Graphic: Timothy Alexander/ African News Agency (ANA)
By Kim Heller
“Good news, the bastard is dead!” I heard a man shout out. The rather heavily set middle-aged white man was sitting a few rows ahead of me at a sports event on the Saturday of Easter Weekend in 1993.
The man continued in a highly animated, almost shriek-like voice “I just heard it on the radio news … It’s all over the news,” “Who is dead, who are you talking about?” the woman sitting next to him asked.
“That commie bastard, Chris Hani” the man responded “someone has just shot him dead.”
In that terrible minute, it felt as if my heart had forgotten its very own beat. “Not Chris Hani!” I cried silently. All around me, the largely white crowd cheered as if Chris Hani’s death was a winning goal in an all-important sporting game. In the horror of Hani’s assassination, I was struck that these people were celebrating the death of Chris Hani; for them, the death of the South African Communist Party leader was a victory. l have never been more ashamed of being white than I was that day.
That day when a white man, killed a black man, in a sinister, white-powered operation to give apartheid eternal life. It was no accident that Chris Hani was gunned down in what was a premeditated precision execution.
Hani was no “commie (communist) bastard” as described by some racist, reactionary whites, but a patriotic and adored son of South Africa. He was respected and revered across both South Africa and the African Continent for his immeasurable courage and conviction, supreme ideological majesty, and unfailing humanity and humility. For millions of black South Africans economically, culturally, and mentally disfigured by the brute of white supremacy, Chris Hani was a hero. In Hani, they saw their hopes for a more just and equitable land, and for a better tomorrow.
If told without the hate speak and violent propaganda of white supremacy, history will show Chris Hani as a brave warrior in the noble war against the evil of apartheid. He will be remembered as a selfless fighter for human rights and dignity in an inhumane white supremacist regime. As a man whose voice was ultimately so resonant and whose ideas so powerful that even death could not diminish.
I don’t know how I left the sporting event on that terrible day. I don’t remember packing up or saying a word to anyone, or a goodbye to a single soul. I just left. I don’t know what compelled me to drive to the Hani home in Dawn Park. I don’t even remember how I got there. Chris Hani was the leader I looked up to and respected above all others. I never knew him or any member of his family personally. I just knew that I had to go to the house to bow my head in sorrow and shame for this hideously revolting act of immeasurable injustice. I joined many in one of the open fields near the house. I don’t remember the words or songs of the day, although they were plentiful. What I remember is the silence. It felt enormous.
The Easter Weekend of 1993 was a deep bloodstain on a nation waiting to be free. A white foreigner gunning down a black liberation leader in South Africa is a story of grave injustice that will forever leave open wounds. The recent decision by the Constitutional Court to grant parole to Walus, was to use the word of Chris Hani’s widow, Limpho Hani, a ‘diabolical’ act. I will remember it as a Black Monday for justice.
The EFF said the ruling was “a betrayal of all combatants who fought the forces of Apartheid.” The SACP has called for the Correctional Services Minister to defy the judgement and intend to escalate the matter to the African Courts on Human and People’s Rights.
I have been very vocal about my views that Walus should die in prison for a crime that was aimed not only at killing a top political leader, but the dreams of a free and just South Africa. Initially sentenced to the death penalty, Walus was given a lifeline when in 1995, the Constitutional Court declared the 1995“unconstitutional”. During a panel discussion on the SABC’s It’s Topical, on Sunday evening, I spoke of the judgement to grant parole to Walus as reprehensible. I spoke of how a white supremacist is now being freed; a right winger who may well give wing to further act of violence in the war that white supremacy is.
In his Constitutional Court ruling, Chief Justice Raymond Zondo said there was a low chance of Walus ‘reoffending.’. In an article written by Dickens Olewe of BBC News, entitled Janusz Walus: Why far-right Polish football fans idolise a murderer in South Africa? he refers to how for some young nationalists and fascists in his home country, Poland, Walus is a hero for “trying to put communism to death in South Africa,” and how for many he is seen as “the great white hope.” Who knows what untold damage he may still do, either directly or indirectly.
Yesterday the Department of Correctional Services confirmed that a fellow prisoner stabbed Walus. This just days before his expected release. In a statement, the Department, Walus reported that Walus as stable. I have no sympathy for a man who killed to destabilise the nation. I will cry no tears for a man who killed to place justice and liberation for black South Africans in jeopardy. I will not lose any sleep over a man who killed to prolong the nightmare of apartheid and the darkness of white supremacy. In his own words, Walus said the main object of killing Hani was to “cause chaos in the country, and because of this chaos the right-wing could unite and prevented to take the power by ANC.”
In the panel discussion on SABC’s It’s Topical, a viewer said Walus deserves a second chance. A second chance for what? In South Africa, black South Africans have been overgenerous, lavishly handing out forgiveness to those who have never even repented for the countless acts of great inhumanity against black people under apartheid and colonialism. There should be no second chances for white supremacy or white supremacists that has caused such misery to black people, across the ages, not only in South Africa but across the globe.
Releasing Janusz Walus is both injustice and injury. For those who speak of the rule of law as a black and white issue, they fail to see that too often it is actually blood red.
Heller is a political analyst and author of ‘No White Lies: Black Politics and White Power in South Africa.’