The Premier of KwaZulu-Natal, Honourable Willies Mchunu,
The Minister of Arts and Culture, Mr Nathi Mthethwa
MECs, Executive Mayors, Councillors,
Members of Parliament and the Provincial Legislature,
The family of Chief Albert Luthuli,
Fellow South Africans,
We greet you all on this important occasion to immortalise a colossus of our struggle for liberation Chief Albert Mvumbi Luthuli.
On this day 50 years ago, our country lost one of its most illustrious sons and Africa’s first Nobel Peace Prize Laureate, Chief Albert Luthuli, under mysterious circumstances. The official report was that he was run over by a train. The report remains unconvincing to this day.
Given the brutality of the racist apartheid regime and its attitude to the leadership of the mass democratic movement, the death of Chief Albert Luthuli will continue to be shrouded in suspicion.
He left behind a legacy of peace, non-racialism, anti-racism and the quest for freedom, justice and a better life for all.
A man of the people, he played several roles in the community. Chief Albert Luthuli was a traditional leader, preacher, Christian, teacher, college choirmaster, sports and cultural activist and a sugar cane farmer.
They sought to silence him through all means possible, including stripping him of the chieftaincy and imposing banning orders because of his political activities.
These attempts only hardened his resolve to end apartheid.
Chief Luthuli is a symbol of peace and unity and in his memory, we must recommit to the South Africa he envisaged.
A committed freedom fighter, he outlined this vision for South Africa as follows in the Nobel Peace Prize lecture on receipt of the Nobel Peace Prize from the Norwegian Nobel Committee in 1960, which he accepted in 1961.
He stated with humility as follows on receiving the award:
This Award could not be for me alone, nor for just South Africa, but for Africa as a whole.
He used that lecture to outline the type of South Africa he envisaged and what the oppressed black majority was fighting for. He said:
The true patriots of South Africa, for whom I speak, will be satisfied with nothing less than the fullest democratic rights. In government we will not be satisfied with anything less than direct individual adult suffrage and the right to stand for and be elected to all organs of government. In economic matters we will be satisfied with nothing less than equality of opportunity in every sphere, and the enjoyment by all of those heritages which form the resources of the country which up to now have been appropriated on a racial ‘whites only’ basis.
In culture we will be satisfied with nothing less than the opening of all doors of learning to non-segregatory institutions on the sole criterion of ability. In the social sphere we will be satisfied with nothing less than the abolition of all racial bars.
Importantly, Chief Luthuli outlined succinctly the ANC belief in non-racialism.
He underlined how the ANC was guiding the country towards this goal in spite of the difficult state of race relations in the country. He stated in the Nobel Peace Prize lecture that the racism problem in the country was acute compared to other parts of Africa and that: Perhaps in no other country on the continent is white supremacy asserted with greater vigour and determination and a sense of righteousness.
He added the racism meted out against black people would have made it easy for the natural feelings of resentment at white domination to have been turned into feelings of hatred and a desire for revenge against the white community.
However, his organisation the ANC had chosen the path of non-racialism for the country, and he declared:
Our vision has always been that of a non-racial democratic South Africa which upholds the rights of all who live in our country to remain there as full citizens with equal rights and responsibilities with all others. For the consummation of this ideal we have laboured unflinchingly. We shall continue to labour unflinchingly.
As our country’s experiment with constitutional democracy continues, this is one key lesson that we must take to heart from Chief Luthuli, even during difficult moments when we feel the non-racial project is faltering.
We all have a responsibility to build a non-racial society and to unite all our people, black and white.
Our struggle for liberation had a strong international pillar. Chief Luthuli acknowledged the contribution of the international community while also acknowledging the responsibility of South Africans to be their own liberators.
And in dealing with the problems facing the country, Chief Luthuli uttered the profound words on the need for courage that rises with danger. Indeed we are in that phase in our country where we need to be stronger, and more steadfast in defending and protecting our country and to consolidate democracy. We need courage that rises with danger.
As we mark 23 years of democracy, we ask ourselves what Chief Luthuli would say if he were with us today.
I have no doubt that while he would be disheartened by the persistent poverty, inequality and unemployment, he would equally be encouraged by the level of progress our democratic government has made since the dawn of democracy in 1994.
He would be pleased that the country has almost reached the universal primary education threshold, ahead of many other developing nations.
He would also be happy that we have managed to expand our social safety net in terms of housing, social grants, and the provision of basic services to indigent families for free, including the provision of financial assistance to over 12 million students through the National Student Financial Aid Scheme.
The province of KZN has the highest incidence of HIV and Aids. Chief Luthuli would appreciate that we have a comprehensive HIV and AIDS antiretroviral national treatment programme which has saved many lives in our country and makes our people live longer.
He would appreciate the efforts of the leaders of various sectors and the government of this province in particular, to defeat this disease through the flagship project Sukuma Sakhe that is commended by UNAIDS.
The rate of HIV infection remains unacceptably high with over 2000 new infections a week. Young people aged 15 to 25 are the most vulnerable.
In his memory we urge especially our young people to practice safe sex and to refrain from it where possible until they are ready to settle and build strong families.
We urge you to heed the call and join the She Conquers Campaign.
In Chief Luthuli we celebrate his contribution in the struggle against patriarchy to which he gave practical expression as Inkosi of the Amakholwa people.
He invited women in the village to participate in civil affairs and in the actual conflict resolution deliberations.
At that time, women had just gained the right not so long ago to become members of the ANC NEC.
Lillian Ngoyi had been elected as the first woman to join the ANC NEC in 1956. It is important to recount his courage in wading into a territory which only a few men dared to traverse.
It was this courage that was to become an inspiration for his successor, Comrade Oliver Tambo who agitated without fail, for women’s rights.
It is thus fitting that we remember Luthuli, just like OR Tambo in subsequent years, as a staunch champion of gender equality.
In this regard, it is equally apt to invoke the spirit of OR Tambo in this lecture since he would be turning 100 this year.
While we have made considerable progress on the gender equality front, Luthuli would have been deeply pained by the high levels of violent crime against women and children in our society today.
We will continue to take positive measures and work closely with the communities to root out this scourge.
I cannot conclude this talk without some reflective conversations about values and ethics, in the context of the Mandela Month. We have just celebrated and commemorated International Nelson Mandela Day early this week.
In this regard, and as Luthuli would have implored us, the values of our Constitution that so many sacrificed for should provide us with the moral and ethical edifice from which we can draw sustenance and a sense of purpose.
These values have a universal appeal as they are premised on Ubuntu the sense that our survival and wellbeing is interdependent that I am because we are.
Chief Luthuli was a practical exponent of these values as exemplified in his quest for equality, especially gender equality, non-racialism, openness, respect and his fervent fight against all manifestation of tribalism.
The values of respect, selflessness, openness and accountability all epitomise who Chief Luthuli was.
We are therefore duty-bound to learn from him and find ways in which his ideals and values can find a practical expression in our day to day lives.
I thank the members of the Luthuli family and the Luthuli Museum management for the sterling work they continue to do in ensuring that the legacy of this giant of our liberation struggle lives on.
Through the museum, generations will be able to find out more about this gentle giant of our struggle and this icon of the African continent.
We lost our leader 50 years ago in suspicious circumstances, but we must take solace in the fact that his legacy lives for generations to come to learn and build on: to make our country a united, non-racial, non-sexist and prosperous society.
Long live the spirit of Chief Albert Luthuli!
I thank you.
Source: The Presidency Republic of South Africa