I SEE U, Episode 104: How to Avert a Civil War with South African Journalist Justice Malala

Acclaimed author Justice Malala sheds light on an unforgettable moment in history when South Africa was on the brink of a full-scale civil war after the assassination of a popular Nelson Mandela protégé, Chris Hani.

South African President and activist Nelson Mandela Photographer:	John Parkin from Associated Press


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When a defiant opponent of the apartheid government was assassinated during the Easter weekend in 1993, South Africans were certain that all hell would break loose. The country was slowly moving towards the dismantling of the apartheid system and transition to a true democracy. But the murder of Chris Hani, carried out by a white supremacist in broad daylight, threatened to provoke a civil war and rollback the peace process. Were there other extremists, potentially even members of the government, involved in this plot to rid the nation of Chris Hani, a popular heir apparent to anti-apartheid activist, Nelson Mandela? Rookie journalist Justice Malala was one of the first reporters at the crime scene over three decades ago. His latest book, The Plot to Save South Africa, takes readers on a riveting, nine-day account of what transpired and how a country on the brink survived falling into a civil war. Join us as I SEE U host Eddie Robinson chats candidly with renown political commentator and best-selling author, Justice Malala. The award-winning storyteller will dive deep into how Mandela's leadership style and his ability to reach out to adversaries ultimately set the stage for a new South Africa. As we continue to highlight untold cultural histories throughout February, Malala will also take a provocative look at how a system that Hani so relentlessly fought for until his death, ironically helped save the life of the assassin who sought to eradicate his life's work.


Full Transcript

[00:00:00] Eddie Robinson: Johannesburg Easter Weekend 1993. An important political leader for the African National Congress is assassinated by a white supremacist, hoping to spark a civil war. Protests erupt and police crack down with brutal violence. But Nelson Mandela rose to the occasion to truly transform his country.

[00:00:24] Justice Malala: Nelson Mandela in that week displayed for me a humanity that is outstanding, a leadership style that we often wish we had in this day and age.

[00:00:36] Eddie Robinson: I’m Eddie Robinson. Stay tuned. As renowned journalist, Justice Malala joins us in studio. To talk about his most recent book, The Plot, to Save South Africa, The Week Mandela, Averted Civil war and Forged a New Nation.

[00:00:52] Eddie Robinson: Oh yeah. I feel you. We hear you. I SEE U.

[00:00:59] Eddie Robinson: You are listening to I SEE U. I’m your host, Eddie Robinson. The 1990s, an amazing yet very intense decade here in America and globally. In many ways, we were at our best. America was at the height of integration. We began to notice a plethora of Black film, television, and music stars who had widespread popularity that seemed to defy stereotypes.

[00:01:22] Eddie Robinson: Think of Laurence, Fishburne, Whitney Houston, or Denzel Washington.

[00:01:27] Denzel Washington clip from the film Malcom X: We didn’t land on Plymouth Rock. Plymouth Rock landed on us.

[00:01:30] Eddie Robinson: The first Black woman was elected to the U.S Senate. Carol Moseley Braun and Dr. Mae Jamieson was the first Black woman in space.

[00:01:38] Clip from Dr. Mae Jemison: I’m just the first of a long line of African-American women.

[00:01:42] Eddie Robinson: but of course, things weren’t perfect, the violence that ignited during the siege in Waco, Texas,

[00:01:47] News Clip from the siege in Waco,TX: what we have at this time are four dead federal agents, one dead cult member in at least

[00:01:52] Eddie Robinson: the intense drug wars and increased use of crack cocaine.

[00:01:55] President George H.W. Bush Speech on Drugs: This is crack cocaine seized a few days ago by drug enforcement agents. In a park just across the street from the White House,

[00:02:05] Eddie Robinson: America also witnessed one of the most savage beatings of a Black man by police, Rodney King whose assault showed that we were far from being truly equal and so much work remained in dealing with racial tensions here in this country.

[00:02:21] Eddie Robinson: But some 9,000 miles away, the struggle against apartheid was coming to a head in South Africa. President F.W De Klerk, an Afrikaner, a lifelong supporter of segregation. And South Africa’s last head of state from the era of white minority rule was forced to face the reality that change was inevitable and that apartheid would have to end.

[00:02:45] South African President F.W. De Klerk: Mr. Nelson Mandela will be released at the Vicar Postav prison.

[00:02:50] Eddie Robinson: He freed anti-Apartheid activist Nelson Mandela, who was released after twenty-seven years of political imprisonment. Mandela would eventually lead the negotiations with the clerk to formally end the violent apartheid system, which would take another four years.

[00:03:07] Nelson Mandela: Your tireless and heroic sacrifices have made it possible for me to be here today,

[00:03:21] Eddie Robinson: but those negotiations were nearly derailed. Because of a series of events in Johannesburg during the Easter weekend of 19 ninety-three, A white supremacist shot and killed Mandela’s Popular heir apparent Chris Hani in a desperate last-ditch effort to provoke a full-blown racial civil war.

[00:03:43] News Report of Chris Hani Assassination: On the 10th of April 19 ninety-three Tembisile, Chris Hani was shot and killed in the driveway of his home in Dawn Park Boxburg while he was with his daughter, Nomakhwezi Hani, who was 15 years old at the time, Hani and his daughter were returning from buying a newspaper at a local corner store when a red car driven by a white man, pulled up next to him, and the man later confirmed as Janusz Waluś, gunned him down. Hani was a struggle icon who was fighting for the liberation of Black South Africans during apartheid.

[00:04:15] Eddie Robinson: Rookie journalist, Justice Malala was one of the first people at the crime scene, and as he covered the growing chaos over the next nine days, the protests and police brutality even, he was terrified that the assassin scheme would likely succeed.

[00:04:31] Eddie Robinson: In the end, Nelson Mandela’s, leadership restored peace. And rooted out prominent politicians involved in the plot. Justice Malala is now an award-winning globally renowned journalist and author of the book, The Plot, to Save South Africa The Week Mandela Averted Civil War and Forged a New Nation. The book’s author is here in Houston for an event with the World Affairs Council of Greater Houston, and we’re so grateful that he’s carved out a little bit of time and to be here at our studios in Third Ward, Texas.

[00:05:02] Eddie Robinson: I SEE U as we welcome Justice Malala Justice. Thank you so much for joining us right here at I SEE U.

[00:05:10] Justice Malala: Eddie, thanks so much for having me. Thanks for inviting me. It’s lovely to be here.

[00:05:15] Eddie Robinson: It’s an intense book, but it’s a great book. Let’s dive right in, right. Johannesburg Easter Weekend, 1993. What happens in the days after this horrific incident is what this book is about and Justice I’m curious, you know, why were you so passionate? To tell this story now some three decades later.

[00:05:38] Justice Malala: Eddie, thank you.

[00:05:39] Eddie Robinson: Because you were 22 years old at the time. A rookie.

[00:05:41] Justice Malala: I was 20 years old. I just started my first job. I was an intern basically on a, on the biggest newspaper in Johannesburg at the time. It was Easter weekend in South Africa.

[00:05:53] Justice Malala: It’s a bit like Thanksgiving here. You go off home, you, you don’t, you know, you, you, you do stuff. You don’t.

[00:06:00] Eddie Robinson: Yes.

[00:06:00] Justice Malala: So,

[00:06:00] Eddie Robinson: and that’s why they chose you.

[00:06:01] Justice Malala: So they chose me to be in the newsroom that weekend.

[00:06:04] Eddie Robinson: Work on the holidays.

[00:06:06] Justice Malala: Um, but I loved it. I was, wow. You know, I’m, I’m on the star and my name will be up in lights, funnily enough as I was looking at the newspapers of what was in the papers, so the, uh, Waco Texas siege was on Indecent Proposal was a big, big talking point in South Africa because it was, she did be allowed in the country at all. Not, not, you know, what kind of moral questions and ethical questions and so forth.

[00:06:40] Indecent Proposal Trailer: Suppose I were to offer you $1 million for one night with your wife.

[00:06:45] Justice Malala: So one of the things that I wanted to do with this book is to revisit Nelson Mandela and his legacy. We can have a big debate about Nelson Mandela, but I don’t think we should underplay the leadership role that he played in the transition.

[00:07:05] Justice Malala: Uh, and in the fight against Apartheid. I wanted to remind the world that we. It had great leaders in our history, but Nelson Mandela in that week displayed for me a humanity that is outstanding, displayed for me a leadership style and push that we often wish we had in this day and age. The first day I met him and he.

[00:07:35] Justice Malala: In a sense wanted to make me feel good about meeting him and putting me at ease. One of those great, great people that comes once in a generation, and I wanted to do my bit in remembering him, remembering his leadership, and showing it in real time, showing him in action as he did it, and the story of what happened to Chris Hani, who was an amazing leader in himself.

[00:08:06] Justice Malala: It is one of those where Mandela really, you know, the, the management types like to say you must dig deep. Mandela dug deep and, and came out with, I think, extraordinary show of leadership. And for me as a twenty-two year old at the time, I believe he gave us, uh, gave South Africa. A future. And here I am, 30 years and a month, almost to the day.

[00:08:33] Eddie Robinson: Wow.

[00:08:33] Justice Malala: Speaking to you.

[00:08:34] Eddie Robinson: Interesting.

[00:08:35] Justice Malala: And that’s part of the gift of what Nelson Mandela, I believe, gave that country. Because the alternative was war was civil war, was racial strife. And I don’t know how long that would’ve gone on for, and I certainly wouldn’t be sitting here with you in your lovely studio,

[00:08:52] Eddie Robinson: Hani’s death, you know, really shook Nelson. Mandela. I. And there are reports from your book that, you know, he was indeed calm and stoic publicly, but he seemed to be extremely sad, very, very sad privately, you know, was Mandela ever fearful of being assassinated himself?

[00:09:10] Justice Malala: Yeah, there were two things. Yeah. I think Mandela, after twenty-seven years in prison, there were many threats against him.

[00:09:17] Justice Malala: He always had a security detail. The ANC and many of its leaders feared being killed, and yet many didn’t think actually at that point in the negotiation process, that it would happen. And so that weekend, Chris Hani had told his bodyguards to go home as because of Easter. Um, and he said, no, you know, I’ll be fine.

[00:09:46] Justice Malala: Don’t worry about me. So I think Nelson Mandela was. Worried about, about security. But the key thing about what happened with him and Chris Hani was that he, he loved this energetic 51-year-old. He found him fascinating. He found him brave Nelson Mandela was the first ANC soldier, the first. In South Africa to say we, we are done with talking.

[00:10:13] Justice Malala: We’re going to take up arms. Back in 19 60, 60, 61, when the ANC was banned and many of its leaders thrown in in jail, and after Nelson Mandela, a few years later, the first cohort of leaders to actually go. And train in guerrilla tactics, paramilitary combat. Chris Hani was one of those and actually saw some action in what was then Rhodesia, which later after its freedom became Zimbabwe, um, where he actually fought with Rhodesian soldiers.

[00:10:49] Justice Malala: So. You know, Chris, Heine was charismatic, charming. He was seen as a man of the people. Uh, he would walk into a stadium full of young people who were saying, Mandela, you’re taking too long to deliver freedom to us. And he’d be able to calm them down and say, come with us on this bus on this road. We are getting there.

[00:11:14] Justice Malala: We might not be going as fast as you’d like us to be, but we’ll get there. And so. Nelson Mandela admired that about him. His ability to bring people along, to talk to them in a language that they understood and to, to really just keep things calm around, around Mandela and, and say, we, we will get there. We, we are your leaders.

[00:11:38] Justice Malala: Keep believing we won’t betray you. So Mandela regarded him as a son. He’d take him along to meetings with him. And, and when he died, Mandela was, you know, I’ve spoken to Mandela’s biographer, or, or the man who helped him write his, uh, autobiography Long Walk to Freedom. And you know that he reminded me how Mandela that the death of Chris Hani reminded him so much.

[00:12:08] Justice Malala: Of when his son died in the 1960s, died in a car accident and the apartheid government, he applied and begged them that, you know, I haven’t raised, this kid can I just go to his funeral and just pay my respects. And the apartheid government said, no, you are public enemy number one. We will not allow you to go.

[00:12:31] Justice Malala: And Mandela was totally devastated by that. And Chris Hani’s murder was, was pretty much that for him. With all the political implications, the, the country looked like it was going to explode, but at a human level, Mandela was pretty cut up about it.

[00:12:57] Eddie Robinson: Coming up, we continue our chat with acclaimed author and journalist, Justice Malala. He’s here to chat about his latest book, The Plot to Save South Africa, A compelling look back at how Nelson Mandela averted Civil War. And forged a new nation. We gained more insight into the assassination of South African anti-apartheid hero, Chris Hani.

[00:13:22] Eddie Robinson: Many considered him to be one of the most likely successors of Mandela if he were alive and not murdered, what kind of leader would Chris Hani have become? If you’re enjoying the show, subscribe to our podcast. Look for I-S-E-E-U. That’s the letter U with Eddie. Robinson on your favorite platform. And now you can also find us on YouTube.

[00:13:46] Eddie Robinson: I’m Eddie Robinson. I SEE U will return in just a moment.

[00:14:03] Eddie Robinson: If you’re enjoying this program, be sure to subscribe to our podcast. I SEE U with Eddie Robinson. You can hear all the past episodes and be notified when new episodes are released. Also, please take a minute to give us a review or comment. We love getting feedback from our listeners.

[00:14:34] Eddie Robinson: You are listening to I SEE U. I’m Eddie Robinson. We’re speaking with South African journalist and author of the book, The Plot To Save South Africa, Justice Malala. And now we’re talking about another country, you know, detailing events that happened more than 30 years ago. And we understand that a lot of this might be hard to follow and remember, especially when we start throwing out acronyms like the ANC.

[00:15:00] Eddie Robinson: Well, the ANC or African National Congress was originally a South African liberation movement formed in the year 1912 to fight for the rights of Black South Africans. After the institutionalization of apartheid in 1948, members turned to a more confrontational approach of strikes, boycotts, and mass civil disobedience.

[00:15:25] Eddie Robinson: The ANC ended up being banned for 30 years. After the end of Apartheid, the ANC became a registered political party that was led by Nelson Mandela until 19 ninety-seven. Now, justice, uh, you write in your book. That Mandela expected more protests, riots, and deaths in the days after Chris Hani’s assassination.

[00:15:47] Eddie Robinson: Hani, um, by the way, was a popular leader of the ANC, who was key to the fight against apartheid. But Mandela was constantly speaking to young people, to White South Africans, even communicating with the police to call for them to act with sensitivity and restraint. I mean, there was so much tension between the extreme left.

[00:16:09] Eddie Robinson: And the far right after this incident. But there was a willingness on Mandela’s part to work with De Klerk through all of this. Describe for us Justice, the strategy, if you will, of what Mandela needed to do to de-escalate this assassination from triggering a full-blown civil war.

[00:16:31] Justice Malala: Mandela knew that he wasn’t the only one who was in pain about Chris, Hani’s murder, the whole nation.

[00:16:38] Justice Malala: I was a journalist. I was just coming into the profession. I was devastated. I remember personally feeling what is the meaning of the freedom that’s coming? If this is happening, what kind of country are we going to inherit us young people at the time? And so Mandela did not believe that one should clamp down on that frustration, on that mourning and grieving for Chris Hani.

[00:17:07] Justice Malala: And his belief was that we should go out, we should give people a chance to hear others speak of their grief, to show their grief by gathering. And in a way, and, and I don’t perhaps paint enough of this picture in the book, as a kid in Black South African culture. And in many other cultures across the world, when someone passes, you go through a week of morning in which people come and visit and you Eddie would tell them what happened, whether it was death by cancer or some other tragedy.

[00:17:50] Justice Malala: However it happened. And, and by talking about it, it’s almost a form of therapy. It’s, it’s almost a. Uh, you, you are, you are just letting it out and you cry and they cry. And by, by the end of the week as they believed, you are almost, you are almost cried out. Um, and you are exhausted and you’ve told the story of your, of your loved one many times.

[00:18:17] Justice Malala: And, and in many ways, I felt that Mandela used that and said, we’ve got to go through that intense grief in this week. And so that was Mandela’s strategy for the whole country. At the same time, he was very clear that there has to be a political breakthrough from this event. And he then said to his negotiating team that we need to get an election date so that when we go out to people, we say, Chris Hani gave us this and it’s an election date.

[00:18:53] Justice Malala: Um, you know, many people will remember. April twenty-seven 19 ninety-four, and the amazing pictures that were shown around the world of people queuing, uh, virtually all nights, uh, sometimes for two nights and days just so that they’d be the first to vote in the first democratic election in which Black people could vote, in which Black people were recognized by the state to be, to be human, to be, to be fuel fully uh, citizens of their own country and so and so that was the key victory and, and, and part of the strategy of what, of that week for Nelson Mandela.

[00:19:38] Eddie Robinson: What, what was it like in your household?

[00:19:41] Justice Malala: You know, we

[00:19:43] Eddie Robinson: Oh,

[00:19:43] Justice Malala: as a kid, as a kid, you don’t, you didn’t quite know what was going on. Correct? Yeah, so, so one of the weird things about my family was that my, my dad worked on a gold mine.

[00:19:56] Justice Malala: Johannesburg is made up of. Gold. It’s, it’s, it’s called, it’s, that’s why it’s called the City of Gold. And so we, we are born actually in Johannesburg in the city. And, uh, and yeah, and it’s, it’s, wow, it’s this great. But apartheid is actually, you know, formal apartheid and segregation in South Africa became enforced under apartheid from the 1950s, sixties.

[00:20:22] Justice Malala: And it was very much like Jim Crow in the U.S. And so. My family gets kicked out and we, we are moved to the Black part of Johannesburg, which is the Soweto Township. But when I was a kid, I was, you know, a baby. I didn’t, we were moving. It wasn’t, we are being kicked out because Johannesburg, the city had been designated as whites only. And so we moved to Soweto. In 19 seventy-six, the Soweto riots in which school children stand up against, against the apartheid government and say, we will not be taught in the language of, of apartheid, which is Afrikaans. And so and so, they protest. The unofficial numbers that more than a thousand school children are shot and killed.

[00:21:16] Justice Malala: He was just a little kid. He came from a lower primary school and was shot and killed. The official figure is somewhere around one seventy-six kids. That’s the official number which. Not many South Africans actually believe, and even the apartheid government did not believe, did not stand by, but it happened near where we lived as a family.

[00:21:44] Justice Malala: And so my father then takes us off to far north where, where he thinks the protests will not reach my kids. And that’s where I grew up in the far north of South Africa. But, but in our household, despite my father thinking, oh, I’ll. Insulate them with their aunts and away from political talk. It gets there in the 1980s.

[00:22:10] Justice Malala: And my family’s very, my, my brother becomes an activist and he, you know, starts fighting against the system and so forth. And my older sister follows in his footsteps, and so it just becomes part of the family. So 19 ninety-four was a big deal for us. It was. It was a culmination. It was after all these things, after all this time, finally, you know, we, we, we are going to vote, we’re going to have, uh, Nelson Mandela as the president of the country.

[00:22:45] Justice Malala: So when Chris Hani was murdered in 1993, for me personally, there was a lot of anger. Um, there was a lot of feeling, how can this happen? This. The destruction of hope. Maybe, man, I mean, even doubts, maybe Mandela is wrong to make us believe that we’ll get there. Maybe. Fighting back, maybe war is the, is the answer.

[00:23:14] Justice Malala: So all these things go through your mind and I’m sure through many other people’s minds. And I think, I think that was the challenge for Mandela and for other leaders. Of course. So, so I have to tell you, in the 1980s, for about two and three years, the Apartheid government was really. It was jailing children, particularly young people who were standing up against apartheid.

[00:23:38] Justice Malala: So an example would be my brother who was in detention without trial. So they, they arrest you, they put you in a cell somewhere with some of your comrades, but they don’t tell your parents where you are. So my mother is out there looking for my brother going from police station to police station. But in 19 eighty-six, I remember this number.

[00:24:02] Justice Malala: There was 17,000 children under 18, not counting the ones over 18, under 18 in South Africa’s prisons in detention without trial. Many of them kept for at least six months. So what the impact of that was that I didn’t go to, I probably went to school for maybe two of the 10 months that you’re supposed to be in school in that year.

[00:24:30] Justice Malala: And so across South Africa, you had these kids who’d missed a year. If you lived in Soweto, you missed two to three years of schooling in that time. And so, you know, there were sociologists studying this. They, they used to refer to my generation of people as the lost generation of South Africa. And part of the change in South Africa was these young people who had lost a huge chunk of their lives, of their development.

[00:25:03] Justice Malala: What do you do with them? How, how, what does it mean? And many of us, we had lost hope in the future. It was what is the meaning of. Freedom, uh, when I don’t have an education for those who hadn’t managed to complete an education and so forth. And so the mad of Chris Hani in large measure was that it really dragged back the hope that Mandela and others had instilled in people that we going to fix this.

[00:25:33] Justice Malala: And it was, this is not fixable. Look what the other side is capable of doing. If it’s killing our, our biggest heroes, our most beloved people, this, this is bad. So it was a very intense, emotionally, very intense time.

[00:25:54] Eddie Robinson: I’m Eddie Robinson. This is I SEE U and we’re in studio here on the campus of the University of Houston with Justice Malala renowned South African journalist and author of the book, The Plot To Save South Africa.

[00:26:09] Eddie Robinson: What kind of a leader do you think Chris Hani would’ve been for South Africa? Had he lived?

[00:26:15] Justice Malala: I think. It’s possible that he would’ve become president, that Chris Hani would’ve become president after Nelson Mandela. I think Chris Hani at the time said the kinds of things that for South Africans, who and the world who want a prosperous a, a vibrant, free South Africa, he would’ve made for a good president.

[00:26:45] Chris Hani: Capitalism has failed in the most catastrophic manner. It has been responsible for the most devastating wars.

[00:26:52] Justice Malala: But, but I want to say many of the leaders we’ve had since Nelson Mandela said pretty much what Chris Hani used to say, and they have not been as they have been found one thing in many ways.

[00:27:10] Justice Malala: So Chris Hani, I think part of remembering him on the 30th anniversary of his death. I think he, he’s a reminder of how. Amazing and brilliant. We could have been as a country. I think he is a rebuke to some of those who are in leadership today. He, there’s a quote that South Africans like to, uh, send around social media, in which he says, way before, uh, south, the ANC got into power that we mustn’t become drunk on the Mercedes Benzes and the fleshy stuff of liberation.

[00:27:48] Justice Malala: We must always remember. The poorest of the poor. We must remember those who put their faith in us as leaders, uh, at that time. Uh, that they want, they want a better education for their kids. They want, uh, jobs, they want, uh, a just system that they can be proud of. And I think we failed on some of those.

[00:28:12] Justice Malala: South Africa has. Youth UN unemployment of sixty-three sixty-four percent. That can be the freedom that we fought for. And so I think Chris Hani’s memory is a powerful reminder of where we failed and and where we have to self-correct.

[00:28:37] Eddie Robinson: How is Hani’s then fourteen-year-old daughter doing, Do you know anything? I mean, I think she’s probably in her forties now, but.

[00:28:44] Justice Malala: Yes.

[00:28:45] Eddie Robinson: I mean that was so traumatic for her to see that witness.

[00:28:47] Justice Malala: It’s, it is hugely traumatic and I’m, I’m sad to say. The Hani family has faced a very tough time. Limpho Hani, Chris’s wife, became a member of Parliament for the ANC after 1994, but she currently has been going through a very traumatic time because Janusz Waluś, the assassin, has recently been paroled and released, and, um, and she’s against it because she believes that he has not told the whole truth about who was involved in his murder. That, that there are some who have never been named and still have not been named.

[00:29:35] Limpho Hani: In this country, a foreign white can come into South Africa, kill my, kill my husband. I dunno if you heard Zondo never referred to my family, to myself, to my children, and the trauma and the suffering He couldn’t give a s***. Sorry for my French.

[00:29:54] Justice Malala: You talk about the daughter who witnessed the assassination. She died in the late 1990s after having a very troubled life and, um, and she should not have died.

[00:30:07] Justice Malala: It’s, um, it was part of the trauma of that. And in fact, her sister has written a book. It’s called Being Chris Hani’s Daughter and, and she talks about how she became a drug addict, how she lived with the images of her father lying on the ground, bloody after that murder of having a sister who could not be freed from the memory of seeing her father, uh, murdered in broad daylight like that. So, so it’s a tragic story, but the joy and the triumph is that she is an incredibly beautiful, amazing, strong woman who has fought these demons. Has written an incredible book about accepting what has happened about overcoming the, the substance abuse and building her own life.

[00:31:07] Eddie Robinson: Janusz Waluś. He’s banned from leaving South Africa now, but months from now, his probation period will end.

[00:31:14] Justice Malala: Yes.

[00:31:15] Eddie Robinson: Should there be any concern as to his intentions with him being free?

[00:31:23] Justice Malala: You know, South Africa won the, no matter how many people are killed or there’s plots to kill them, the, the New South Africa, the, the, not so new South Africa, but the Democratic South Africa that Chris Hani fought his entire life.

[00:31:40] Justice Malala: For is the triumph over Janusz Waluś and all those people who wanted to stop the birth of that country. So I think his freedom is meaningless now. It is only meaningful at the human level, and even that, if you look at it that way. Chris Hani has still won. One year later, Nelson Mandela became president.

[00:32:05] Justice Malala: One of his first act was to strike the death penalty of the role. So within six months of him being sentenced to to death, Janusz Waluś was saved from death by the new South Africa that Chris Hani had wanted. So in many ways, the system that Chris Hani fought for. Has won this battle. He can go and he’ll make noise and whatever he says, but, but Chris Hani saved his life.

[00:32:37] Eddie Robinson: Yeah. Yeah,

[00:32:37] Justice Malala: absolutely.

[00:32:46] Eddie Robinson: Coming up, we wrap up our chat with South African journalist and political commentator, Justice Malala. What lessons can Americans learn from this historical event that happened just three decades ago, especially as we grapple with the current political climate that we’re in, the divisiveness, the extreme polarization, and the gaslighting from politicians and pundits on both sides of the aisle.

[00:33:13] Eddie Robinson: What kind of leader or leadership does America need right now? And let’s hear from you as we take a minute to analyze and examine these significant historical events. Please share your thoughts and perspectives. Email us our address. Talk at Iseeushow.org. You can always follow us and comment on Instagram, X, Facebook and now on YouTube, our show page I-S-E-E-U show.org.

[00:33:49] Eddie Robinson: I am Eddie Robinson. Our final segment on I SEE U with author Justice Malala, when we return right after this.

[00:34:16] Eddie Robinson: If you’re enjoying this program, be sure to subscribe to our podcast I SEE U with Eddie Robinson. You can hear all the past episodes and be notified when new episodes are released. Also, please take a minute to give us a review or comment. We love getting feedback from our listeners.

[00:34:47] Eddie Robinson: This is I SEE U. I’m your host, Eddie Robinson. There are those moments in history that really do have a cascading effect. There’s a before and then there’s an after. I think all of us can say there was life before the pandemic and there’s our reality now. It was the 1929 stock market crash, or 9-11, which for a lot of us had probably been one of the most impactful moments in history until we learned of COVID-19.

[00:35:19] Eddie Robinson: The assassination of Chris Hani was one of those moments for South Africans as their country was on the precipice of a truly transformational moment, the end of one of the most violent forms of segregation to have existed in modern times in the year 1994. All South Africans, irrespective of race and gender, were allowed to participate in the first ever fully democratic vote.

[00:35:47] Eddie Robinson: Our guest today is Justice Malala, globally recognized journalist and the author of The Plot to Save South Africa the Week Mandela Averted Civil War and Forged a New Nation. He’s here in our studios in Houston’s Third, Ward

[00:36:05] Eddie Robinson: Justice. I want to ask you about the lessons that can be learned. From that watershed moment, the assassination of Chris Hani, can we apply those lessons to our current political climate?

[00:36:16] Eddie Robinson: Looking at how leaders like Mandela reacted and responded in those days after that tragedy.

[00:36:22] Justice Malala: True leadership is not, is not just being the one who is seen as, as the champ, the winner, the the ego, the Nelson Mandela. In that week did not say, I will. I will stop the violence. I will get everyone together. He said, I need to work with other people to get us through this particularly divisive, dangerous moment in our country’s journey.

[00:36:57] Justice Malala: So he got in touch with F.W. De Klerk. They agreed that Mandela is the leader. He’s the only person in the country that people would listen to and that he’d be the one to speak to the nation. Mandela didn’t say declare, you are the leader of the Apartheid government. You did this to us. He said, I need to save this country for my people, for myself, for, for what we want to do with it, and, and that is to turn it into a humane.

[00:37:30] Justice Malala: Uh, a democratic nation, so I will do anything to stop the fire that’s going to eat it up if I don’t do anything. So I, you know, I, I see across the globe. You know, in the US one of the things I’ve, I’ve learned about this country, there’s always people speaking about across the aisle, uh, this divide and so forth.

[00:37:55] Justice Malala: And I always say, if you know that there’s a gulf here and there’s an aisle, do you stop talking to the other side? How can you not be able to resolve some of the really obvious. Problems that exist in this country, if you can reach out and the one the way to did to do it is reach out. I’ll tell you, as someone who is not from this country, I find it extraordinary that every day there are children, there are citizens of the United States who are met at with a super powerful weapon.

[00:38:36] Justice Malala: There cannot seem to be any way to move to say the problem is the guns and what do we do with these guns? How can we, someone should be reaching across that isle, across that gulf and saying, it’s our children, it’s our people. I’m truly baffled that, that there’s so much fear and yet there’s so much death every day.

[00:39:04] Justice Malala: Maybe two incidents a day across this country and, and people can’t do that. It’s just an example, one example of where I think we can learn so much about collaboration, about saying we face a common problem here. It’s going to eat all of us up if we don’t reach out to each other and do something about it.

[00:39:30] Justice Malala: I think part of what happened in that week was that we saw leadership at its best. You know, a lot of people have said, you mentioned De Klerk and towards the end of that week, F.W. De Klerk was falling apart. He, he was shouting about, oh, Mandela has lost control of people and so forth. But at the beginning of it, by having that conversation with Mandela and him.

[00:39:56] Justice Malala: Saying, I have no power here. If I speak, I’ll be speaking into a void, because quite frankly, I, I’m part of the problem. And so he stepped back. I think in politics in particular, a huge chunk of it is ego, but, but sometimes leadership is saying, you know, this community needs someone else. That, that for me was part of the the almost sublime beauty of, of a man that myself and many others, so as their enemy. But, but I think F.W. De Klerk saying, I recognize that there is a leader who people will recognize, will listen to, will follow in this moment. And that leader is not me. That is leadership itself. And, and I think that is part of what we can learn.

[00:40:51] Eddie Robinson: And you mentioned a clerk in his tenure. You know the last Apartheid president of South Africa. He died in November of 2021, and a video released hours after his death. He apologized for apartheid crimes committed against people of color.

[00:41:07] F.W. De Klerk: I, without qualification, apologize for the pain and the hurt, and the indignity, and the damage that Apartheid has done to Black, brown and Indians in South Africa. I do. So not only in my capacity as the former leader of the National Party, but also as an individual.

[00:41:39] Eddie Robinson: You’re listening to I SEE U. I’m Eddie Robinson. We’re talking about South Africa and the days before the end of apartheid with renowned journalist, Justice Malala.

[00:41:49] Eddie Robinson: He’s author of the book, The Plot To Save South Africa. You make a point in your book in saying, quote, leadership matters ethical leadership.

[00:42:00] Justice Malala: Mm-Hmm.

[00:42:01] Eddie Robinson: And in my mind, it immediately goes to. Barack, Obama and Obama’s presidency here in America. Many have criticized the president of not doing much to effectively heal racism during his tenure, and there were limits according to supporters, to his advocacy and racial justice for Black America.

[00:42:22] Eddie Robinson: Then again, historians have argued, can one person alone single-handedly eliminate centuries-old discrimination and hate in this country? But I’m curious, justice, in your mind, what do you think Nelson Mandela may have possessed that Barack Obama might have missed out on? Uh, as far as leadership skills and quality, uh, leadership qualities are concerned.

[00:42:49] Justice Malala: Yeah, Eddie, thanks. That’s,

[00:42:52] Eddie Robinson: it’s an intense question, right?

[00:42:55] Justice Malala: No, I,

[00:42:55] Eddie Robinson: you, you talked about the leadership of Nelson Mandela.

[00:42:57] Justice Malala: So one of the, um, fascinating aspects for me of, of Barack Obama’s Triumph was that he also looked to Mandela for leadership lessons. You know, as a young senator, he visited South Africa and and made a point of visiting Mandela who had left the presidency by then.

[00:43:20] Justice Malala: One of the most effective and beautiful speeches I’ve ever listened to is by Barack Obama in South Africa in July. 2018, there’s an annual Nelson Mandela lecture, and Barack Obama was invited to speak at that and he spoke about what kind of leaders should we be in light of Mandela’s leadership.

[00:43:50] President Barack Obama: So what we see here in Kenya is all part of an emergent, more confident and more self-reliant Africa. But we know that real progress depends on addressing the challenges that remain.

[00:44:01] Justice Malala: And he went through a whole bunch of points and he had given another amazing speech at Mandela’s Memorial service about the responsibility of leadership. And one of the points he makes is that. Mandela lived his example.

[00:44:17] Justice Malala: He, he, he would not act this way because he’s in office and act another way because he’s out of power or not in office. He lived his leadership and his values and tried to act that way in everything he did. I can’t claim to be a a a a Barack Obama scholar per se, but I would say. Obama’s victory in 2008 reverberated around the world. I can tell you today. I was watching with friends and family and kids and my kids and, and other people’s kids were sitting there saying, oh, wow, that’s, I can do it. I can, this is such a powerful example, um, that no matter how many people can try to say we are lesser people or whatever, I can do it.

[00:45:18] Justice Malala: And I think th that. The power of that will reverberate across the ages. Just the being there is something that I think will continue to be there. So I, when I look at the major scandals of Barack, Obama’s presidency, like him wearing a suit that people say,

[00:45:37] Eddie Robinson: I was getting ready to say. The president, in both terms ended up delivering a presidency that was scandal-free, but that was one, one scandal right there with that tan suit.

[00:45:47] News clips about “Tan Gate”: There’s no way I think any of us can excuse what the president did yesterday. I mean, and then being able to walk out. I’m not trying to be trivial here, but. In a light suit, uh, light tan suit, also known as tan gate, tan suit, and how the tan suit made him. Look, unpresidential, whoever talked to me into going into a tan suit, they’re so desperate because of these low poll numbers, they’re willing to do anything.

[00:46:12] Justice Malala: So that tan suit. So in many ways, uh, you know, I think, I think Nelson Mandela working out of prison in 1990 and the world, seeing that. You can try to frustrate the ideals, the hopes of a whole country and people, and you failed. I think Barack Obama’s presidency by itself, by by just, its happening. And having been there is such a huge, massive inspiration that all these scandals and the 10 suits and so forth can happen and we can, we can have a debate about how far did the Barack Obama presidency go?

[00:46:53] Justice Malala: Quite frankly, I think. The act of it, the, the presence of Barack Obama, Michelle Obama their kids in the White House doing what they did and doing it so elegantly and brilliantly is a major time for the ages, and it, it cannot be taken away from them. No one can be Nelson Mandela, but in many ways no one can be Barack, Obama either.

[00:47:19] Eddie Robinson: What lessons in your life have you learned about yourself thus far?

[00:47:26] Justice Malala: Wow, you’re getting harder Eddie. You know, that that is something that I wish I had done more to give to my kids, and that is, you know, Nelson. Mandela didn’t become Nelson Mandela. Overnight, even when he was Nelson, Mandela the hero that we know.

[00:47:49] Justice Malala: He had doubts, but he went on and did it. Part of the reason why I wrote this book is actually a scene from, um, Ava, DuVernay’s movie Selma, in which. Dr. Martin Luther King is leading people across the, um,

[00:48:05] Eddie Robinson: Edmund Pettus Bridge.

[00:48:07] Justice Malala: Edmund Pettus Bridge. But at some point they decide to turn back and it’s a moment of. People say you failed your cowards and so forth. And internally, any leader would be saying the doubt, what have I done? Why shouldn’t we do it? Why should we do it? But what I love about it is that they regroup, they reorganize, and they go back. Part of the story of this book is about this two speeches that Nelson Mandela made, and the first one.

[00:48:40] Justice Malala: He makes late at night. He can’t see the Autocue where he has to read. He, his eyes are very bad from being in prison, all sorts of things. And the speech is a dud. It doesn’t work. It doesn’t reach anyone, quite frankly. And then two days, three days later, he says, I’m gonna give that speech again. And this time he’s involved.

[00:49:03] Justice Malala: This time he helps

[00:49:04] Nelson Mandela: I therefore, a. Remaining Yes of my life in your hands.

[00:49:15] Justice Malala: And he goes and gives this speech that really has a massive, massive impact on South Africa. Being doubtful, being weak, being unsure is just part of being human. But going back and doing it and doing it again, and doing it well, if you can, is the thing.

[00:49:37] Justice Malala: It’s, it’s not the little failures we have along the way. It’s the ability to stand up and go and do it again. And I, I, from these two great men, it’s the, it’s the lesson that I take. It’s, uh, I wish I could again and again, just remind my, my kids, all kids. I know that, that it’s okay to be, to doubt. It’s okay to even fail.

[00:50:00] Justice Malala: It’s okay to turn back and say, oh, you know, it’s not the right time. But saying, no, this was the right course. And so I’ll go back and I’ll get this done. Is is, it’s a big thing for me. And, and I think at different times both leaders did that. So, so that scene in Ava DuVernay’s movie was so beautiful for me that people like me. I grew up with a, uh, with the example of Martin Luther, king Jr. being so powerful that, you know, these messages, these stories, um, the letter from, uh, Birmingham Prison, you know, was, was stuff that you are not allowed to read it in, in apartheid South Africa, but it would be passed on to you that, whoa, this is what people are really saying out there. And to see him humanized in that way, in that movie that, that it made me come to, made me be at peace with my own weaknesses and my own failures.

[00:51:06] Justice Malala: But knowing that, you know, you can go back and fix this and to be great and, and I think that’s, that for me is, is key.

[00:51:17] Eddie Robinson: The book is called The Plot to Save South Africa: The Week Mandela Averted Civil War and Forged a New Nation. Now available on Simon & Schuster Award-Winning Justice Malala, thank you for being a guest on I SEE U.

[00:51:32] Justice Malala: Thanks so much, Eddie. It is been lovely being here. Thank you.

[00:51:42] Eddie Robinson: Our team includes technical director, Todd Hulslander producers Laura Walker and Mincho Jacob. Special thanks this week to the World Affairs Council of Greater Houston. I SEE U is a production of Houston Public Media. Visit I SEE Ushow.org for more information about each episode and to find links to our social media channels.

[00:52:07] Eddie Robinson: Subscribe to our podcast on your favorite platform. Look for I-S-E-E-U. It’s the letter U, with Eddie Robinson. You can also now find us on YouTube. I’m your host and executive producer, Eddie Robinson. And I feel you. We hear you. I SEE U. Thanks so much for listening. Until next time.



This article is part of the podcast I SEE U with Eddie Robinson

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