BY CHRIS THEMBISILE HANI
“I was born in a small rural town in the Transkei called Cofimvaba. This town is almost 200km from East London. I am the fifth child in a family of six. Only three of us are still surviving, the other three died in their infancy. My mother is completely illiterate and my father semi-literate.
My father was a migrant worker in the mines in the Transvaal, but he subsequently became an unskilled worker in the building industry.
Life was quite hard for us and we knew some hard times as our mother had to supplement the family budget through subsistence farming; and had to bring us up with very little assistance from my father who was always away working for the white capitalists.
I had to walk 20km to school every five days and then walk the same distance to church every Sunday. At the age of eight I was already an altar boy in the Catholic Church and was quite devout. After finishing my primary school education I had a burning desire to become a priest but this was vetoed by my father.
In 1954, while I was doing my secondary education, the apartheid regime introduced Bantu Education which was designed to indoctrinate Black pupils to accept and recognize the supremacy of the white man over the blacks in all spheres. This angered and outraged us and paved the way for my involvement in the struggle.
The arraignment for treason of the ANC leaders in 1956 convinced me to join the ANC and participate in the struggle for freedom. In 1957 I made up my mind and joined the ANC Youth League. I was fifteen then, and since politics was prohibited at African schools, our activities were clandestine. In 1959 I went to University of Fort Hare where I became openly involved in the struggle, as fort Hare was a liberal campus. It was here that I got exposed to Marxist ideas and the scope and nature of the racist capitalist system. My conversion to Marxism also deepened my non-racial perspective.
My early Catholicism led to my fascination with Latin studies and English literature. These studies in these two courses where gobbled up by me and I became an ardent lover of English, Latin and Greek literature, both modern and classical. My studies of literature further strengthened my hatred of all forms of oppression, persecution and obscurantism. The action of tyrants as portrayed in various literary works also made me hate tyranny and institutionalized oppression.
In 1961 I joined the underground South African Communist Party as I realized that national liberation, though essential, would not bring about local economic liberation. My decision to join the Party was influenced by such giants of our struggle like Govan Mbeki, Braam Fisher, JB Marks, Moses Kotane, Ray Simons, etc. In 1962, having recognized the intransigence of the racist regime, I joined the fledgling MK.
This was the beginning of my long road in the armed struggle in which there have been three abortive assassination attempts against me personally. The armed struggle, which we never regarded as exclusive, as we combined it with other forms of struggle, has brought about the present crisis of apartheid. In 1967 I fought together with Zipra forces in Zimbabwe as political commissar. In 1974 I went back to South Africa to build the underground and I subsequently left for Lesotho where I operated underground and contributed in the building of the ANC underground inside our country.
The four pillars underpinning our struggle have brought about the present crisis of the apartheid regime. The racist regime has reluctantly recognized the legitimacy of our struggle by agreeing to sit down with us to discuss how to begin the negotiations process. In the current political situation, the decision by our organization to suspend armed action is correct and is an important contribution in maintaining the momentum of negotiation.”