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He was more than just a freedom fighter

TODAY marks 20 years since the slaying of South African Communist Party secretary general, Chris Hani.

Many know Hani as a giant in the liberation movement who paid the ultimate sacrifice towards the attainment of our liberation. But very few of us know the many facets of Hani, who was a father and a husband.

I was born in Lesotho to a Mosotho mother and a South African father who, like Hani, had left South Africa in the 1960s. And it was during the early years of my life that I had the privilege of knowing Hani.

The love and respect Limpho and Chris had for each other was evident to anyone who was privileged to be in their presence.

Limpho was a fantastic cook who would spend hours preparing the most mouth-watering cakes imaginable for her children's birthdays, while Chris would be the ever present tower of strength, love, affection and laughter.

Chris could often be found in the kitchen gladly preparing a meal for Limpho and his daughters. He was a doting and devoted father, a loving and caring husband, who at that stage could have been mistaken for just another ordinary man. But Chris was not just another man, he was a thorn in the side of the apartheid regime.

By the time we all breathed a sigh of relief, thinking the worst years of being black in South Africa were over, the unthinkable happened. On Saturday, April 10 1993, Chris Hani, a gallant freedom fighter, a father and husband, was gunned down in his driveway. His body lay in a pool of blood, his 14-year-old daughter Nomakhwezi, there to see this horrific tragedy.

I remember that day like it was yesterday and yet it has been 20 years. For many of us, life went on - or did it? So today, I wish to take this opportunity to say the following to Hani's family:

  • To Chris's children:

I will never know what it was like for you to see images of your beloved father lying in a pool of blood outside a home your family had built for the purpose of starting life anew, in a new South Africa.

I will never know what it was like to spend nights terrified, thinking that your mother may be the next one gunned down, leaving you as orphans. I will never know what it was like going through life stages like your graduations, weddings, births of your children, knowing that your dad would never share in those moments.

I will never know what the past 20 years have been like for you. And so all I can say is thank you. Thank you for sharing your father with the millions of other young South Africans who today enjoy the liberties and freedoms your father never enjoyed as a young man, but fought so selflessly for us all to enjoy today.

  • To Limpho:

Words fail me, as I witnessed the pain and suffering you went through in Lesotho. And I also know that you were the wind beneath Chris's wings, you made him fly and never once did you stop him from pursuing the mission for which God had put him on earth.

You married a man, but also understood that you married a movement and a cause. You carried yourself with dignity in the midst of adversity, you held your head high and raised your three girls into remarkable women. So I can never imagine what April 10 1993 did to you. Only 45 years old, and you became a widow.

You became a father and mother to three traumatised children, while also mourning your own loss. How you did it, I will never know. I will also never know the days when you held your pillow tight, weeping in the dead of the night, alone, wishing that across from you would be your husband.

I will never know what that feeling of deep pain and loss was like, while a nation looked on.

To South Africa, as we commemorate 20 years since the brutal slaying of our struggle hero, let us also be cognisant that today also marks 20 years of a family having lost their son, brother, father and husband.

  • Shuenyane is a freelance writer

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