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.
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