Address by Deputy President Jacob Zuma at the Second Matthew Goniwe Annual Lecture on the Occasion of the Albert Luthuli Memorial Lecture Week, University of Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, 2 August 2004

Honourable Premier of Gauteng, Mbhazima Shilowa,
Vice-Chancellor of Wits University, Professor Loyiso Nongxa,
Dr Albertina Luthuli and other members of the Luthuli family present,
Academics, SRC President and members,
Students,
Distinguished guests,

It is an honour and privilege for me to join you this evening, on the occasion of the Second Matthew Goniwe Annual Lecture, which focuses on the legacy of one of the noblest sons of our country and continent, Chief AJ Luthuli.

We are today honouring an outstanding African intellectual, who cherished and promoted the ideals of freedom, equality, peace, justice and human rights for all.

We will always be proud of the fact that through this remarkable, yet very humble man of the people, South Africa produced the first Nobel Peace Prize Winner in December 1961, the first person to receive this accolade in our country and continent.

His humility in accepting this honour, when he stated that he did not believe he deserved it, gave an indication of the type of leader he was, who did not view his contribution as worthy of personal recognition.

Chief AJ Luthuli was born in 1898, near Bulawayo in Zimbabwe. After the death of his father, who was a missionary in Bulawayo, he returned to his ancestral home in Groutville, South Africa and trained as a teacher. He left the teaching profession in 1936 after being elected Chief of the Groutville Amakholwa community. His last teaching post was at Emanzimtoti, Adams College, one of the early centres of political conscientisation.

Long before joining the ANC in 1945, he had already begun participation in ANC activities, attending meetings and was active in other respects.

In 1946 he witnessed the mineworker's strike and police brutality against the strikers. He was also inspired by the Indian Passive Resistance Campaign of 1946, in which over 2000 people defied the government's discriminatory laws and courted imprisonment.

As a teacher, traditional leader and successful farmer, he could easily have turned his back on the struggle for freedom and led a comfortable life. But, when pressured by the apartheid regime to leave the ANC, he instead left the chieftainship and later assumed the leadership of the ANC.

Distinguished guests, the strength of the ANC has always included its clarity of vision and purpose, and the existence of clear policies on all key questions in our country. Through his writings and public statements, Chief Luthuli articulated these policies eloquently, also ensuring implementation at various levels of the movement, during very repressive conditions, assisted by his able comrades at the time.

Chief Luthuli led the ANC during a period of turbulence and intense repression from the apartheid regime. It was under his leadership that the ANC entered what Former President Madiba calls the "fighting fifties." The ANC had taken a decision to become more militant in 1949, under the Presidency of Dr Alfred Xuma.

Under Chief Luthuli's leadership the ANC grew into a mass militant organisation, and in line with its Programme of Action engaged in mass action such as national "Stay at Home" campaigns, bus and potato boycotts, economic boycott of Nationalist products, peasant revolts, anti-pass campaigns, resistance to forced removals and mass protest rallies and demonstrations.

This period also saw the Defiance Campaign, the struggle against Bantu Education, the drawing together of all freedom-loving South Africans across the racial line into the Congress Alliance and the adoption of the Freedom Charter, the anti-pass campaign by women in 1956, and the launch of armed struggle in 1961.

In his address to the 42nd annual ANC conference in December 1953, Chief Luthuli described the Defiance Campaign, as one of the "most outstanding events in the political history of the Union of South Africa."

He attributed a number of subsequent events as indicating the impact of the campaign, including the holding of a short session of the apartheid Parliament that produced the Public Safety Act and the Criminal Laws Amendment Act.

Most importantly, the Defiance Campaign attracted the attention of the world, and racial discrimination became an international issue.

Under Chief Luthuli's leadership, the ANC also brought together freedom-loving people of South Africa to put together minimum demands in the form of the Freedom Charter, which was adopted in Kliptown in 1955 at the Congress of the People.

At this Congress, the Isithwalandwe/Seaparankoe - the highest honour awarded by the ANC - was awarded to Chief Luthuli, Yusuf Dadoo and Father Trevor Huddleston. However, only Father Huddleston was able to accept his award, as Chief Luthuli and Cde Dadoo were unable to attend due to banning orders placed on them.

The adoption of the Freedom Charter by the Congress of the People is an important milestone in the history of the ANC and of the country and was recognised as such internationally.

In his message to the Congress of the People, Chief Luthuli emphasised its significance as follows:

"Why will this assembly be significant and unique? Its size, I hope, will make it unique. But above all its multi-racial nature and its noble objectives will make it unique because it will be the first time in the history of our multi-racial nation that its people from all walks of life will meet as equals, irrespective of race, colour and creed, to formulate a Freedom Charter for all people in the country."

We must also emphasise that Chief Luthuli led by example, and this is evidenced by the fact that when he led the people in the Anti-Pass campaign in 1960, he was the first to burn his passbook.

Another highlight of Chief Luthuli's leadership of the ANC is that it was during this period that the armed struggle was launched.

He clearly articulated this ANC policy in a statement issued on 12 June 1964, when Nelson Mandela, Walter Sisulu and six other leaders were sentenced to life imprisonment in the Rivonia trial. It was read at the United Nations Security Council meeting on the same day by the representative of Morocco.

He said: "The African National Congress never abandoned its method of a militant, non-violent struggle, and of creating in the process a spirit of militancy in the people. However, in the face of the uncompromising white refusal to abandon a policy which denies the African and other oppressed South Africans their rightful heritage - freedom - no one can blame brave just men for seeking justice by the use of violent methods; nor could they be blamed if they tried to create an organised force in order to ultimately establish peace and racial harmony."

It should be remembered that in 1910, it was not the whole nation that met to take a fundamental decision to establish the Union of South Africa, out of four different administrations, which had been called republics.

But it was only the two groups, the English and the Afrikaners who decided on the Union, excluding the overwhelming majority of this country. In a speech during Luthuli centenary celebrations in kwaDukuza in April 1998, Madiba pointed out that this statement by Chief Luthuli sustained them through the prison years.

Madiba said: "As he explained our resort to armed struggle in the face of the uncompromising denial of freedom for the majority of South Africans, he (Luthuli) evoked the vision of a peaceful, united and just society which sustained our people through the long years of struggle".

The intransigence of the apartheid regime had also necessitated greater international solidarity and action. A decision was taken, under Chief Luthuli's leadership, that Oliver Tambo should leave the country to lead the ANC's international campaign. The international campaign took many forms, including the call for sanctions against South Africa.

Chief Luthuli, as the voice of the oppressed masses, clearly communicated this policy. In the Rivonia Trial statement, he made a strong call for sanctions, and called upon Britain and America to take decisive action in this regard.

Chief Luthuli had also called for sanctions earlier in 1960, in an article in New Age, reacting to a statement by British Prime Minister Harold Macmillan who had objected to the call for sanctions.

Chief Luthuli also clearly expressed the ANC position on non-racialism, and it was during his leadership that the non-racial Congress Alliance was established. While the Defiance Campaign was organised by the ANC, it was also actively supported by the South African Indian Congress.

This militancy of the Defiance Campaign created the conditions for the organised participation of the Coloured People's Congress and the Congress of Democrats, and shortly thereafter by the South African Congress of Trade Unions (SACTU) after its establishment.

The Alliance, born out of the practical apartheid conditions, brought together democrats and freedom lovers in common pursuit of justice and freedom. Chief Luthuli's call for the unity of all the oppressed people and progressive whites found resonance within the Congress of the People campaign.

The ANC had always been clear on the type of society it wanted to build after apartheid, as expressed in the Freedom Charter, and Chief Luthuli as the head of the movement, outlined this policy in many articles and public statements, that South Africa belonged to all who live in it.

In an interview with Drum in June 1958, he emphasised the need for the ANC to pursue co-operation with other racial groups, as the "Africa for Africans" position was justifiable in territories where other racial groups, especially whites, were not as permanently settled as they were in South Africa or Zimbabwe.

The question of the participation of women in the liberation struggle has always been a focal point within the ANC. In a message to the 1959 congress of the ANC Women's League, Chief Luthuli narrated the various campaigns led by women, and reaffirmed the ANC's position on the critical role of women in the liberation struggle.

The role of the working class in the struggle for liberation was reflected in his favourite slogan that the ANC was the Shield, and SACTU was the Spear of the nation.

Chief Luthuli's legacy will live on for years to come. His belief in freedom, peace, equality of all and the right to human dignity was a passion that drove him in his leadership of the ANC, and kept him going throughout his period of persecution by the apartheid regime.

His belief in the unity of all, both the oppressed as well as democrats within the white community, promoted the ANC's position on building a non-racial future, of a South Africa that belongs to all who live in it, black and white.

The eventual attainment of liberation in 1994 was a fitting tribute to Chief Luthuli and all who fought for the freedom of this country.

If he could speak today, we believe that Chief Luthuli would say we were correct in the manner in which we worked and achieved a smooth transition from apartheid to democracy in 1994, in working for unity, peace and reconciliation instead of retribution, and in working so hard to ensure the improvement of the lives of the poor and marginalised over the last 10 years.

We also believe he would say we are correct in our pursuit of peace and stability within the African continent and in the world.

We recall his words when he received the Nobel Peace Prize in Oslo, where he said; "May the day come soon, when the peoples of the world will rouse themselves, and together effectively stamp out any threat to peace, in whatever quarter of the world it may be found. When that day comes, there shall be peace on earth and goodwill between men."

The message is as relevant today as it was in December 1961, and summarises the legacy of Chief Luthuli, the man of peace, freedom, justice, unity and equality for all.

I thank you.

Issued by: The Presidency
2 August 2004


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