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South Africans paid tribute yesterday to revolutionary martyr Chris Hani, 21 years after he was murdered in a futile bid to derail negotiations ending apartheid.
Hani was South African Communist Party (SACP) general secretary when he was shot dead by far-right Polish emigre Janusz Walus, supported by senior Conservative Party MP Clive Derby-Lewis.
Their bid to throw negotiations into chaos failed and the assassination is generally seen as a turning point in fighting for a settlement.
Current SACP leader Blade Nzimande said the party “once more wishes to lower its red flag in honour” of Hani, who he called a “disciplined, loyal and dedicated cadre of our movement.”
He said: “Comrade Chris stood for the unity of our alliance (with union federation Cosatu and governing party ANC), as well as the unity of each of the components of this revolutionary alliance.”
Mr Nzimande called on South African workers to honour Hani by coming out in force to support the ANC at elections on May 7.
The SACP leader said the anniversary came as South Africans celebrated 20 years of democracy as well as shortly before the country’s fifth multi-racial elections.
But he also pointed out that “our ally Cosatu is facing one of its toughest challenges in its entire history of existence,” referring to tensions caused by the suspension of union federation leader Zwelinzima Vavi.
“In memory of Cde Chris we must be cadres of and for unity,” said Mr Nzimande.
Cosatu also paid tribute to “the people’s general secretary.”
It said: “He was a people’s leader who always identified with the poor and the working class.
“He was an intellectual but was at the same time part and parcel of the working-class movement.
“He understood that socialist ideology was useless unless it could be explained and made relevant to the workers and the poor.”
South African President Jacob Zuma added: “Chris Hani payed a supreme price with his life for us to have political settlement. His death unlocked negotiations.”
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