Each year we come together on the 10th of April to reflect on the life and times of Comrade Thembisile Chris Hani, who served this country and its people selflessly.
This celebrated leader of the ANC and SACP and our people as a whole and a soldier and chief of staff of Umkhonto Wesizwe, dedicated his life to the struggle for freedom, equality, justice, human dignity and a better life for all the people of South Africa.
Unlike 22 years ago on this day when Comrade Chris was brutally assassinated by those who sought to delay our advance towards a democratic order, we have converged here no longer to mourn his death but on the contrary, to celebrate his life.
We are indeed celebrating the life of a committed patriot who lived and died for the freedom of his people.
We reaffirm that in spite of what his murderers sought to achieve, the spirit and ideas of Chris Hani live on and will do so for generations to come.
It is this spirit that inspires us when look back at the glorious, relentless and victorious struggle of our people for freedom and justice.
This 22nd anniversary takes place during an important year in our movement and the country as a whole, the year of the Freedom Charter.
Comrade Chris so believed in the Freedom Charter that he once said in an interview:
“It was important to have an ANC which accepted the Freedom Charter, which committed itself to the implementation of the Freedom Charter. And we felt that the Freedom Charter was a revolutionary document in terms of the struggle for national liberation and democracy.”
It is against this background therefore that in celebrating the life comrade Chris Hani, we reaffirm that South Africa belongs to all who live in it black and white, and that no government can justly claim authority unless it is based on the will of all the people.
The Constitution of the Republic affirms this principle and enshrines equality, freedom and justice for our people.
The Constitution also enshrines the creation of a better life for our people, through the inclusion of socio-economic rights, such as the right to water, sanitation, quality education and health care and other important basic services.
Very few people also know that the Constitution also enjoins us to provide social security for our people.
We have been able to alleviate poverty through providing social grants to more than 16 million of our people the majority of whom are vulnerable children, older persons and persons with disability, in line with the Constitution.
In memory of Chris Hani, let us continue working hard to deepen and consolidate democracy in our country, and also deepen the extension of services to all especially the poor and the working class.
We must also double our efforts to build reconciliation, unity and social cohesion amongst all our people so that everyone, black and white, would continue to feel welcome and at home in South Africa.
An important aspect of achieving true reconciliation includes building a new heritage landscape for our new democratic society, based on our history of fighting for freedom, justice and equality.
Today we have officially opened the Chris Hani Memorial, which will serve to educate generations of our people about his legacy and the struggle for freedom.
Only last month, we successfully repatriated, reburied and unveiled memorials of our illustrious leaders Moses Kotane and JB Marks.
All of this is part of the ongoing programme of the democratic government to build a new inclusive heritage for our country.
Our programme includes identifying historic sites, individuals and organisations that have made outstanding contributions to our liberation struggle and history and to the development of our cultural values.
The identified sites are being upgraded and declared National Heritage sites and are maintained by the State, just like the Chris Hani heritage site that we have officially launched today. The task of grading and declaring these places is being undertaken by the South African Heritage Resource Agency (SAHRA).
Through the upgrading and declaration of these historic sites, we will ensure a more representative and inclusive South African history and heritage. More importantly, this will also contribute towards shared values and a common national identity in the country.
We regard this work as central to transformation, nation building, national identity and building a socially cohesive South African society that is non-racial, non-sexist, democratic, united and prosperous.
Furthermore, the building and maintenance of new monuments and historic sites has a greater potential to stimulate economic activity and create much needed jobs in communities where these sites are located.
These sites will contribute towards the local tourism economy.
The Chris Hani memorial and others in Ekurhuleni will draw local and foreign tourists to come and learn more about our history heritage.
Indeed the ANC government is doing a lot to build a new inclusive heritage.
In many of our cities, street names are being changed to acknowledge the selfless freedom fighters who sacrificed life’s comforts so that we could be free and live in a democratic South Africa.
We already have airports, roads, hospitals that have been renamed after Braam Fischer, Oliver Tambo, Albertina and Walter Sisulu. We have hospitals that are named after Steve Biko, Chris Hani, Charlotte Maxeke, Helen Joseph and many other sites that are named after other heroes and heroines of our struggle.
Many municipalities are also named after heroes and heroines of the liberation struggle from Govan Mbeki, Moses Kotane, Nelson Mandela, Ruth Mompati and a host of others.
We have also created new monuments and walls of remembrance such as the Steve Biko Heritage centre in Ginsberg, Eastern Cape and the Ncome Museum commemorating the Battle of Blood River fought between amaZulu and the Afrikaners. Freedom Park Museum phase 2 has also been opened in Pretoria.
We are steadily introducing a new national identity and a new heritage of a newly liberated society.
Our country is therefore doing well in promoting a new landscape and we will continue to do so in consultation with our people.
More work is being done in various parts of the country to build this new identity and turn houses, graves and scenes of heroic struggles into monuments or heritage sites.
I will mention just a few sites that government has identified to be turned into heritage sites.
- The Wesleyan Church hall in Waaihoek, Mangaung which was the founding venue of the then South African Native National Congress, now the ANC located in the Mangaung.
- The home and grave of Dr. JL Dube, the first President of the ANC.
- The home of Thomas Mapikela in the Free State who was a member of the 1912 executive committee of the then SA Native National Congress, now the ANC. Most meetings were held at the Mapikela home leading up to and after the formation of the ANC.
- The home of Lillian Ngoyi, who was the first woman leader to become a member of the National Executive Committee of the ANC and the leader of the ANC Women’s League.
- The home of President Oliver Tambo in Nkantolo, Mbizana in the Eastern Cape is being upgraded and will be a heritage site.
- The home of former President Nelson Mandela in Houghton.
- The site of the Pondo Revolt on the Ingquza Hill and the Holy Cross Church will be declared a heritage sites.
- The sites in which many heroes fought in the frontier Wars; this includes the 1913 revolt by African women in the Free State and the 1957 anti-pass revolt by women in Zeerust will also be declared heritage sites.
These are before the peasant revolts of the 1960s and they also signify the important role played by women in the struggle for national liberation.
- The Rocklands Civic Centre in Mitchells Plein, Cape Town where the United Democratic Front (UDF) was formed in 1983.
- The Gugulethu Seven monument in Cape Town.
- The former homes of mama Winnie Madikizela-Mandela in Brandfort and that of Dr. the JS Moroka in Thaba Nchu in the Free State, and the home of Comrade Braam Fischer.
Government is also in the process of upgrading the graves of some of the leaders of our struggle such as Dr. AB Xuma, Sefako Makgatho, Pixley Ka Isaka Seme, Rahima Moosa, Robert Sobukwe and Josiah Tshangana Gumede.
We are aware of the sentiments in the country relating to the removal of statues of racists and colonialists. We do understand the frustration of our people who may feel the programme of building a new heritage architecture is moving slowly.
What is important is that everything must be done in an orderly fashion and according to the laws of the land.
We remind our people that the destruction of statues is illegal. The National Heritage Resources Act of 1999 outlines the consultative processes that should be followed in the case of a removal and or relocation of a statue.
Destroying the statues also flies in the face of the preservation of the history of our country, including the repulsive apartheid colonial history.
Future generations should know the people who colonized our country and those who introduced apartheid which was declared a crime against humanity by the United Nations, and treated the black majority as pariahs in the land of their birth.
What we should discuss is therefore the location of these colonial and apartheid artefacts and we are happy that the debate has begun.
Compatriots and comrades
In memory of Comrade Chris Hani let me also address the creeping problem of what appears to be xenophobia in our country.
We have noted with deep concern the incidents around the country where foreign nationals have been attacked or threatened or have had their properties destroyed.
We would like to correct the perception that all foreign nationals or persons born outside South Africa who live in our country, are in South Africa illegally.
It is true that there is a high number of foreign nationals who have entered the country and are living in South Africa illegally, and government is attending to that problem and will ensure that nobody lives in our country illegally or is undocumented.
However, many foreign nationals live in South Africa legally and contribute to the life and success of the country. Many are recruited to bring much-needed skills that are scarce in our country, that we need to develop our economy.
We are actually working to improve our migration laws to enable us to import scarce skills which will entail bringing in more foreign nationals to assist us in achieving our development goals.
Other foreign nationals come to South Africa as refugees running away from violence or wars in their countries of origin.
Many leaders of the ANC also fled South Africa and lived in many countries in Africa and the world, and were treated with generosity, dignity and respect.
In addition, as South Africa we are an integral part of the African Continent, and the South African Development Community.
Our national interest is also defined by the development and upliftment of all African people.
We understand our national interest as being intrinsically linked to the entire continent’s stability, unity and prosperity.
We will continue to protect all the people in our country including foreign nationals.
Refugees and asylum seekers will also be accorded support in line with international law and protocols. We therefore urge our people to treat those who are in the country legally with respect and Ubuntu.
Government will also take action against illegal immigrants. We are tightening security in all our ports of entry to ensure deal with the problem of illegal migration.
We are also determined to continue taking action against all foreign nationals who commit crime in our country. At the same time, action is also being taken against South Africans who commit crime. We should therefore not view all foreign nationals as criminals.
We are also aware of the complaints by some South Africans that some foreign nationals start small businesses in townships that compete against South African-owned businesses leading to some having to shut down.
It is also true that some of the foreign owned businesses do not comply with the country’s laws and are therefore operating illegally. Because they are illegal, they do not pay taxes like other businesses.
Everyone operating a business in South Africa, whether one is a citizen or a foreign national, must adhere to the country’s laws for registering and operating a business.
We will not tolerate illegal trade.
Government will enforce laws and bylaws more stringently and ensure that nobody trades illegally and disadvantages other traders.
Having said that, we also emphasise that no amount of economic hardship and discontent will ever justify attacking foreign nationals who own shops and other businesses.
We condemn such attacks and will take action against perpetrators.
Foreign nationals who are trading illegally should be reported to the police. They should not be attacked by residents or local traders.
As we prepare to celebrate Freedom Day on the 27th of April, under the theme “Celebrating the Third Decade of our Freedom through Accelerating Radical Economic Transformation”, we must work together to promote economic opportunities for all our people.
The ANC government has established the Department of Small Business Development to provide support to traders in our townships including those who complain about lack of support.
Government also has several programmes in place to support small businesses and we urge our traders to visit their local government offices to obtain information.
During the State of the Nation Address in February this year, I announced that we would implement a programme to set-aside 30% of appropriate categories of State procurement for purchasing from SMMEs, Co-operatives, Township and Rural Enterprises.
This will ensure that we build on the entrepreneurial spirit of our people and create a much wider base of entrepreneurs and business-people.
There are several opportunities for cooperatives as well.
Government departments offering such opportunities have been urged to improve their communication with the public to improve awareness of opportunities offered by the democratic government.
To achieve our development goals, we must become an activist nation that works in unison to build a united and prosperous society envisaged by the Freedom Charter in which Chris Hani unreservedly believed.
We encourage communities to hold Freedom Charter Forums and discuss the progress we have made since the attainment of freedom in 1994 as well as ponder on the daunting tasks which lie on the long road ahead.
These forums must be, in practice, centres of people’s education and centres that promote unity.
Comrades and compatriots,
Therefore, as we move towards Africa Month in May, we recall President Oliver Tambo’s words at the First Congress of the Angolan ruling party, the MPLA in Luanda in 1977.
“We seek to live in peace with our neighbours and the peoples of the world in conditions of equality, mutual respect and equal advantage”.
The Freedom Charter also makes a call that there shall be peace and friendship in our engagements with the world.
As outlined in the January 8 statement and the State of the Nation Address in February, we should begin seriously celebrating our African heritage this year.
We invite all sectors including business, non-governmental organisations, schools, universities, colleges, churches and every institution to organize programmes to celebrate Africa Month in May, and to celebrate Africa Day in particular on the 25th of May.
This promotion of our African identity will assist us in building an understanding of the African continent and the importance of integration and unity.
We will do this in memory of Chris Hani, Oliver Tambo, Moses Kotane, JB Marks, Johnny Makatini and many other internationalists who valued our African identity and our relationship with the world.
Comrades and compatriots
As we navigate the transformation of our country, we will encounter various challenges along the way. Our people will also experience frustration from time to time when they feel the pace of change and the onset of a better life for all is moving slower than anticipated.
However, we should never forget that one of the trademarks of South Africa’s transition to democracy is tolerance and peaceful co-existence.
The democratic South Africa is built on the foundation of democracy, selflessness, reconciliation, service to humanity, the promotion of a better life for all and most importantly, the values of Ubuntu and respect for one another and humanity in general.
These are the values that we should all embrace and promote.
We must continuously strive to build a united, humane and caring society.
On this 22nd anniversary of the painful passing of Comrade Chris Hani, let us celebrate his life and times by working harder to build a better South Africa and contribute selflessly, to building a better Africa and a better world.
Article by President Jacob Zuma