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Chris Hani was born on 28 June 1942 into a family in Cofimvaba, in the former Transkei, the fifth of six children. At the age of eight he was an altar boy in the Roman Catholic Church and was quite devout. He wanted to become a priest, but his father discouraged him.

In 1959, Hani enrolled at the University of Fort Hare, where he became involved in the struggle and was exposed to Marxist ideas. His Catholic background attracted him to the study of Latin and English Literature. In his autobiography of 1991, he wrote: "My studies of literature further strengthened my hatred of all forms of oppression, persecution and obscurantism."

The treason trial of 1956 prompted him to enter the struggle. And in 1957, at the age of 15, he joined the ANC Youth League. In 1961 Hani joined the underground South African Communist Party (SACP), and the following year, he became a member of Umkhonto weSizwe (MK), the military wing of the ANC.

Three abortive assassination attempts were made on his life. In 1967, Hani fought with Zapra forces in the Rhodesia. He returned to South Africa in 1974 to build the underground structures. He again left South Africa for Lesotho, where he worked to reinforce and expand MK's underground activities.

In 1983, he fought against Jonas Savimbi's Unita, helping to oust Unit from the Angolan province of malanje. By 1987 Hani had become chief of staff of MK, which was intensifying its struggle against the South African government. He returned to the country in 1990 and was lated elected secretary general of the SACP. He was assasinated in the driveway of his Boskburg home on 10 April 1993.