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25 Years

The becoming of Chris Hani's assassination as historical event: Romance, tragedy and transition in Southern Africa

Fri, 03/26/2021 - 12:00pm
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Presented by Sam Longford, ICGC Virtual Visiting Fellow/Centre for Humanities Research, University of the Western Cape

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On 10 April 1993, General Secretary of the South African Communist Party, Chris Hani was assassinated outside of his Johannesburg home by white right-winger Janus Walus. According to popular reports, news of Hani’s assassination almost pushed South Africa over the brink into civil war, and it was only Nelson Mandela’s lived televised address to the nation that calmed the situation. Hani’s assassination is therefore remembered as a pivotal event in the transition from apartheid to democracy, and a founding moment of the becoming of the new postapartheid nation. In this talk I discuss the becoming of Hani’s assassination as historical event and attempt to chart the contested ways in which the ‘truth’ of Hani’s death and the meta-narrative of transition in South Africa have been narrated in the postapartheid. By tracing the predominant modes (romance and tragedy) through which Hani’s assassination and transition have been narrated I hope to problematize the stakes and limits of historicizing the anti-apartheid struggle in South Africa. I do so not only to think through historiographical questions surrounding the character of historical and social change, but also to begin to come to terms with the remains of apartheid’s violence and the struggle against it.