THE PERSON OF MARTIN THEMBISILE ‘CHRIS’ HANI

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Finding Closure: “Seek and you shall find!”

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Our nation has become so violent, nothing passes without violence, political meetings are not spared, neither is Parliament. How do we find healing when we seem to perpetuate this life? Let me focus on the person of Chris Hani, the MK Commissar, the MK Chief of Staff & the General Secretary of the SACP.

Year in year out, I listen to officials more especially of the SACP re-opening this wound without providing any means of healing the bleeding nation. I shudder to think of how the family of Comrade Chris must be feeling when it hurts us like this. I am not blaming the SACP, people react differently to situations.

This is just my little way of trying to find closure and healing for so many people who were closely affected by this chapter.

It is clear that no one came forward and claimed negligence and so I will try and wear a cap of Leadership in the ANC and make a submission as I do hereunder:

– logic has it that, if there was no security at that hour, that is negligence.

– if there is negligence, then the person responsible to ensure that there must be security is the negligent party.

– who is that person, we have to find this out.

When Cde Chris was assassinated, it was almost a year after the last time I had stayed with him as his bodyguard in Soweto. I had been dispatched back to Transkei for security reasons in 1992 and had not yet been recalled. Just before I left, Cde Chris Hani predicted his death saying that, it is him they were after hence the enemy wanted me out of the picture. It’s because they know I will be vulnerable, he had concluded. For a person with many near death experiences, his intuition was on point. But, I couldn’t do anything about it because reasons beyond us compelled me to leave. Besides, the ANC was there to take care of him!

As bodyguards to the ANC leadership, our brief was different to the usual norm. Our duty was to safeguard the Principal, which is what everybody is familiar with; in addition to that you had to perform counter – intelligence duties of also monitoring the Principal not to compromise the organization to the enemy. It is a well known fact that the movement was highly targeted for infiltration hence the latter task.

Personally I was deployed to Cde Chris by NAT, our ANC Security Department just after we had escorted the Mercedes Benz that Tata Mandela was given as a gift by East London Numsa workers. I worked alone except when I would be in territories where our cadres were around to assist. I did also receive a monthly stipend from the ANC.

You must be wondering why I’m detailing like this but u will soon understand.

I can now say for certain that, those MK cadres who guarded him after I had left were just volunteers, they were neither deployed by NAT or by any other MK component. They belonged to underground units of MK who had successfully came inside the country to carry out operations. They were committed to the cause that we all were. They used to come and assist when we were in Orlando East and had to take over when I left.

They neither drew any stipend nor salary, they were solely dependent on their families and on what the family of Cde Chris provided for him and them. In other words, when Comrade Chris Hani was assassinated, he didn’t have a Personal Security Detail assigned to him by the ANC.

One can argue against these volunteers for having left him and went on leave which was allegedly granted by him. I personally understand the unfortunate circumstances they found themselves in. It must be haunting them even today, it’s something they would rather not be reminded of.

It is true that when you are assigned to a Principal, you are not accountable to him but to the office that assigned you to that Principal. I am not trying to absolve anyone nor point fingers to anyone by referring to these minute facts. It is rather my way of trying to caution people who raise unsubstantiated conspiracy theories without regard to the closure that everyone needs.

Fact is that, the security of Cde Chris Hani was never a priority to the ANC. It might have been in exile but inside the country, that diminished. Nothing can be further from that truth and there’s no better way to say it! The fact that he was only allocated a vehicle as an afterthought begins to unpack this scenario. This was already after Cde Tokyo and others had long been allocated vehicles by the ANC.

Like I once narrated that Mama Winnie used to borrow us her own vehicle and also offer us her driver.

To drive this point home, let me provide a picture below:

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I’m reminded of an incident where I was supposed to fly from Jhb to East London with Cde Chris Hani. The challenge was that the ANC transport department which had just allocated a Toyota Corolla 1.3 to Cde Chris Hani didn’t want to purchase tickets for us citing that Cde Chris has a vehicle allocated to him. They went to an extent of questioning why he was galivanting across the country. This to them was a waste of the scarce ANC resources, when in fact he was doing work for the ANC.

After an intervention by Ntate Henry Makgothi, they agreed to book a ticket but it was for Cde Chris alone and not for me. They questioned as to why Cde Chris should have someone travelling or guarding him when other NEC members travel alone. This was quite a challenge for me now because his ticket was already there and I had to wait until he came out of the NEC meeting to tell him that I still do not have a ticket. He approached Ntate Makgothi again and that’s only when they bought me a ticket. Our flights were now different because his flight was already full. I got a flight that was about 3 hours later that his.

I had to call my brother, Mkululi (Skitso) who had a business in Umtata CBD because we used his shop to communicate since there were no mobile phones. I asked him to call Cde Ronnie to the phone. I waited for him to return my call since I was at our Shell House office. I asked Ronnie to approach Colonel Ndzwayiba of the Transkei Military Intelligence (TMI) and request two vehicles and personnel. They must drive out immediately with him to East London and wait for Cde Chris as I will be arriving 3 hours later.

There was no way of finding out whether Ronnie had managed to get in touch with the TMI because I had to rush to the airport so that Cde Chris could not miss his flight. I had to also remain at the airport until my flight arrives later.

Indeed, Cde Chris left for East London alone! I took the later flight and upon arrival at Ben Schoeman (East London) Airport, Ronnie and the TMI officers were there with Cde Chris. We were also joined by a female Cde Eleanor (MK cadre from PE) who had landed earlier.

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On our way, Ronnie narrated for me what occurred at the airport just before Cde Chris landed.

Apparently, there were Askaris, Agrippa from Paarl, Magqemfane, Ephraim and others who were travelling by a Husky kombi with tinted windows. They missed Ronnie who was standing outside as they entered the airport building and went to stand at the balcony which faces the runway. Ronnie said, he informed the TMI officers and fortunately they were all armed, Ronnie had a licensed firearm like myself. He says he rushed back to the car to take a hand grenade in case they had to engage.

When the plane landed, the TMI kept watch of the movements of the Askaris while Ronnie went to fetch Cde Chris from the Arrivals Terminal. His luggage was fortunately left with me since we used the same bag so there was nothing to wait for. When Ronnie informed Cde Chris that there are Askaris at the airport, he wanted to go to them, anyone who has worked with Cde Chris knows how bold he was.

Fortunately the Askaris were still leaving their position and descending down the stairs. Other travelers had noticed Chris Hani and they were following him as he moved with Ronnie to the Askaris.

Cde Chris stopped these Askaris at their tracks and confronted them one by one, calling them by their combat names; “Who gave you the weapons you are carrying Agrippa? Against whom are you going to use them Ephraim? Were you not sent by us on missions Magqemfane? When are you going to report back?

All this time, as Ronnie narrates, they were mumbling. Some called him Comrade Chief of Staff, others Army Commissar. He commanded them to leave the enemy camp and return to MK and they all bowed murmuring in agreement and left for their Husky.

Their white bosses were standing outside during that episode.

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The following day, we proceeded to a rally at Mlungisi near Queenstown and there we could see some of these Husky kombis watching from a distance. By narrating this story, I just want to demonstrate that there seemed to be a lack of concern in the ANC about the danger that surrounded Cde Chris Hani life. It was probably sheer negligence!

I do not want to accuse anyone and question as to how these Askaris knew that Cde Chris was coming alone? This because they had never showed up like that in my presence. I’m using simple logic in my analysis which says, whenever prominent enemies of the state like Cde Chris Hani book tickets for travelling, the information is automatically transmitted to their intelligence division and that’s how they probably saw that he was travelling alone because they saw that my name was not alongside his, as was usually the case then.

In our line of duty, that’s the only way we kept ourselves sane and avoid paranoia, we never wanted to immerse ourselves in conspiracy theories, although they could probably be true. Anything without facts that u want to be true, can be so!

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The questions I am asking are mainly rhetorical and they are aimed at exposing and admitting the fact that, it was negligence on our part as the ANC not to have prioritized the security of these leaders.

Without justifying this, however, let us not forget that this was a time when the ANC itself was trying to establish itself inside the country. Members of MK were mostly dependent on their families, those who still had homes left. It was a survival of the fittest. Others were already positioning themselves for the new government. Democratic elections were already looming on the horizon.

There was a general laxity in accountability and whoever was the enemy saw and knew this. It was an opportune moment to eliminate people who were viewed as likely to make the transition difficult and the first one who was referred to by the media as a Hawk, was Chris Hani.

Today as we reflect on those times, we seek to heal ourselves.

When we have something or someone precious in our lives, many a times we only notice when they are already gone that we could have done more! Many have opined on who did what, others have been blamed in corridors but no one has ever brought evidence.

It’s always just empty conspiracy theories aimed at elevating some personages while vilifying others.

This has and will never resolve this quagmire, instead it will continue to breed hatred and perpetuate fratricide!

I therefore conclude that:

– The security of a leader of Chris Hani’s calibre, a leader who had survived numerous attacks on his life, was supposed to have been prioritized by us, the African National Congress.

– It was negligence on our part as the ANC, not to have deployed personnel to safeguard Cde Chris Hani at the time of his assassination.

On this eve of commemorating 29 years since the day of the cold blooded assassination of Cde Chris Hani, may we all find closure.

May we allow his soul and that of other martyrs of our liberation struggle to rest in eternal peace!

Hamba kahle Mkhonto!

Nkosi Sikelela iAfrika!

Narrated by:

Pumlani ‘Ntsimbi’ Kubukeli

 

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