A Martyr for the Young Lions

The murder of an A.N.C. hero edges South Africa's volatile black youths closer to war

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The threat of death was nothing new to Chris Hani. As the exiled military commander of the African National Congress during the 1980s, he survived three attempts on his life. After President F.W. de Klerk lifted the ban on the A.N.C. in 1990 and Hani returned home from Zambia as a member of the group's ruling executive committee to negotiate with Pretoria's white rulers, he looked forward to living eventually in a fair and free society. Last week, however, as he arrived at his home in Boksburg from a morning of grocery shopping with his daughter, Hani, 50, was gunned down in his driveway.

According to Nomakwezi Hani, two white men approached her father as he got out of the car to open the garage door. Five shots rang out -- two to the head -- and Hani slumped to the asphalt, still clutching the morning paper he had just bought. Later, as a pool of blood formed in the driveway, someone came and draped the A.N.C.'s black, green and gold tricolor over the corpse.

Hani's murder comes at a delicate moment in South Africa's ever painful attempt to remake itself into a multiracial democracy. In a Zulu village near Port Shepstone in southern Natal province, 10 young A.N.C. members were slaughtered last week in a savage hand-grenade, shotgun and machete attack, despite a peace pact between A.N.C. and Inkatha Freedom Party representatives just a week before. Elsewhere, police and military forces were on alert for possible Easter-weekend attacks on whites by the Azanian People's Liberation Army, the military wing of the black-power group the Pan-Africanist Congress. Political violence over the past three years has claimed more than 10,000 lives. But until Hani, no major political leader had been assassinated since Prime Minister Hendrik Verwoerd, the architect of apartheid, was stabbed in the chest by a messenger in Cape Town's parliament building in 1966.

Police said they arrested Januzu Jakub Wallus, a 40-year-old Polish-born South African, reportedly traced through the red car that had sped away after Hani's murder. Wallus was in possession of two guns. An initial assertion by Deputy Law and Order Minister Gert Myburgh that the killing looked like an individual act rather than a conspiracy was rejected by A.N.C. leaders, who demanded that they, as well as international observers, be permitted to participate in the investigation.

Hani's death moved even hardened veterans of the antiapartheid movement to tears. Nelson Mandela's estranged wife Winnie, one of Hani's closest colleagues, broke into sobs as she visited the crime scene. Joe Slovo, who handed control of South Africa's Communist Party to Hani in 1991 after being stricken with cancer, told a radio station in a trembling voice that he was "shocked and shaken" and needed "time to collect my thoughts."

In sending his condolences, President De Klerk appealed to black leaders to keep their followers under control. In a rare nationally televised address, Nelson Mandela replied with an exhortation of his own: "This killing must stop. We must not permit ourselves to be provoked. Let us respond with dignity."

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