The Real Jesus of the ANCby Lindokuhle Nkosi / 12.04.2012
10th of April, 1993. One gunshot cracks through a driveway off Hakea Crescent, Dawn Park. Janusz Jacub Walus walks up to the car, and packs three more bullets through the drivers head, then turns to leave. At quarter to eleven, the first phonecall bearing the bad news is received in peach house on Bauhinia street. The phone will ring continuously throughout the whole day. Chris Hani has been assassinated. The black residents of Dawn Park in the East Rand are angry, terrified. Over a bowl of snap, crackle and pop; a five year old hears snippets of “they’re coming for us”, “they won’t stop until they get us all”, and “I won’t let them get away with this!” The curtains are drawn shut, the TV on mute. The radio cries from the corner of the kitchen. The shooter has not yet been found.
I cannot say for certain what my young mind understood back then. I knew that up the road a body lay lifeless. Silenced. I knew that the dust would be redder than normal. I knew to be afraid. The house was dark, unbreathing. A grave mass hovered above, violent with anger and energy, threatening to explode. The wooden butt of a gun peaks out from under my father’s leather jacket as he leaves the house, walking towards the one where Chris Hani used to live. “Don’t open the curtain. Don’t answer the door. No-one must know you are home,” he said as he left the house. I hid inside my cupboard until it got stuffy. Or I got bored. I moved to the lounge where I hid under the table. Hid and prayed.
Hiding under tables has formed a large part of my life. Cowering from the red of the Inkatha Impi’s. Recoiling from the red of armed, angry hostel-dwellers. And then from the crimson unknown. The scarlet of future bloodshed, of when they would come finish us off. There were people outside the windows. Voices, wailing. Sirens. Sirens and smoke. Smoke and guns. Vows being made upon his blood. Blood to consecrate his death. To vindicate him. To vilify him.
Dawn Park is widely described as a “racially-mixed suburb”. In all honestly, it was a biltong and boerewors area, with a small sprinkling of upwardly-mobile blacks. It was a “first step out of the hood” suburb, a starter pack, where the majority of its black residents still lived in the outrooms of small-holdings and plots. Integrated, maybe. Co-existent, definitely not. So it was with much anxiety that 19000 people visited the house on Hakea Crescent to pay their respects. Terrified, white people peaked from behind their curtains. Dogs were moved to backyards. Dawn Park was black and red. Black and gold and green. Mourning and singing. Frisson and tension.
I try to imagine how South Africa would be had the situation played out differently. Had Hani lived. Let’s say, maybe, that Walus was a shitty marksman. Imagine that the bullets missed any fatal spots. That he, and not Mandela, had released a statement from his hospital bed. That the image that was immortalised in our minds was not one of Tokyo Sexwale weeping near his friend’s corpse, but of the two of them alive, together, with Hani at the helm of the country. That the headlines read: “Hani survives assassination attempt”.
His image never lived long enough to be tainted in the aftermath of liberation. He’s up there on the mantel of the incorruptible, but is it really plausible to think that he’d have survived the bling-ification of cadreship? The people he fought side-by-side with now live by the motto of “we did not struggle to be poor”. We have a “Teflon Don” upon whom charges don’t stick, leader for president, and Julius Malema is the voice of the youth. Perhaps we’re lucky then, that we still have that immovable picture of him to refer to. That we can say, as South Africans, that we know what selfless leadership looks like. Hani allows us to believe that we’re not completely fucked up. We get to pin our disappointments on part-man, part-myth; and pretend that fate conspired against us. That the country we live in is not of our own construct. Hani’s assassination is Jesus’ crucifixion. We reflect on it (maybe) on Easter without real consequence. Partake in the holy communion and unholy discourse, and wait myopically for his return.