Image credit: ‘Simon & Schuster’ Publishers - Photo: 2023

The Murder of Chris Hani That Brought the Nation to the Brink of War

By Lisa Vives, Global Information Network

NEW YORK, 30 May 2023 (IDN) — On Easter weekend 1993 Nelson Mandela was engaged in slow-moving power-sharing talks with President F.W. de Klerk when a white supremacist shot Mandela’s heir-apparent, Chris Hani, in the hope of igniting an all-out civil war.

The story of nine tumultuous days, as the assassination of Mandela’s protégé threatened to derail South Africa’s democratic transition and plunge the nation into civil war, is told in riveting detail in a new book by South African newspaper columnist and political commentator Justice Malala.

In “The Plot to Save South Africa,” Malala reveals rarely seen sides of both Mandela and de Klerk, the fascinating behind-the-scenes debates within each of their parties over whether to pursue peace or war, and the two leaders’ increasingly desperate attempts to restrain their supporters despite mounting popular frustrations.

Justice Malala was a twenty-two-year-old intern at South Africa’s largest paper on the day Chris Hani was killed–and with his bosses all away for the Easter holiday, he was the one who rushed to the crime scene.

In The Plot to Save South Africa, he combines original reporting with key figures on all sides of the conflict, archival research, and his own memories into a thrilling, definitive story timed to the 30th anniversary of the assassination.

Malala provides insight into all aspects of the conflict and discusses the extraordinary effort of leadership that was needed to avert a crisis that could have developed into a full-scale war.

Here is some of an interview between Malala and editor Yinka Adegoke who asks, “Why was it important to write a book about the week of Chris Hani’s death now?”

Malala: “Mandela had been out after 27 years’ imprisonment for three years and the democracy talks were proceeding slowly. Four thousand people were dying every year due to political violence. In that week, Mandela and others had to show extraordinary leadership to frustrate the right wing’s attempts to spark a race war while calming down Black citizens angered by Hani’s murder.”

Adegoke: “You seem to suggest this is the week when Nelson Mandela really became South Africa’s president, is that fair?”

Malala: “The triumph of democracy over apartheid in South Africa was never guaranteed. There was huge resistance, even by 1993, to the establishment of a truly non-racial democracy. In the week I chronicle, what became clear was that without Mandela’s leadership and a Black government’s ascendancy South Africa would implode.

“De Klerk’s attempts to establish some kind of veto power over a new government crumbled. Mandela wrung out an election date and a transition agreement from him. White minority rule died that week. Mandela and the people won.”

Adegoke: “Is the tension between South Africa’s “born frees” and those who were already of age under apartheid understandable or justifiable?”

Malala: “It is understandable, but most of the criticism of Mandela and the democracy negotiators is unjustified. Youth unemployment in South Africa is at abominable levels and it is the most unequal country in the world, according to the World Bank. South Africa’s leaders after 2009 have failed young people spectacularly.”

Justice Malala is also the author of “We Have Now Begun Our Descent: How to Stop South Africa Losing its Way” and is the former publisher of The Sowetan and Sunday World.

Toluse Olorunnipa, coauthor of His Name Is George Floyd writes of the book: “Fast-paced, gripping, and expertly crafted, this book reads like a political thriller. A brilliant, moving, and extraordinary account of nine days that shaped a country and a continent, with the entire world looking on.” [IDN-InDepthNews]

Image credit: ‘Simon & Schuster’ Publishers

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