Magazine article New Internationalist

Chris Hani Remembered

Magazine article New Internationalist

Chris Hani Remembered

Article excerpt

On 10 April 1993, Chris Hani, one of the anti-apartheid movement's most popular and charismatic leaders, was shot four times outside his home in a quiet Johannesburg suburb. As news of his death spread, many feared that South Africa's peaceful transition to democracy might have died with him.

Two decades on, it is easy to forget how close the country came to bloody civil war in the days and weeks following Hani's assassination. Hani, former head of the ANC's armed wing Umkonto we Sizwe, was a key player in the negotiations between the National Party government and the African National Congress (ANC), a process which had been progressing in fits and starts since Nelson Mandela's release in 1990. Hani's popularity was probably second only to Mandela's but, crucially, he was also regarded as the leader of 'young lions' in the townships. 'I fear for our country,' said Archbishop Desmond Tutu after Hani's death. 'Chris Hani, more than anyone else, had the credibility among the young to rein in the radicals.'

What prevented an all-out race-war following Hani's murder was a combination of factors. Firstly, the arrest within hours of the murderer, a rightwing extremist, helped to dispel suspicions that the hit had been planned by the white establishment. Secondly Mandela's televised address to the nation that same evening called on black and white South Africans to stand together against 'the men who worship war' and 'move forward to what is the only lasting solution for our country - an elected government of the people, by the people and for the people. …

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