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South African violence highlights quick election needs.

Once again, violence.

The assassination of Chris Hani is a cruel blow to the painfully slow political process in South Africa. Hani was a hero to the long-oppressed followers of the African National Congress, one of its most respected leaders and top negotiators.

That is precisely what made Hani -- who had been the ANC's military commander as well as general secretary of the South African Communist Party but who had opted for a peaceful solution -- dangerous and feared and, in turn, hated by the country's rightwing fanatics.

We have been here before. All too often.

The Southern African Catholic Bishops' Conference last week, echoing other calls for reason, urged calm. The bishops appealed to all involved in the negotiations "not to let Mr. Hani's brutal murder in any way be an excuse for aborting the peace process."

The bishops called the assassination "singularly tragic" given the key leadership role Hani played in appealing for a nonviolent resolution to the South African conflict.

"Human life is sacred and must be respected at all times," the statement said.

Violence begets violence.

And, of course, Hani's murder sparked more killings the following weekend. At least five people were killed, houses were set afire, roads were blocked by burning barricades and cars and buses were stoned. In an apparent reprisal, two whites were burned to death and another died later after his tongue was cut out and he was beaten.

As is so often the case, the peacemakers standing against the turbulent currents last week appeared very much alone.

Anglican Archbishop Desmond Tutu was one. He pleaded for reason, pleaded for peace. "Please, please, dear people," he said on national television, "we don't help our cause by actions of that kind (the killing of whites). We call on our political leaders and all politicians: For goodness sake, hurry, inject urgency into the negotiation process and let our people see South Africa free."

ANC leader Nelson Mandela and President F.W. de Klerk also issued appeals for calm, reiterating an all-too-apparent truth, that violence would only play into the hands of those who want to sabotage talks aimed at convening South Africa's first all-race general election, planned to take place within 12 months.

"With all the authority at my command, I appeal to all our people to remain calm and to honor the memory of Chris Hani by remaining a disciplined force for peace," Mandela said.

By week's end, the path between word and deed appeared long and the journey precarious, indeed.
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Title Annotation:assassination of Chris Hani
Publication:National Catholic Reporter
Article Type:Editorial
Date:Apr 23, 1993
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