Af­ter the visit

In this ex­tract from the re­veal­ing and emo­tion­ally pow­er­ful book Be­ing Chris Hani’s Daugh­ter, Lindiwe Hani and Melinda Fer­gu­son re­count the ef­fect on Lindiwe af­ter vis­it­ing her fa­ther’s killers – and the rift it ex­posed be­tween mother and daugh­ter

CityPress - - Careers - Be­ing Chris Hani’s Daugh­ter by Lindiwe Hani and Melinda Fer­gu­son MFBooks Joburg 253 pages R225

The day af­ter meet­ing with Clive and Gaye Der­byLewis, Janusz Waluś – the man who pulled the trig­ger of the gun that killed my fa­ther – is granted pa­role. It’s March 10 2016, the an­niver­sary of my sis­ter Kh­wezi’s death. Ex­actly a month to the day of the 23rd an­niver­sary of the day my fa­ther was mur­dered. I hear the news on Ra­dio 702 as I’m driv­ing back from drop­ping Khaya at school – in 15 days, it ap­pears, my fa­ther’s killer will be re­leased from pri­son. I am still sleep hazed and ex­hausted by the pre­vi­ous day’s mo­men­tous events when my mother’s voice on the ra­dio jerks me alert.

She is fu­ri­ous at Judge Ni­co­lene Janse van Nieuwen­huizen, who has ruled on grant­ing Waluś pa­role. She is noth­ing but a racist. To her, black lives don’t mat­ter. She hardly made men­tion of my hus­band’s mur­der in her judg­ment.

Lis­ten­ing to my mom voice her anger, I am shocked and sad­dened that she hasn’t called or men­tioned this break­ing news to me be­fore speak­ing to the me­dia.

This is typ­i­cal of my mother. Some­times it feels like her iden­tity as Chris Hani’s widow pre­cedes the needs of her chil­dren. For as long as I can re­mem­ber, it feels as though her life’s pur­pose has been to pre­serve my fa­ther’s legacy. For 23 years, I’ve been watch­ing her live in the shroud of her loss; Lim­pho, the grieving wife of Chris Hani, has been her world, her mis­sion, her iden­tity.

I re­mem­ber as a child, in the years that fol­lowed my fa­ther’s death, want­ing to scream: “Hey you, look at me! It’s not only you who’s hurt­ing, it’s not only your loss – we have also lost our beloved fa­ther.” Grow­ing up, my mother’s stance gave us no space to stand up, to be seen and counted.

That’s how it was un­til I got clean. These days, I’ve been un­der­stand­ing more and more how hard it must have been for her to keep our bro­ken fam­ily to­gether. I have been ac­cept­ing that she is but hu­man and, de­spite her some­times abrupt man­ner, she has al­ways had her chil­dren’s best in­ter­ests at heart.

In the backed-up traf­fic, my mother’s anger con­tin­ues to stac­cato through the ra­dio static.

Janusz mur­dered my hus­band in cold blood … All I want is for Janusz and who­ever is sup­port­ing him to tell me what hap­pened and tell me the truth.

It’s there and then that I make the de­ci­sion to find a way to set up a meet­ing with the man who pulled the trig­ger. Be­fore he is re­leased from pri­son. Whether my mother likes it or not.

The fol­low­ing day, I de­cide to make the call. It’s Fri­day. Ever since I made the first call to Derby-Lewis’ lawyer a few weeks ago, I’ve been ex­pe­ri­enc­ing the fruits of tak­ing ac­tion. This time, Mel is not with me to sup­port or egg me on. To­day, I am the mis­tress of my own des­tiny. I have the courage of a lion.

I punch in the num­ber of Ad­vo­cate Roelof du Plessis, who helped me con­nect with the Derby-Le­wises. He tells me to jot down a num­ber and ad­vises me to speak to Waluś’ lawyer, Ju­lian Knight. With­out hes­i­tat­ing, I make the next call.

Ju­lian Knight an­swers al­most im­me­di­ately; he doesn’t think there’ll be any prob­lem with Waluś agree­ing to meet with me. He thinks, how­ever, that the pri­son will re­quire a so­cial worker present. I im­me­di­ately go on the de­fence. “I’m 35 years old, a grown-up; I don’t need any­one mon­i­tor­ing or babysit­ting me. I need to do this alone. I don’t want any third party fa­cil­i­tat­ing this.”

Knight sounds doubt­ful that the au­thor­i­ties will agree; they are strict and the pro­ce­dures will in all like­li­hood need to be fol­lowed if I’m to be granted ac­cess. He prom­ises to get back to me. As the call ends, an­other comes through. My mother. My per­sonal blood­hound. I feel the panic ris­ing. I scratch the crease of my in­ner arm where my eczema re­sides.

Oh my fuck, what does she want? Does she know about my meet­ing with Derby-Lewis? Has she sensed by some weird telepa­thy that I am up to some­thing? She’s al­ways had this un­canny sixth sense when I’m do­ing some­thing she dis­ap­proves of. It’s been like this for years.

The phone rings mer­ci­lessly. Ac­cus­ingly. If I don’t an­swer now, she’ll keep on call­ing. Heart pound­ing, I pick up.

Al­most im­me­di­ately, like a con­fes­sor in Guan­tanamo, I blurt it out as soon as she greets me.

“Mama, I’ve de­cided I need to speak to Waluś. I’ve al­ready spo­ken to his lawyer. He is busy help­ing me to set up the meet­ing.”

There. It’s out. I wait for the bomb to ex­plode.

First there is si­lence, that long icy si­lence that Mama is so good at, then all hell breaks loose. Her words are her weapons. They once had the power to ma­chine gun me down. Not so much any more.

The tirade ends with her slam­ming the phone down on me.

I am breath­less. Shak­ing. Scratch, scratch, scratch. My arm bursts into a frenzy of itches.

The SMS alert clangs in. I can barely force my­self to look at my phone’s in­box full of my mother’s vit­riol and self-pity.

I feel small. Afraid. I am that numb child again.

“Put those bloody bound­aries up,” I hiss to my­self. I try to call Mel. Her phone goes to voice­mail. It’s only the Seren­ity Prayer that’s go­ing to get me through this.

I wake up on Satur­day morn­ing feel­ing like I have a hang­over. I have the dull thud of a headache, a scratch at the back of my throat. I’m too ex­hausted to do Boot­camp.

For a mo­ment, there’s a flash of per­spec­tive. De­spite feel­ing like crap, I re­alise how grate­ful I am for be­ing clean and sober through all this. Imag­ine how un­man­age­able it would be if I was booz­ing or us­ing. But, I soberly re­mind my­self, all of this wouldn’t ac­tu­ally be hap­pen­ing if I were still in ac­tive ad­dic­tion. These are the fruits of my re­cov­ery: ac­tion and pur­pose. I reach out to Mel when her phone’s back on. She sug­gests I take the day off, re-en­er­gise, take time out to re­cover from the past few days of mad­ness.

By the af­ter­noon, I’m feel­ing a whole lot bet­ter – un­til a call from an un­known num­ber catches me off-guard. It’s a journo from South Africa’s big­gest Sun­day news­pa­per, the Sun­day Times. It’s clear the story of me want­ing to meet with Waluś has been leaked. The jour­nal­ist in­forms me that an “im­pec­ca­ble source” has alerted the news­pa­per that I have con­tacted Knight to set up a meet­ing with my fa­ther’s killer.

I dis­solve into a ball of fa­mil­iar ter­ror; my mother’s threats and ma­nip­u­la­tions pound back at me – oh my God, what have I done? All I man­age to say is “no com­ment” as I drop the call.

I call Mel. I can hear she’s try­ing to stay calm, but is as thrown as I am. We’re con­founded as to who has alerted the me­dia: the lawyer? The pri­son of­fi­cials? Some­one on our side? It’s weird how this whole thing has sud­denly taken on a sin­is­ter feel­ing of “sides”.

Mel re­as­sures me that I have done noth­ing wrong; that it’s my right to seek an­swers, to find the truth, to get some clo­sure. I try to take her words to heart, but the ter­ror has gripped me. I am 35 years old, a grown woman. I have a right to make my own choices, but, once again, I feel like I’m drown­ing in my mother’s fury. All I want to do is sleep. My es­cape tac­tic. Oh God, I feel so tired.

PHOTO: GCIS

SHOW OF UNITY Win­nie Madik­izela-Man­dela with Lindiwe and Lim­pho Hani at a pres­i­den­tial ban­quet in Sand­ton in 2012

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