CHIEF ALBERT JOHN LUTHULI
PRESIDENCY: 1952– 1967
Chief Albert John Luthuli, the beloved President-General of the African National Congress (ANC), one of Africa’s greatest political figures of our time. He is the respected spokesman for South Africa’s oppressed, exploited and humiliated inhabitants. He passed away from the scene of active struggle for political rights and national liberation. in July 1967, when it is alleged he was run over by a train.
Chief Luthuli was a profound thinker, a man of powerful logic with a keen sense of justice; a man of lofty principles, a bold and courageous fighter and a statesman. He was a true African nationalist and an unflinching patriot. Although he grew up under tribal conditions and surroundings, he was uncompromising against racialism, tribalism and all forms of racial and sectional exclusiveness. He believed in and fought for full political, economic and social opportunities for the oppressed people of South Africa regardless of colour, creed, nationality or racial origin.
A staunch anti-imperialist and anti-colonialist, he fought and obtained the co-operation of all anti-apartheid, anti-imperialist progressive movements and organisations in South Africa.
As a practising Christian, Chief Luthuli genuinely and sincerely believed in the well-being, happiness and dignity of all human beings. Because of his convictions, he sacrificed all prospects of personal gains and comforts and dedicated his life to the cause and service of his fellowmen.Chief Luthuli was born in 1898, away from Groutville, but returned as a child to his ancestral home. He was educated in Mission Schools and at Adam’s College in Natal where he later taught until 1936. In answer to repeated calls and requests from the elders of his tribe to come home and lead them, he left teaching that year to become chief of the tribe. He was not a hereditary chief as his tribe had a democratic system of electing its chiefs.
He joined the ANC in 1945. In 1946, he entered the then Native Representative Council (NRC). At that stage, however, the Council had for all intents and purposes come to its end. It was a useless and frustrating talking shop that had been brought to a standstill
by the protest of members who questioned the brutal and savage methods employed by the police in dealing with the African miners’ strike on the Witwatersrand in August 1946. It had also called upon the government to abolish all discriminatory laws and demanded for a new policy towards the African population. It never met again and was eventually abolished by the government. Chief Luthuli was elected Provincial President of the ANC in Natal in 1951.
As a chief he was not allowed to take part in politics. But he defied his ban. Luthuli chose the ANC over his chieftainship. He was deposed in 1952 and elected President-General of the African National Congress by his people the same year.
There were many bold and imaginative political and economic campaigns for demands envisaged both in the 1949 Programme of Action adopted by the ANC, and in the Freedom Charter. Some of the campaigns were violent, bitter and grim.
The policy of non-violence was formulated and adopted by national conferences of the ANC before he was elected President-General of the organisation. The policy was adopted in 1951 especially for the conduct of the “National Campaign for Defiance of Unjust Laws” in 1952.
Through fear of his ideas, the enemy banned and confined him to the Lower Tugela area from 1952 till his death on July 21, 1967. His first ban for two years was in 1952. It was renewed in 1954. In 1959 he was banned for a further period of five years which was again renewed when it expired. But he continued with political work till the last days of his life.
He was arrested in 1956 and together with other leaders of the liberation movement, was charged with High Treason. The trial opened in January, 1957 and concluded on March 29, 1961 when all the accused were found not guilty. Together with 2,000 other leaders he was arrested and detained for five months in 1960 under the State of Emergency declared by the South African Government on 29 March 1960.