Hani takes on Sisulu
Chris Hani’s widow Limpho wants Lindiwe Sisulu to apologise for saying that her husband was expelled for a misdemeanour
Limpho Hani has accused ANC presidential hopeful Lindiwe Sisulu of lying about her slain husband’s expulsion from the ANC. “People should not lie about the dead because they are not here to speak for themselves,” a tearful Hani told City Press this week.
The two women are corresponding with one another through their lawyers. Hani wants a written apology, failing which she will consider legal action.
Sisulu has denied that her statement was false.
In an interview with City Press in July, Sisulu said: “Chris Hani was expelled from the ANC and, after a while, after the party felt that he had sufficiently atoned for his misdemeanour, he was brought back”.
The SA Communist Party leader’s widow is aggrieved because Sisulu’s remarks are “untruthful and false”.
Hani “never committed and/or was found guilty of any offence of misdemeanour by the ANC and/or any other forum”.
She said she had previously had to correct a similar misrepresentation of Hani’s legacy, made in a play performed at The Market theatre.
Hani wrote to Sisulu through her lawyers Morathi & Mataka Attorneys on July 25, giving her 14 days to retract her remark.
“Further that an apology to Limpho Hani be made in the same newspaper as the retraction.”
On August 1, Sisulu’s lawyers, Harris Nupen Molebatsi Attorneys, promised to prioritise the matter and asked Sisulu for further instructions.
On August 28, Sisulu’s lawyers replied that she denied her statement was “untruthful and false”. She had considered Chris Hani a close family friend and mentor, and held him in high regard. She had only the greatest respect for the family and Chris Hani’s extraordinary legacy, she said.
“It appears from your letter that our client’s statement was taken out of context as the statement was simply intended to highlight his commitment towards building a culture of internal criticism in the ANC and not defame his legacy,” Sisulu’s lawyers told Hani.
Sisulu sat for the interview at OR Tambo International Airport. A few hours earlier, she was at Walter Sisulu Square in Kliptown to announce her campaign to become the next ANC president at the party’s elective conference in December.
“To put our client’s statement into context, it is common historical knowledge that on or about 1969, Chris Hani and six other commissars and commanders of Umkhonto weSizwe, the ANC’s military wing, signed what became known as the Hani Memorandum,” Sisulu’s lawyers wrote.
“The document criticised the leadership of the ANC [and], as a result of the publication of this memorandum, Chris Hani was expelled from the ANC, but was later reinstated after the Morogoro Conference.”
This took place in Tanzania from April 25 to May 1 1969 to discuss the state of the organisation.
“Chris Hani was in fact expelled from the ANC as a result of the publication of the Hani Memorandum.”
Her statement was “true and not defamatory of Chris Hani’s legacy”. Sisulu said that, as a close Hani family friend, she was “taken aback that this matter was not directly raised with her”. She offered to meet Hani.
In follow-up correspondence dated August 29, Hani said she welcomed the gesture, but did not “appreciate the necessity of the said meeting, when a simple but written apology can be forwarded”.
She confirmed the existence of the Hani Memorandum. Published in early 1969, Hani and his colleagues complain in the document that it was unfair for the children of senior ANC leaders to be taken to good schools in Europe, while others were left to face bullets in the struggle against apartheid.
Sisulu is the daughter of late ANC icon Walter Sisulu. Hani noted that Sisulu did not deny making the remark and gave her until September 5 to adhere to her demand or face “summons without notice”. Sisulu responded that she had not made any admission about the accuracy of the City Press article.
She said it was unclear why Hani spoke of an “offence of misdemeanour” as the article made no reference to the ANC or any forum finding Chris Hani guilty of wrongdoing.
Sisulu’s lawyers said they would take instructions on the request for an apology.
Harris Nupen Molebatsi said it was unhelpful to continue to set deadlines for Sisulu, who, as minister of human settlements, is “extraordinarily busy”.
“As such, her availability to consult and to provide instructions on these issues is limited.”
The lawyers said Hani’s tone was combative and in complete disregard of Sisulu’s “conciliatory approach”.
This week, Morathi & Mataka Attorneys wrote to City Press seeking to confirm the quote in the July story. City Press stands by the story.