25 years ago: How the Sunday Times covered Chris Hani's assassination

10 April 2018 - 02:55 By Charmain Naidoo, Charles Leonard and Charlene Smith

On the 25th anniversary of Chris Hani's assassination at the hands of Janusz Walus, the Sunday Times looks back at our original coverage of the death of the South African Communist Party leader.

Soldiers line the road outside Chris Hani's home in Dawn Park, Boksburg as a police van prepares to take the body of the South African Communist Leader away on 10 April 1993.
Soldiers line the road outside Chris Hani's home in Dawn Park, Boksburg as a police van prepares to take the body of the South African Communist Leader away on 10 April 1993.
Image: Herbert Mabuza / Times Media

As Chris Hani drove into his driveway just after 10am yesterday, a red Ford Laser pulled in close behind.  The driver, a white man, followed Hani to his front door.

Four shots rang out, Hani was hit at point-blank range in the chin, behind the ear and in his chest.

Mr Hani, 50-year-old revolutionary turned peacemaker, lay dead, clutching a newspaper to his chest.

The assassin sauntered back to his car, reversed out of the driveway and drove around the corner.

Alerted by the sound of the gunshots, Mr Hani’s daughter, Nomakhwezi, 15 – the only member of his family at home at the time – opened the front door to be confronted by the sight of her father’s bloodied body in his blue track suit and running shoes.

Her screams alerted a neighbour, who ran to the Hani house from next door and found the hysterical girl bent over her father’s body.

“It was pitiful.  The child was wailing.  I quickly took her way from the sight of her dead father, bleeding all over the patio,”said the neighbour, who did not want to be named for fear of reprisals.

Cordon

She took Nomakhwezi to the nearby home of the ANC’s PWV chairman Tokyo Sexwale.

As the killer drove away, a woman who lives nearby took down the registration number of his car and reported the killing to the police.

Mr Hani’s body was removed in a police mortuary van at 12.50pm.

ANC members formed a column on either side of the van and broke into an emotional rendition of the farewell song for fallen comrades, Hamba Kahle M’konto.

Chris Hani with Winnie Madikizela-Mandela.
Chris Hani with Winnie Madikizela-Mandela.
Image: TIMES MEDIA GROUP

As the van slowly drove through the large crowd, ANC national chairman Oliver Tambo, his wife Adelaide and son Dali arrived.  With them was the Mandela lawyer Ismail Ayob.

Mr Tambo, in obvious pain and leaning heavily on his walking stick, insisted on saying a personal farewell to his friend.

Alone

Soon afterwards, white-haired Walter Sisulu arrived alone, with a driver.

Mrs Winnie Mandela, who arrived with a three-car entourage, also paid her last respects.

This was to have been a rare weekend off for Mr Hani, who broke his usual security routine to drive alone to the shops.  His driver, who doubles as his bodyguard, was not at the house when the assassination took place.

He arrived after the cordon had been erected and broke down after a newspaper reporter told him Mr Hani was dead.

Mr Hani, who often addressed three to four rallies a day, decided to take some time off over Easter.

He returned from Transkei after a day-long visit with ANC deputy secretary-general Jacob Zuma to see General Bantu Holomisa to discuss ways of reducing tension between Transkei and the SA government.

On Thursday night, he appeared on SABC-TV’s Agenda with PAC secretary-general Benny Alexander.

On Friday his wife, Limpho, a Lesotho citizen, left to visit family in Lesotho with their youngest daughter, a pupil at the exclusive Saheti private school in Bedfordview.  Late yesterday afternoon, after being told in Maseru by her brother, Mr Ford Tjaoane, that her husband had been murdered, Mrs Hani was on her way back to Johannesburg.

As news of the killing spread, the crowd outside the Hani house swelled.

Emotions were running high and ANC leaders present appeled to supporters to remain calm.

“We ask that our people do not act on their own,”said ANC spokesman Gill Marcus.  “This is an emotional time.  We are holding a meeting of the NEC to discuss a proper response.  Our prime concern is that emotion and anger should not be used for more loss of life.”

Miss Marcus said that senior officials from the ANC, the SACP and Cosatu would meet this weekend to formulate a strategy.

Mr Sexwale echoed her call for calm.  Dressed in a purple and turquoise tracksuit, Mr Sexwale broke down:  Ït is a time to cry.  I saw Chris Hani dead.  I was devastated.”

“Chris Hani was not a poet, he was not a shop-keeper, nor a musician … he was a revolutionary, a politician.”

“Just two days ago he preached peace which made him dangerous.  He said let’s get away from the violence … he died for peace.  I beg all our supporters to remember this.”

Protestors march through the streets after Chris Hani's assassination on 10 April 1993.
Protestors march through the streets after Chris Hani's assassination on 10 April 1993.
Image: Gallo Images/Media24 Newspaper Archives

SA Communist Party central committee member Jeremy Cronin said the organisation had been worried for some time after receiving information that an attack on Mr Hani was imminent.

“Late last year shop workers told us a black man was tailing Hani. When we tried to apprehend him, he jumped into a car with two white men which sped off.

“There has been an intense disinformation campaign against Hani since December when Markinor survey was published showing that he was the second most popular political figure in the country after Nelson Mandela said Mr Cronin.

"Mr Hani’s predecessor in the SACP, Mr Joe Slovo, who knew him for 40 years, said:  Ïn every black heart there will be mourning for Chris Hani.  His death has dangerous implications and will arouse enormous passions.”

In the past week Hani attacked renegade ANC self-defence units saying they should be disbanded or transformed into peace corps.  He also lashed out at the Pan Africanist Congress saying that those who did not suspend violence now should be isolated from the negotiation process.

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