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How Chris Hani was brought back into the ANC fold

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    Nat Quinn
    At the ANC’s Morogoro Conference in Tanzania in 1969 amnesty was granted to several suspended and expelled ANC members including Chris Hani.[1] After the conference James April spoke to OR Tambo and offered to convince Hani to return to the ANC fold – the offer was accepted – and April travelled to the Copperbelt in Zambia where he successfully convinced Hani to return to the ANC. Nicole Van Driel interviewed April about his memories of Hani and about the two different alleged death sentences; one supposedly imposed by Hani and the other one imposed on Hani.
    April was first introduced to Hani by Sonia Bunting of the South African Communist Party (SACP). It was a Friday afternoon in 1963 at the then New Age newspaper office on the corners of Plain and Commercial Streets in the Cape Town CBD. Hani reminded April of that meeting when their paths next crossed in late May or early June 1965 at the Umkhonto we Sizwe (MK) Kongwa training camp in Tanzania.
    It was here at Kongwa that Amin Cajee alleges he was sentenced to death by April’s best friend, Basil February (aka Paul Petersen), Hani, Boycie Bodibe and Jack Gatiep. Cajee’s book’s opening lines are:
    “The words echoed in my head: ‘You are guilty of high treason and the penalty is death.’ I froze. Terrified. It was September 1966; I was 24 years old. I was in Kongwa, an … ANC camp in Tanzania. And I was going to die.”[2]
    ‘There was no such tribunal. Cajee being sentenced to death is a blatant lie,’ says April. He explains that Hani left early in the second half of 1965 to be an ANC representative in Zambia and that both Petersen and he left Kongwa in February 1966; long before Cajee was supposedly sentenced to death in September 1966. A further inaccuracy in Cajee’s book is the claim that April had died in 2016.[3]
    I ask April about the ‘Hani Memorandum’- the gist of which said there was a loss in confidence of the ANC leadership in exile- which was drafted and distributed in early 1969. April points out to me that six others co-signed the memorandum with Hani and that it was never known as the ‘Hani Memorandum’ in his day.
    April does explain that there was widespread frustration in MK after the Wankie (1967) and Sipolilo (1968) campaigns and the consequent political lull. Many agreed with sentiments expressed in the memorandum but had misgivings about the way it was drafted, distributed, that it directed at certain authority figures and that its signatories were also seen as from a certain geographical area of South Africa.
    I question April about the wide-spread rumour that Hani was sentenced to death by the ANC in the wake of the ‘Hani Memorandum’. April states emphatically this is a falsehood and Hani was never sentenced to death by any ANC structure.
    The Morogoro conference had agreed to grant amnesty to all its suspended and expelled members Although April was not an elected delegate at the Morogoro conference he perchance became a participant at its proceedings.
    He explains why he approached OR Tambo and offered to convince Hani to return to the ANC fold.
    ‘I felt bad that Hani was outside of the organisation because of the respect, I had for him. I had lived for a year in a house with Hani in Zambia in 1965. We had fought together in Rhodesia during the Wankie campaign in 1967 and we subsequently served a year together in Botswana for being in possession of arms.’
    April then explains the reason he held Hani in high esteem by recalling a battle in the Wankie game reserve.
    “When the first shots were fired by the enemy we were resting, we had just broken our hunger with porridge that John Dube of ZAPU (who was also the leader of the detachment) had acquired from some Rhodesian villagers. Our guys were surprised by the attack. Chris never panicked. He immediately rallied the troops and shouted: ‘Let’s fight the fascists!’ Hani never said, ‘Let’s fight the whites! He learnt that from the Russians who never referred to the enemy as Germans but as fascists.”
    And so it was that April first travelled to Lusaka to obtain transport money from Thomas Nkobi and then took a bus to Ndola in the Zambian Copperbelt where the exiled Ali Fataar- who was a leading light in the NEUM- assisted him in contacting Hani.[4] April and Hani had a discussion and the latter agreed to return to the ANC fold.
    In conclusion, I ask April what Hani’s return meant for the ANC. ‘He had physically fought the enemy and had experience in administration. So new people who came to join the ANC in exile were mentored by him. Hani had a sound political morality. He was always a disciplined comrade. He was always enhancing his knowledge of politics.
    Hani would check anyone who crossed the line, no matter how small their misdemeanour. I am sure Hani’s return to the ANC fold reinforced the calibre of the organisation’s cadre, although I never saw him for about 20 years as I served 15 years on Robben Island (1971-1986). We met again in 1990 but never had the chance to work together again.’

    [1] According to April, at the time of the Morogoro conference Hani and his six co-signatories of the memorandum had been expelled from the ANC and two others, Ambrose Makiwane and Alfred Kgokong had been suspended for defying OR Tambo’s orders.

    [2]2016 p.1

    [3] p.182

    [4] https://www.sahistory.org.za/sites/default/files/archive-files/thesis_hum_2015_omar_yunus.pdf

    “In my stride”: a life-history of Alie Fataar, teacher. Doctoral thesis by Yunus Omar, UCT 2015, p.240

    source:How Chris Hani was brought back into the ANC fold – OPINION | Politicsweb
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