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  • The ‘Hani Memorandum’ – introduced and annotated1
  • Hugh Macmillan (bio)

The ‘Hani Memorandum’, a document produced and signed by Chris Hani and six other members of the African National Congress (ANC)’s armed wing Umkhonto we Sizwe (MK) early in 1969, following the failure of the Wankie and Sipolilo campaigns, is frequently cited but there appears to be no complete copy in a public archive. It has been published only once and that was 30 years ago in an obscure exile journal without identification, date, context, or the names of the signatories – not surprisingly, it seems then to have passed unnoticed.2 In his book ANC: A View from Moscow Vladimir Shubin (1999) provides an accurate summary of the memorandum’s contents, but the copy to which he had access in the Soviet archives seems to have been produced for circulation to the diplomatic community and contained no names and no signatures.3

The unavailability of the memorandum has not prevented its continued citation for political purposes and it is still influential 40 years after its production. Speaking at the launch of the Chris Hani Municipality’s Liberation Heritage Route at Hani’s birthplace, Sabalele, near Cofimvaba in the Eastern Cape on April 10, 2008, the 15th anniversary of his death, the ANC’s then recently elected secretary-general, Gwede Mantashe, who was also chairman of the South African Communist Party (SACP), made intriguing use of the Hegelian/Marxian dialectic – thesis, antithesis and synthesis – to link three major conferences in the history of the ANC: Morogoro (1969), Kabwe (1985), and Polokwane (2007). Drawing a parallel between the three, he saw each of them as coming after a period of dissatisfaction with the leadership, if not actual mutiny, as providing an opportunity to confront and to discuss the outstanding issues, and as heralding a period of reform and consolidation. [End Page 106] Mantashe acknowledged that it was the ‘Hani memorandum’, and indeed mutiny, that led directly to the Morogoro Conference.4 More recently, Terry Bell cited the memorandum in an article in which he argued that the present crisis in the ANC had its roots in its exile history. Zola Skweyiya, then minister of social welfare in South Africa, cited the memorandum in yet another context, referring to the danger of Xhosa or Nguni dominance of the ANC, and looking back to what was sometimes seen as a mutiny of ‘Cape men’.5

There are no precise figures, but about 50 MK men with a smaller number of ZAPU (Zimbabwe African Political Union) combatants took part in the Wankie campaign, which was launched across the Zambezi from near Livingstone in western Zambia at the end of July 1967. The ANC’s Luthuli Detachment was divided into two main groups – the western group was intended to move through Rhodesia to South Africa. A second group split off from the first in the Wankie Game Reserve and moved eastwards with the intention of establishing bases with ZAPU in northern and central Rhodesia as part of a ‘Ho Chi Minh Trail’ to South Africa. Five months later in December 1967 a second offensive, the Sipolilo campaign, was launched from eastern Zambia – its objectives were not clear-cut. The MK members of this ‘Pyramid Detachment’ suffered heavy casualties – 23 died.6

Of the MK members who fought in the Wankie campaign about 25 were killed in action, about a dozen were captured and served long prison terms in Rhodesia or South Africa, and the remainder, including a small group under the leadership of Chris Hani, a political commissar, made a strategic withdrawal into Botswana where they were arrested, charged and imprisoned. A second group of MK and ZAPU men crossed into Botswana a few days later.7 As a result of pressure from various sources, including the OAU and its liberation committee, and of negotiations with the Zambian government, these men were deported to Zambia in 1968–9 after spending a year or more in prison in Gaborone. It is difficult to be precise about dates because, for security reasons, prisoners who were deported from Botswana by air were given passports under false names – these were different from their MK names - but Hani, who...


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pp. 106-129
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