Goose bumps

CityPress - - Voices - NICKI GULES nicki.gules@city­press.co.za

On Satur­day April 10 1993, 12-year-old Lindiwe Hani was pre­par­ing to go to the movies in Maseru.

It was the Easter week­end, the ideal time to take a longed-for trip to Le­sotho – her first home – and a chance to visit the best friend she hadn’t seen in months.

By then, it had been a cou­ple of years since Lindiwe, her mother and her sis­ters had moved to Dawn Park in Boks­burg to live as a fam­ily for the first time that she, the baby of the fam­ily, could re­mem­ber.

And then, com­mo­tion. Her mother’s words: “Your fa­ther has been shot.”

“Which hos­pi­tal is he in?”

“No. Daddy has been shot dead.”

Although we have had glimpses over the past 24 years, this is the first time the true ex­tent of the catas­tro­phe the as­sas­sin’s bul­lets wreaked on those clos­est to ANC leader Chris Hani has been re­vealed.

In Be­ing Chris Hani’s Daugh­ter, we learn how Lim­pho Hani lost not only a hus­band, but in the en­su­ing years, her three daugh­ters as well – one to death from what an au­topsy re­port la­belled an asthma at­tack, and her other two to es­trange­ment.

Her mid­dle daugh­ter, Kh­wezi, who wanted to at­tend a party that Satur­day evening – which was why her fa­ther had of­fered to stay be­hind with her – blamed her­self for his death.

She had been on the phone when he had ar­rived back from the shop that morn­ing.

Lindiwe Hani and co-au­thor Melinda Ferguson take their read­ers to a packed FNB sta­dium in Soweto, to Chris Hani’s tragic funeral that al­most ev­ery South African over a cer­tain age re­mem­bers – but through the eyes of his youngest daugh­ter.

As she grows up, Lindiwe slides into a life con­sumed by al­co­hol and drugs, des­per­ate to es­cape the pain she suf­fered not only fol­low­ing the mur­der of her fa­ther, but also the death in a car ac­ci­dent of her first boyfriend, when she was 18 years old. The teen had also made her preg­nant and the two had to­gether de­cided on an abor­tion.

The losses proved too great, and an al­ready dan­ger­ous flir­ta­tion with sub­stances turned into a crip­pling ad­dic­tion that left her un­able to fin­ish her univer­sity cour­ses or, later, hold down a job.

Even the death of her sis­ter Kh­wezi, a vo­ra­cious co­caine user, and the birth of her own daugh­ter, Khaya, did not prove sober­ing enough to fight them off.

Lindiwe de­scribes in painful de­tail how she reached rock bot­tom and vol­un­teered to go to a re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion cen­tre, while fight­ing her mother who, des­per­ate to pro­tect the Hani name, in­sisted she book in un­der an as­sumed name.

Lindiwe re­fused.

Be­ing Chris Hani’s Daugh­ter re­veals rich de­tail about the strug­gle hero him­self – like the ac­count of the mil­i­tary man, who re­fused to al­low his wife to spank their daugh­ters; and why Com­mu­nist coun­tries made such an im­pres­sion on young black free­dom fight­ers, who were treated like hu­mans by white peo­ple there for the first time in their lives.

For fam­i­lies of ad­dicts or re­cov­er­ing ad­dicts, the book pro­vides a valu­able in­sight into ad­dic­tion and re­cov­ery.

But it is at the end of the book, when Lindiwe de­tails how she met her fa­ther’s killers – Clive Der­byLewis, who planned the as­sas­si­na­tion, and his ob­jec­tion­able wife Gaye; and the Pol­ish trig­ger man, Janusz Waluś – that the book raises goose bumps.

De­spite oc­ca­sional jar­ring changes in tone – Lindiwe’s brash col­lo­qui­alisms lie un­easily against Ferguson’s pol­ished para­graphs – Be­ing Chris Hani’s Daugh­ter is riv­et­ing and dev­as­tat­ing.

It re­veals the ex­or­bi­tant cost borne by a sin­gle fam­ily for our free­dom, and how the suf­fer­ing and pain of their loss con­tin­ues 24 years later.

Read it your­self, and then get your teenagers to read it too. They will likely be sworn off drugs and al­co­hol by the end of it, and they would have learnt some of their his­tory and the value of their free­dom, too.

Be­ing Chris Hani’s Daugh­ter

by Lindiwe Hani and Melinda Ferguson

MFBooks Joburg 253 pages R225

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