The Family of Nkosi Albert Luthuli,
Minister of Arts and Culture, Pallo Jordan,
Premier of KwaZulu-Natal, Sbu Ndebele,
The Mayor of Ilembe District Municipality, Councillor W. Mdabe,
Comrades, ladies and gentlemen:
When Inkosi Albert Luthuli was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, the then apartheid Minister of Justice, John Vorster, grudgingly allowed him to travel to Norway, saying that he did so, "notwithstanding the fact that the government fully realises that the award was not made on merit".
Obviously, to John Vorster it would have been preferable that this great honour should have gone to one of the apartheid architects presumably for their so-called civilising efforts of the backward natives.
However, John Vorster did not allow Inkosi Luthuli to attend the celebrations held in Stanger by hundreds of South Africans where the poet, Percy Yengwa, spoke of Inkosi Luthuli as the "great bull that our enemies had tried to enclose in a kraal, the great bull who had broken the strong fence, to wander far - as far as Oslo! Inkosi yase Groutville! Inkosi yase Afrika! Inkosi yase World." (PXVIII, Let My People Go, Albert Luthuli)
Today, we have come here to celebrate the inspiring life of Inkosi yase Groutville, Inkosi yase Africa, Inkosi yase World!
Inkosi Luthuli was born at the end of the 19th century. This was the period when the gallant fighters of Ethiopia defeated the invading Italian armies at the Battle of Adowa, inspiring legions of African patriots who were not prepared to endure colonial subjugation.
In South Africa, as we know, at the time when Inkosi Luthuli was born, our armed resistance to colonial rule had suffered serious setbacks, and the South-African War, otherwise known as the Anglo-Boer War, was to begin.
The few Africans who had received western education and converted to Christianity were themselves waging an important struggle against white minority rule within the various denominations. Inspired by the victory of their African brothers and sisters in Ethiopia against Italy, some among our people founded the Ethiopian Church.
Mangena Mokone, who was the first to form this church in Tshwane, was outraged by the racist attitudes of people in the Wesleyan Church who were supposed to be his fellow Christians. He was soon followed by James Mata Dwane, who resigned from the Methodist Church in 1895.
These patriots, like Inkosi Luthuli later, were both practising Christians as well as teachers. As Luthuli did later in our struggle, they contributed immensely to the African nationalism that led to the formation of the African National Congress in 1912.
Most of these patriots were further influenced by an earlier African visionary, the Rev Tiyo Soga, who was a proud African, an advocate of African nationalism who refused to see himself - even though he received western education - as an adjunct of an oppressive western culture.
Similarly, Inkosi Luthuli firmly believed that religion, education and African nationalism were intertwined and should be used as potent forces in the struggle against colonialism and apartheid, which he did to great effect.
In the process, Inkosi Luthuli was able to lead our people with distinction. When he addressed his audience during and after the receipt of the Nobel Peace Prize, he spoke for all of Africa and reminded the international community of the challenges faced by Africans.
These are the same challenges that we articulate today in the vision of the African Renaissance, the African Union and NEPAD. The power of his voice and the wisdom in his words helped to mobilise many, Africans and non-Africans, to be part of the great movement against colonialism and apartheid.
Inkosi Luthuli influenced many who were privileged to hear his historic message. One of these was the Norwegian newspaper, which, after listening to him, reported then that:
"We have suddenly begun to feel Africa`s nearness and greatness. In the millions of huts of corrugated iron, mud and straw, lives a force which can make the world richer Luthuli, the Zulu chieftain and schoolteacher, is an exceptional man. But in his words, his voice, his smile, his strength, his spontaneity a whole continent speaks."
(PXIX, Let My People Go, Albert Luthuli)
Indeed, the years that followed his speech in Norway saw many people across the world mobilised through the international solidarity movement for the liberation of Africa, `feeling Africa`s nearness and greatness`.
Next year we will have to join the African-Americans and the people of the United States of America as a whole to commemorate the 40th anniversary of the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr in 1968.
The great Martin Luther King Jr was also a combatant for our own liberation as confirmed by the Joint Declaration he co-signed in 1962 with Inkosi Luthuli, which was later endorsed by many others. The Declaration said:
"In 1957, an unprecedented Declaration of Conscience was issued by more than 100 leaders from every continent. That Declaration was an appeal to South Africa to bring its policies into line with the Universal Declaration of Human Rights adopted by the General Assembly of the United Nations.
The Declaration was a good start in mobilising world sentiment to back those in South Africa who acted for equality. The non-whites took heart in learning that they were not alone. And many white supremacists learned for the first time how isolated they were."
The two leaders then outlined the repressive measures that the apartheid government had undertaken and offered possible solutions for those prepared to see a peaceful transition to a non-racial democracy, advocating for strong sanctions against the apartheid government.
Accordingly, when we celebrated our freedom in 1994, we were, honouring the enormous sacrifices of the upright and moral people personified by Inkosi Albert Luthuli and the many elsewhere in the world, as represented by Martin Luther King Jr, who responded to the apartheid crime against humanity as a gross violation of their own dignity.
The extraordinary foresight which Inkosi Albert Luthuli possessed regarding the destiny of his beloved country, South Africa, and indeed, the continent of Africa, was captured in an interview he gave shortly before his death, when he remarked:
"There will be enormous, peaceful change in South Africa before the end of this century. People of all races will eventually live together in harmony because no one, white, black or brown, wants to destroy this beautiful land of ours. Women must play an increasingly important role in all areas of life of the future. They were and remain the most loyal supporters in all our struggles. The big powers will eventually turn away from all of Africa, so we must dedicate ourselves to solving our own problems. (Donal Brody, The Chief: Albert John Mvumbi Luthuli, Part 4, Great Epics Newsletter, Vol. 3, No 10 (1999).
Because he believed in the justice of the cause he espoused, the cause of freedom, democracy and justice for all the people of South Africa irrespective of their race and colour, Inkosi Luthuli knew that freedom would come. He was confident that, acting in unity, the masses of our people would never give up the fight for the defeat of Apartheid.
Equally, I am confident that today the masses of our people, united behind the vision of a non-racial, non-sexist and prosperous South Africa, will, in the same way they struggled for freedom, continue to work for the reconstruction and development of our country, so that all our people, without discrimination, can begin to enjoy the full benefits of the freedom for which Inkosi Albert Luthuli lived and died.
40 years after his untimely and mysterious death, as South Africans we have a duty to accelerate the pace towards the goal of national unity; unity in sports, unity in economic activity, unity in education, unity in working for the common good - unity in the struggle to build a South Africa that belongs to all who live in it, black and white!
Being a rare visionary, Inkosi Albert Luthuli was fully committed to gender equality, about which he stated that "women must play an increasingly important role in all areas of the life of the future", knowing very well that without the full emancipation of women our struggle for freedom would be incomplete.
Today, as we build a society that rejects discrimination on the basis of gender, we are inspired by the early expression of a revolutionary vision of the meaning of freedom, which fired the imagination of Inkosi Luthuli at a time when it was not common that a leader from a traditional background could transcend the learned habits of patriarchy.
The voice of Inkosi Luthuli, which still speaks to us today, tells us that part of the challenge of our democratic South Africa is to ensure that our society rids itself of attitudes and actions that continue to degrade and abuse women, treat them as if they are not only inferior to men but are also not full human-beings.
Inkosi Luthuli personified selflessness, sacrifice, service to his people and love for humanity, resisting the temptations of a system that sought to co-opt him and by so doing, slow down the momentum of our struggle for freedom.
In many statements Inkosi Albert Luthuli taught us what it means to be a genuine people`s leader. When the apartheid regime dismissed him from his elected traditional position as Inkosi for refusing to resign from the ANC, he said:
"What the future has in store for me I do not know. It might be ridicule, imprisonment, concentration camp, flogging, banishment and even death. I only pray to the Almighty to strengthen my resolve so that none of these grim possibilities may deter me from striving, for the sake of the good name of our beloved country, the Union of South Africa, to make it a true democracy and a true union in form and spirit of all the communities in the land."
Later in 1960 when he was charged for burning his pass, the Reference Book, he said:
"There comes a time when a leader must give as practical a demonstration of his convictions and willingness to live up to the demands of the cause, as he expects of his people. I felt that was the hour in our history, and in my life, for this demonstration. I am not sorry nor ashamed of what I did. I could not have done less than I did and still live with my conscience. I would rightly lose the confidence of my people, and earn the disrespect of right-thinking people in my country and in the world, and the disdain of posterity."
Indeed, at the time when Inkosi Luthuli took up the reins of leadership of the ANC he clearly knew the difficulties and challenges that he would face, and his responsibility to the people in this regard.
In this context, he left all of us important lessons of how to serve our people, of the need to put the interests of our people before our own personal interests; to be prepared to sacrifice for the greater good and to refuse to sink into the cesspool of greed, of lust for power and the betrayal of the noble ideals and traditions that many heroes and heroines of our protracted struggle, such as Inkosi Bambatha, Pixley Seme, John Langalibalele Dube, Mahatma Gandhi, Charlotte Maxeke and others had bequeathed to him and us.
Inkosi Luthuli was a true leader of the ANC and our people who steadfastly fought against all forms of factionalism in the organisation as demonstrated by his response to Jordan Ngubane who defected from the ANC and started telling lies about our movement and its President, something that seems to break into the open ever so often. In that response he said:
"If there are cliques or pressure-groups in Congress I am not associated with any. My followers are all Congressmen and women in the Union and many others not formally registered in Congress books but fully sharing Congress aspirations and accepting unquestioningly its leadership in the political sphere. My unanimous re-election last year to the position of President-General shows that I claim all Congressmen and women as my followers. I would be most untrue to this solemn trust if I thought and acted otherwise - (acting as a representative of a faction.)"
Today, especially because our people have put us in positions of power, we are called upon to emulate the example of this true patriot and great leader of our movement and people. We should respect his teaching that we must never allow ourselves to be slaves to personal material wealth, that we must refuse to succumb to the practice of accumulating personal riches by any means - including by foul means - that we must dedicate ourselves to the task faithfully to serve the people, and always remain loyal to the teachings of the African philosophy of Ubuntu.
Because of his confidence in his people, Inkosi Luthuli knew that victory was certain, that change was unavoidable, that freedom could not be postponed for ever, and that one day all the people of South Africa would overcome their divisions and live together as one people.
Those of us who are fortunate to have seen the birth of the new and democratic South Africa, enjoying the freedom to which Inkosi Luthuli dedicated his life, should continue to uphold the humane values that defined his life and leadership, knowing that we are living out ideals that will never perish because of their moral force.
At the very height of racist bigotry, Inkosi Albert Luthuli sustained the long, tried and tested tradition of his predecessors in the African National Congress, championing forgiveness, advocating non-racialism, non-sexism, equality and justice for all.
Epitomising the inclusive nature of our ideology, Inkosi Albert Luthuli respected all religions and was prepared to work with all faiths, believing that the different belief systems should have an equal place in our society.
He embraced traditional communities that did not believe in his religion. He worked easily with people whose ideologies could be regarded as an antithesis of his Christian faith, seeing in them human beings with different life philosophies, yet sharing with them the ideal of a democratic and humane South Africa. In this way, he was always prepared to work with all patriots of all political persuasions for the liberation of all our people.
The things that our movement and government are doing today are, in reality, but the fulfilment of the dream that Inkosi Albert Luthuli struggled to translate into reality.
Truly the biggest challenge we face today is whether we have the capacity and the will to build on the legacy of Inkosi Albert Luthuli, to accelerate the process of bringing development and shared prosperity to our country and our continent, and whether through our actions we are able, selflessly, to live up to the moral teachings that he left us.
All of us, South Africans, black and white, rural and urban, men and women, young and old, have the obligation to honour his memory by acting in a manner that is true to his legacy, using his teachings to inform what we do in our daily lives.
One of our National Orders is the Order of Luthuli. This Order is awarded to South Africans who have made a meaningful contribution to our continuing struggle for democracy, human rights, nation-building, justice, peace and conflict-resolution.
May the day come when all who choose to act in the political sphere in our country strive to be admitted into the ranks of the Esteemed Members of the Order of Luthuli! When that day dawns, then will the nation and all humanity know that we have indeed entrenched a culture that prescribes that all who would claim to be representatives of the people are truly committed to serve the people, as was Albert John Mvumbi Luthuli.
I am honoured and privileged that I could be part of today`s commemoration of a true African and world giant, Inkosi A.J. Luthuli -Inkosi yase Groutville! Inkosi kaKhongolozi, uMbutho weSizwe! Inkosi yase Afrika! Inkosi yase World. Long may he continue to lead us!