The wonderful thing about leadership is that great leaders are found in all political parties, in all nationalities, race groups, across gender, age, religion and ideology.
Hani was a great leader; he was also one of South Africa’s most charismatic leaders. Such was his popularity that many believed he was Madiba’s most likely successor.
However, this was not to be. I remember the 10th April 1993 very clearly. It was Easter and I was camping with friends in the Pilansberg. I vividly remember hearing the shocking news of Hani’s assisination on the car radio.
We were filled with a sense of disbelief, dread and foreboding. Who would do such an irresponsible thing at a time when our leaders were trying to navigate a way forward, to end minority rule, and create a united, non-racial South Africa? Why would anyone assassinate a man, who was preaching peace? Would this terrible event spark civil war?
Miraculously, South Africans heeded Nelson Mandela’s call to stand together against “the men who worship war.” The assassination hastened the announcement of South Africa’s first democratic elections on 27th April 1994.
There are many reasons why I admire Chris Hani. I admire his commitment to the “social upliftment of the working masses of our country.”
Great leaders are humble; they care about their people and they always put their followers, first. Their role is never about power; it is always about facilitating change for the better.
He was concerned about ensuring access to healthcare, clean water, dignity for the old and decent education.
Hani was a man of courage and integrity. Together with six other commissars and commanders of Umkhonto we Sizwe he signed what was known as the “Hani memorandum”. The document criticised leaders for corruption and careerism. Hani was expelled from the ANC as a result, but was re-admitted after the Morogoro Consultative Conference.
It takes courage to criticise leaders. Leaders, who do so, are not always popular with the rank and file or with other leaders. We have seen this in recent times, where members of the ANC and leaders within the ANC have been criticised very harshly for criticising President Zuma.
Hani had a passion for education. He recognised that we needed to create opportunities for the youth. He recognised that education is a prerequisite for escaping poverty.
Most of all, I remember and admire Hani for being a man of peace. He famously said: “We need to create a new breed of South Africans who love their country and love everybody, irrespective of their colour.”
If ever there was a time when we needed to create “a new breed of South Africans,” and perhaps even a “new breed of leaders,” the time is now. South Africa is currently in crisis; the country is divided along the lines of those who support President Zuma and those who don’t. Even leaders within the ANC are divided.
In addition to the leadership crisis, South Africa faces many challenges. Some of the statistics doing the rounds currently are very disturbing: Pravin Gordhan’s firing cost South Africa R10bn; 35.6% of the working population in South Africa is unemployed (9 million); 47% of all workers in South Africa earn less than R3 500.00 per month; 23 million South Africans live below the poverty line; and 14 million people in South Africa go to bed hungry.
There is anger, outrage, despair, despondency and frustration. Ordinary South Africans have marched to demonstrate their dissatisfaction with the current political leadership.
We need to resolve our leadership crisis. We need to recapture the euphoria, the tremendous sense of confidence and hope that was spawned in 1994 after South Africa’s first democratic elections. We need our leaders to ‘take a leaf out of Hani’s book’ – they need to be guided by a strong moral compass; they need to be committed to nation building; they need to use their position to uplift the poor. They need to unite all South Africans. Together, we can build a Great South Africa.