party MP Clive Derby-Lewis. The duo hoped Hani's death would trigger a full scale civil war fought along racial lines, thus derailing South Africa's march towards democracy.

They were both sentenced to death, but this was commuted to life in prison when the death penalty was abolished in the mid-90s.

Although they initially applied for amnesty through the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, they were denied as the commission ruled the pair were not entirely truthful about their reasons for killing Hani or who else was involved in the plot.

Cosatu general secretary Zwelinzima Vavi spoke first and said Hani would be disgusted by the greed and materialism of those who abuse political power for access to personal wealth.

'Political rivals'
"He would never have tolerated the levels of corruption, fraud and squandering of public resources, and be absolutely devastated at the assassination of political rivals over the spoils of office," he told the gathering of approximately 2 000.

Vavi has been a vocal critic of both the government's shortcomings and the SACP's decision to deploy senior party members to government. Vavi claimed that Hani would never have joined government and said before his death that he would scrutinise the new democratic state in order to ensure it lived up to its promises.

"He [Hani] epitomised the principle of selflessness.
He was prepared to sacrifice all for what he believed in," he added. His comments drew a spirited response from those gathered at the memorial.

Current SACP general secretary Blade Nzimande returned Vavi's address with some criticism of his own. "The dead can't be deployed so don't say what Chris would or would not have done," Nzimande said.

He urged members of the tripartite alliance not to vulgarise Hani's claim that he would have turned down a government post in order to rubbish the SACP's current decisions.

"We have no idea what he would have done today. But, he most certainly would have done what the SACP and ANC told him to." Nzimande's speech drew a more vigorous response than that of Vavi's.

President Zuma's address was more conciliatory but also with a confrontational undertone.

"It would be wrong to use the name of comrade Chris for anything but the ultimate unity of the ANC," he said, urging tripartite alliance members to no longer be divisive.

Zuma said that although Hani was a maverick he always heeded the decisions of the ANC.

"Hani was always able to deal with situations he didn't agree with. Like with the suspension of the armed struggle. It's not that he didn't agree with it, it's that he didn't agree with the timing," he added.

The president said all should honour the memory of Hani by assisting in the rebuilding and regeneration of the ruling party.

"We are building an ANC all can be proud of. An ANC that appeals to the youth and build for our future," he added.

Zuma's comments come shortly after the ANC disbanded the executive of the ANC Youth League and are in the process of assembling a new structure for the youth body.

The president ended his address by leading attendees in the singing of his seemingly new trademark song "Inde indlela" before closing proceedings by laying a floral wreath at Hani's grave.

Nickolaus Bauer

Nickolaus Bauer

Nickolaus Bauer is the Mail & Guardian's jack of all trades news reporter that chases down stories ranging from politics and sports to big business and social justice. Armed with an iPad, SLR camera, camcorder and dictaphone, he aims to fight ignorance and pessimism through written words, photographs and videos. He believes South Africa could be the greatest country in the world if only her citizens would give her a chance to flourish instead of dwell on the negativity. When he's not begging his sub-editors for an extra twenty minutes after deadline, he's also known to dabble in the occasional poignant column that will leave you mulling around in the depths of your psyche. The quintessential workaholic, you can also catch him doing sports on the weekday breakfast show on SAfm and presenting the SAfm Sports Special over the weekend. Read more from Nickolaus Bauer

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