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Shopsteward Volume 27: Special Bulletin

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Media Centre  |  COSATU Speeches

Speech delivered by COSATU General Secretary, Zwelinzima Vavi in memory of Chris Hani at the Parktonian Hotel, Braamfontein

15 April 2003

Members of Chris Hani's family, Secretary- General of the African National Congress, General Secretary of the South African Communist party, honoured guests, comrades and friends.

Today the whole nation remembers the tragic moment, ten years ago, on the 10th of April 1993, when Chris Hani was cruelly taken from us, the victim of a deranged assassin's bullet. It is a mark of the esteem in which he was held that at 10.30 this morning hundreds of thousands of people stopped work to observe a moment of silence in his honour.

Comrade Chris was undoubtedly one of the giants of the South African liberation struggle, who tragically left us on the eve of our people's greatest victory, the crushing of apartheid and the democratic elections of 1994, a victory for which he deserves a huge share of the credit.

He was both a man of action, leading Umkonto we Sizwe as Chief of Staff, and a man of intellect, as General Secretary of the South African Communist Party, inspiring the movement with clear ideas and perspectives. We all have missed his towering presence, especially today when we face new and different challenges, which he would have been helping us to face up to and overcome.

COSATU is determined that Chris Hani's memory and legacy will be kept alive in the way he would have wanted - by continuing the struggle for the ideals he stood for, in particular his unshakeable belief in the need for socialism and the liberation of working people.

COSATU is taking forward that struggle in our campaigns against poverty and unemployment, for the delivery of affordable, basic services to the poor, for a living wage and for the dignity of working people.

Let us not forget that Comrade Chris himself said that socialism is not about big concepts and heavy theory but about decent shelter for those who are homeless, water for those who have no safe drinking water, health care and a life of dignity for the old.

We agree with him that we have to overcome the huge divide between urban and rural areas and between rich and poor. Remember too what Chris said about socialism being about rolling back the tyranny of the market. We agree with him that as long as the economy is dominated by an un-elected, privileged few, the case for socialism will exist.

Despite the undeniable and welcome improvements we have seen, thanks to the ANC government - the democratic constitution, progressive labour laws and an expansion of education, housing and health services - we still sadly live in a country with mass unemployment, grinding poverty, and a deadly HIV/Aids epidemic. Thousands of people still live without access to essential services and the economy is still dominated by a super-rich, mainly white minority.

These are the problems we must grapple with at the Growth and Development Summit, so that we can start to roll back poverty, build the economy and find jobs for the unemployed millions.

"A new South Africa," Chris said prophetically, "would be meaningless if the problems of the millions of poor people were not tackled. The perks of a new government are not really appealing to me," he said "Everybody, of course, would like to have a good job, a good salary, and that sort of thing. But for me, that is not the be- all of a struggle. What is important is the continuation of the struggle - and we must accept that the struggle is always continuing."

That is the message from COSATU on this solemn day - the struggle is always continuing. That is how we honour the memory of Chris Hani, Oliver Tambo and all our other great leaders. In this month of Heroes, we urge all our members and the wider community to mark their passing and pay tribute to their part in our liberation by attending the commemorative events around the country.

We must rededicate ourselves to the struggle for national liberation and socialism. COSATU, in alliance with its partners, the ANC, SACP and SANCO, will not rest until the goals Chris Hani set for our movement are achieved.