Defend Truth


Dear Comrade Chris Hani… Let’s talk frankly about the last 21 years


Dr Onkgopotse JJ Tabane is the Editor of Leadership Magazine and Anchor of Power to Truth on ENCA. He holds a PhD in media studies from Wits University. He is CEO of a communications company Sgwili Media Group and is Author of Lets Talk Frankly. He is also a trustee of the Love Life Trust, The UWC Foundation as well as Chair of the UWC Media Society.

Before you were brutally murdered, you took on the Pan Africanist Congress (PAC) about their call for insurrection in our country. I remember a television interview where you remarked: “I don't know what the PAC is talking about. We must be talking peace.”

You inspired many with your discipline and principled stance. You set the bar so high that many of our cadres are falling off the steps trying to reach your standard. I thought that after 21 years of having left this earth so suddenly, a quick appraisal of what’s been going on would be in order. This, of course, with the assumption that, wherever you are, you can still hear us. If you can, let me begin.

Socialism is all but dead. I know this is a rough statement to make, but since you are in the supernatural, I know I don’t have to explain myself much. What was left of socialism in the movement is dead and buried. It is not for me to say whether this good or bad, since I am no expert on socialism myself. The policies adopted by the democratic government that you fought and died for are nowhere close to socialism. I know this may disappoint you, but all we could settle for at CODESA gave us only a leg in – we now have a complex discussion called ‘the second phase of the transition’ an acknowledgement that the first phase has essentially failed us. This means that after twenty years, we are only now going to get into gear to do some radical things in the economic stakes.

The ANC in its policy conference has promised these radical economic policies because what we have had has only scratched the surface of economic emancipation, which means many of our people still live in poverty and we remain one of the most unequal societies in the whole wide world. Unemployment is at an all-time high and our job creation initiatives are barely touching the tip of the iceberg with the good intentions of the ANC-led alliance.

Your comrades Trevor Manuel and Cyril Ramaphosa have just led a formidable effort to develop a plan to get the country out of the economic inertia that we have experienced recently. It’s called the National Development Plan. I hasten to add that Manuel in particular is not a favourite of the communist party here – which is a shadow of what it was when you were at its helm, it must be said. But as you know, things can’t remain static. Your predecessor is according himself well, though, holding down two jobs: one as head of the party and another as minister of higher education. I don’t know the full details of how that was ever justified, but he seems to be doing very well, having overseen progressive policies such as the commendable free higher education for our people.

The state of the Communist Party itself is worrying, but not critical. The
party is at loggerheads with some in the leadership of the workers, and as we speak there is utter disunity among the working class. Cosatu is on the verge of a huge split, something that the movement can ill afford. Frankly, our movement is being debased by rogues who are wrecking the country’s economy and promising heaven on earth to our workers. The tripartite alliance, as you know it, frankly no longer exists. A shadow of its former self, it is dead men walking. For the first time, affiliate unions are fighting in court – something that is unheard of – and one of the biggest unions has rejected the National Development Plan and announced to the whole world that it won’t be voting ANC in the upcoming elections. I know it’s an abomination, but this is what we are saddled with. They are threatening to form their own socialist party to debase the SACP. This is unprecedented.

Comrade Chris, we watch with utter shock as our movement is tearing itself in half. I don’t know when last I saw anything that even spelled the word ‘vanguard’. I think it has gone as far out of fashion as the hairstyle that you used to keep in your last days. Even your dear friend Tokyo now cuts a ‘cheese kop’ – a sign of the times. He has recently been fired from ANC government following a fallout with Msholozi – who, by the way, has since ascended to the very top of the tree. A fact that I am sure Madiba has filled you in on. He still spoke fondly of you to the end, given the chance. We have him to thank for ensuring that comrades did not burn down the country when you were murdered.

Comrade Thembisile, the country has lost its moral compass. With all its
unrealistic touches, socialism at least gave us hope and a sense of political morality and revolutionary discipline. That morality is all but gone. There is no messaging discipline, with alliance partners and the Leagues all saying and doing their own thing – as long as it grabs the headlines. Some of your close comrades – including those that served with you in the trenches as MK soldiers – are regularly going in and out of jail, being caught stealing public money and so on, and our movement even had to set up an integrity committee to start arresting this rampant corruption that is eating at the soul of our movement, dear comrade Chris.

One ponders deeply what you reaction would have been on the moral questions that are facing our country.  Despite this chaos, what is encouraging is that few in their right minds seem to be denying that we are in the moral doldrums. Just last year alone, R30 billion was wasted by public officials and R260 million was misspent on securing the president’s property – a matter that the movement, and especially the SACP, are yet to react to with outrage. It is all rather complicated, because the elections are in a few weeks, so it seems prudent to speak in hushed tones, lest you are labelled a bloody agent.

I must hasten to add, though, that your comrades Pallo Jordan, Trevor Manuel and Mavuso Msimang are having none of it – speaking out about what threatens to sink us all as a movement. The moral crisis has extended to behaviour in our communities that can’t be defended. Toddlers and elderly people are being raped in broad daylight. Protesters are being shot by police of the democratic state in increasing incidents of police brutality akin to the days of the struggle. So it’s all a bit of a mess, Comrade Chris, prompting some amongst our people to even think some aspects of our lives were better during Apartheid.

But there is a silver lining. A knight in shining armour called Thuli Madonsela, appointed by our president to fight corruption, has been doing some sterling work – she is not the flavour of the month, I must tell you, because she has shown courage in fingering some of the more prominent amongst us for impropriety. The courts are working well, having caught some big fish criminals and thrown some high-level people in jail. But our people have not lost hope in the ANC. The movement is set to win its fifth election comfortably. The SACP has not yet plucked up the courage to go it alone; they are doing their best to hold the alliance together, despite these hopeless challenges.

Your beautiful wife Limpho Hani continues to be an inspiration to many of us, and has accorded herself well – speaking out within the movement whenever there are matters that worry her. She recently called me aside and said to me, “Stop trying to be Jesus!” – decrying my constant moaning about corruption in the movement. We have to fight the stench from within until its gone, she believes. And yet we have no guarantee of success, as with everything else in this short life.

One of your daughters has left the movement, associating herself with the opposition, Agang SA, a new movement led by Dr Mamphela Ramphele – yes, that one, of the Biko association. I hear she has since left and joined the UDM, or something to that effect. It is a sign of the times – since your untimely demise, the ANC has had various splinter groups coming out of it. The latest is called the Economic Freedom Fighters. They are led by that enfant terrible – a product of the ANC called Julius Malema – I’m not sure he was born when you were alive – I suspect he was nine years old, possibly still wiping his nose when you were killed. He is an example of what happens when we don’t hold it together as a movement. We let him run rings around everyone and left expelling him from the movement too late. He has annexed all the noises about land and poverty – stealing this centre stage from under the SACP’s nose in particular – the real force that is supposed to be championing anything remotely socialist. Including the red colour as a symbol of the bloodshed by many of you who went before us. Their being sucked into government must have something to do with their muted tones in achieving a fraction of what the likes of you set out to achieve.

I wish I could say all is well, but it is not. There is an even longer road to any sort of socialism. The Party, and anyone else who represents any semblance of a socialist agenda, unfortunately does not have any sort of electoral traction at present. Even the so-called ‘fighters’ are likely to scrape a few votes just to see their leaders in Parliament, and nothing of
significance. But we live in hope of a multi-party democracy where the peace you died talking about can prevail. Our levels of tolerance, as those who should be emulating you, are poor indeed. Intercede for us with those in whose glorious company we know you are.

Comrade Chris, do rest in peace – for you did your part throughout our history until you met your untimely death. As we celebrate the 20 years of our freedom, we do so fully aware that such freedom is not free – you had to sacrifice, you had to pay a price for our liberty. Our singular task is to learn what it means to truly pick up your glorious spear and build for you a meaningful monument of freedom.

Yours frankly,

Onkgopotse JJ Tabane DM


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