AFRICA IS A COUNTRY

Where were you when Chris Hani was killed?
Melissa Levin | April 10th, 2014

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On the day he died, i was in our flat on grafton and minors in yeoville.  my dad called.  i turned on the TV to hear the worst news. i remember being quite hysterical, laughing, not because i thought it was funny.  somehow, tears seemed too little and my emotions were confused.  i hear that an aunt of mine laughs when she is sad.  i had only had occassion to meet him once.  we were visiting MK cadres on hunger strike in hospital – Neo, Ting Ting, Jabu.  i had a crush on Ting.  we were sitting on the floor in the corridor of the hospital one fine day, an ordinary day, waiting for the doctors to tend to our comrades.  then, the light became brighter, the world slowed down, and walking down the corridor in a haze of nostalgia was our hero, Chris Hani.  he shook our hands.  and we were forever touched.

when he was murdered, we drove with our neighbour Andrew who was also a soldier, to visit his family in boksburg.  we were lost in vosloo looking for the place.  i pulled over and asked someone, where is dawn park? he didn’t understand me.  andrew leaned over and said, dawna puck.  he directed us there.  my silly colonial monotone.

i like to think that Chris, Ting Ting and Andrew are together now, looking out for us, reining us in, and maybe even steering us back on track.

rest in power, our comrades.  you will never be forgotten.

* Feel free to share your Chris Hani stories in the comments.

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8 thoughts on “Where were you when Chris Hani was killed?

  1. I was caught in Douala traffic, on way to the now defunct Chamber of Commerce. I needed to have to have the travel ban to SA erased from my passport – only business people could travel here in 1993. Somehow the news skipped the radar of CRTV news editors. I found out Hani had been killed – and who he was – only 2 months later, the week I landed in Jhb. At the Cartlon hotel, downtown. Memorabilia #1: Winnie Mandela diagonally crossing the lobby where I was celebrating my arrival with a coffee. Sunglasses, a red leather coat and 6 bodyguards. 2 days later I’d end up in the basement of the YMCA in Braamfontein – my passport and cash gone. There I found a troupe of dancers from Sarafina gearing up for a tour overseas and armed MKs – maybe there were the same group. At the YMCA in June 1993 everyone seemed to be waiting for something. I asked one of the soldiers what they were waiting for, ‘they killed our commander’ he said. And he told me the commander’s name.

  2. I was driving home from my job in Rosebank and the news came on the radio. I had to pull over I was crying so hard. I can still feel the panic and desperation of that afternoon.

  3. I was 7 years old, watching my father doing some carpentry in white suburbia of Vanderbijl-Park. My mother comes rushing out of the kitchen, crying “They shot Chris Hani!” My father let out a terrible moan.
    I asked who he was and they just told me that he was the leader of the Communist Party. They went indoors to listen to the radio. They were never politically active, but they were always trying to inject some political consciousness into their own Afrikaans community, especially in church matters.
    I glumly resumed my playing outside.

  4. The negotiations were in limbo. In Port Elizabeth, we were organising anti-Vat tax protests during that period. I was working part-tme at a wholesaler. I heard it on the radio. I just walked out of the place…to scream, to cry and to catch my breath. All I remember is coming back into the store, saying that it is over now, negotiations are over now. They have shown they do not want peace. Negotiations is just a smokescreen….Eish, Melissa, I still shiver when remembering how angry and powerless I felt on that morning…

  5. It was a sign of the different times we were living in then, that I didn’t hear the news until the end of the following day. It was Easter Saturday. I was spending the weekend in a cottage in the mountains near Grabouw, about an hour’s drive outside Cape Town. No radio or phone in the cottage, and no one had cellphones back then. I had to leave for an engagement on the Sunday afternoon. I remember driving along the N2 in the heaviest rain I have ever had to drive in – could barely see a few metres in front of the car. Went to my meeting, where someone mentioned Chris Hani, without referring to the murder, and I didn’t understand why he’d brought Hani into the conversation. Only later did I arrive at my parents’ house, and saw the Sunday newspapers on the table.

  6. I was in Vancouver, cooking dinner. It was Saturday evening there. From the next room, I heard a man on tv give the 6 o’clock news headlines: “In Johannesburg, an anti-apartheid leader has been shot dead…” It was hard to be so far away, to not be able to call anyone.

  7. I was 13 at the time. I was at home lying in my room, when I heard my father shout “Lekker” from the lounge, as he heard the news.

    I think my father’s reaction was probably typical of most white South Africans at the time, but I think he was also typical in his confused relationship with the transition. When Andries Treurnicht, the leader of the far-right Conservative Party which wanted to preserve apartheid, died, my father’s reaction was exactly the same as when Hani died. A great big shout of “Lekker!”

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