Hani: A Life Too Short by Beauregard Tromp and Janet Smith.
By Jacob Mawela.
For me, the timing of the review of this tome by fellow journos, Beauregard Tromp and Janet Smith regarding the life of South African Communist Party and liberation icon, Martin Thembisile Hani, is South African history arriving full circle. It is the fortuitous alignment of Epiphanies with a genesis commencing from his assassination on the verge of the country's democratic breakthrough and onto a status quo whereby the national optimism of the early 90s has now petered into mass disillusionment from a mainly African electorate which has so much wanted Hani’s liberating movement to unburden it from the yoke of centuries old racist oppression!
The book arrives shortly before this Easter of 2023 after the Easter of his assassination in 1993 – 30 years earlier!
In a chapter expounding on Hani's assassination his middle daughter (of a trio) Nomakhwezi, then 15-year-old, remarked in the aftermath of the incident on April 10, 1993: "I'm a Catholic and I believe there is a God, and He is supposed to be powerful enough to protect good people. It puzzles me that God did not stop these killers."
The killers she alluded to include an erstwhile nun and gay club owner, namely Gaye Derby-Lewis – described by renown lawyer, George Bizos SC., as "smart, she was the brains, and I detested her" – her husband, South African Conservative Party MP, Clive Derby-Lewis and Polish émigré, Janusz Walus – the latter being the assassin who pulled the trigger and regarding whom Nomakhwezi remarked, "Hey daddy, he's greeting you," as Walus approached Hani on the fateful day on the East Rand's Dawn Park.
Ironically, Hani had been barred from carrying his Makarov pistol - along with his bodyguards – by being denied licenses – whereas, converse, Walus had been issued with an illegal Z88 pistol with which he carried out the cold-blooded execution which almost derailed the Codesa negotiations then underway!
An updated paperback, the book also features, inter alia, a chapter on the Wankie Offensive which gave a then USSR trained Hani a taste of combat when uMkhonto we Sizwe’s Luthuli Detachment under his command sanctioned by then ANC leader Oliver Tambo joined forces with Joshua Nkomo's ZAPU in a campaign in the then Ian Smith-ruled Rhodesia, in 1967. A reserve teeming with elephants, lion and other game, what occurred inside Wankie (now Hwange National Park) offers one of the enthralling moments of the fighter's contribution to the liberation of Southern Africa collectively.
With a tinge of nostalgia, it also traces his beginnings in the Eastern Cape village of Sabalele, including his sojourn at Lovedale College – which inculcated an awareness of the struggle for liberation in him.
Smith (author of Patrice Motsepe: An Appetite for Disruption) and Tromp (the African editor of Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project) drew on interviews with those who were a part of Hani’s existence and the duo’s text is complemented by visual contributions from photojournalist, Rashid Lombard – in addition to those of other lensmen who have been dedicated documentarists of Hani’s pre-exile, exile and post-exile periods. –
Distributed by Jonathan Ball Publishers and available at bookstores nationwide, Hani A Life Too Short, retails for R310,00.