Albert Lutuli

Albert John Mvumbi Lutuli, also spelt Luthuli, (1898 – 1967) was born near Bulawayo where his father was a Christian missionary of Zulu decent.
His father died when he was an infant, and in 1908 his mother sent him back to the family’s traditional home in Natal. Lutuli then lived for a period in the household of his uncle, Martin Luthuli, who was Chief of the Christian Zulus inhabiting Umvoti Mission Reserve near Groutville.
In 1920 he received a government bursary to attend teacher training at Adams College, and subsequently joined the staff, teaching alongside Z.K. Mathews who was head of the Adams College High School.
In 1927 Lutuli married a fellow teacher, Nokukhanya Bhengu. They established their permanent home in Groutville where, in 1929, the first of their seven children was born. In 1928 he became secretary of the African Teacher’s Association and in 1933 its president.
Succumbing to repeated calls from the elders of his tribe to come home and lead them, Lutuli left teaching in 1936 to accept the chieftaincy at the Groutville Bantu reserve and became the administrator of tribal affairs. This was not a hereditary position as his tribe had a democratic system of electing its chiefs.
For many South Africans 1936 was a year of political disturbances, economic plunder and uncertainty. That year, the country was faced with the notorious Hertzog Bills. One of the Bills known as the ‘Representation of Natives Act’ which rendered the African vote in the Cape Province valueless. The other, the ‘Natives Land and Trust Bill’, sought to limit the land to be owned or occupied by the African population of 12 million people to 12.5% of the land, while reserving the remaining 87.5% for a population of less than three million whites.
For 17 years Lutuli immersed himself in the local problems of his people, adjudicating, mediating local quarrels, and organising cane growers to guard their own interests. Through minor clashes with the white authorities he gained first-hand experience of African political predicaments.
With this background, Lutuli openly and boldly joined the struggle for the right of Africans to full and unfettered development. He joined the African National Congress (ANC) in 1945.
In 1948 the newly-elected Nationalist Party formally adopted its policy of apartheid or ‘total apartness’.
Lutuli was elected Provincial President of the African National Congress in Natal in 1951. From that time he threw himself body and soul into the struggle.
Lekker Links
ANC – Albert Lutuli
South African History Online In 1951 the ANC formulated a policy of non-violence specially for the conduct of the ‘National Campaign for Defiance of Unjust Laws’ in 1952.
As a government-sponsored chief, Lutuli was not allowed to take part in politics, but he defied his ban. When he was called upon by the Government to choose between his chieftainship and the ANC, he chose the ANC. He was deposed as chief by the government in 1952 and a month later elected President-General of the African National Congress.
Responding immediately, the government sought to minimize his effectiveness as a leader by banning him from the larger South African centres and from all public meetings for two years.
Upon the expiration of that ban, he went to Johannesburg to address a meeting but at the airport was served with a second ban confining him to a twenty-mile radius of his home for another two years. When this second ban expired, he attended an ANC conference in 1956, only to be arrested and charged with treason a few months later, along with 150 others.
The Treason Trial opened in January 1957 and concluded on 29th March 1961 when all the accused, including Nelson Mandela, were found not guilty.
Together with 2,000 other leaders he was again arrested and detained for five months in 1960 under the State of Emergency which followed the burning of Pass books and the Sharpeville massacre.
Lutuli was found guilty, fined, given a jail sentence that was suspended because of the precarious state of his health, and returned to the isolation of Groutville. One final time the ban was lifted, this time for ten days in early December of 1961 to permit Lutuli and his wife to attend the Nobel Peace Prize ceremonies in Oslo.
A fourth ban to run for five years confining Lutuli to the immediate vicinity of his home was issued in May, 1964, the day before the expiration of the third ban.
For fifteen years or so before his death, Lutuli suffered from high blood pressure and once had a slight stroke. With age, his hearing and eyesight also became impaired – perhaps a factor in his death. For in July 1967, at the age of 69, he was fatally injured when he was struck by a freight train as he walked on the trestle bridge over the Umvoti River near his home.
Although Lutuli he grew up under tribal conditions and surroundings, he was uncom-promising 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.

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