A black man in South Africa writes a classic in the belly of a monster called apartheid. Chief Albert Luthuli born in 1898 in Zimbabwe (then Rhodesia) to South African parents and later returning to his motherland to take part in the building of his beautiful country through trial and tribulations. South Africa at the time was still governed through an iron fist called apartheid. In this autobiography, Chief Albert Luthuli epitomizes a road traveled with a determination to reach a destination receptive to all who call it their country, a country free of racial prejudice and human oppression.
Chief Albert Luthuli, a son of Africa, a teacher, a preacher of the Gospel of God and a leader of the African National Congress for fifteen years until his untimely and mysterious death in 1967, offered himself to national service in order to deliver his country from white minority rule. He writes eloquently about his personal experiences, the undertakings he made and the massive role his mother played in his upbringing since his father died when he was a young child.
In this, he elucidates his acknowledgement of his mother’s role when he writes: “I’m grateful for the offer, Dr Loram, extremely grateful. But my mother has been laboring all these years to ensure my education. Now she’s old. For the last two years I’ve been able to do nothing to help her. I must go out to teach, so that I can release her from work in her old age.” This he said to Dr Loram, principal of Adams College when he offered him a bursary to further his education at the University College of Fort Hare. He declined this offer so that he could get a paying job which will in turn enable him to take care of his beloved mother.
In 1935, Chief Albert Luthuli resigned from his teaching post when he was elected Chief of the Umvoti Mission Reserve, Groutville. In 1952, he was elected President-General of the African National Congress (ANC) a position he held until his death in 1967. At the time, the apartheid government had stripped him off of his position as chief due to his political activism. He was subjected to banning orders and arrests but these couldn’t deter the beloved Chief from serving his people and the country he so dearly loved.
Chief Albert Luthuli worked tirelessly throughout his illustrious life for the benefit of all of Africa’s children. In December 1961 he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for his services in the interests of non-violent political change, the first African to receive this prestigious award. He never relented an inch in the service of his country and continent. At the time that he received the award, Chief Albert Luthuli was a prisoner of oppression in his country but a free and beloved citizen of the world.
Chief Albert Luthuli’s autobiography graphically and in great detail depicts the contribution of a generation that played a stellar role that produced the democracy we enjoy in South Africa. His was a generation informed first by the commitment to unshackle the chains of apartheid and to lay a solid foundation for the building of a non-racial and a just democratic South Africa. Notwithstanding the fact that he didn’t live to witness the dawn of our democracy, he was solid sure even at the time that such a moment of the restoration of human dignity will come to his beloved country.
Like a sculptor, Chief Albert Luthuli through his autobiography has bequeathed us as successive generations with a socio-political compass to navigate the carving of the future and prosperity of our beautiful country and Africa at large.
He has left an indelible mark on the continuing path towards Africa’s rebirth. The continent will for sure continue to draw the much needed wisdom from this well and use it to reposition herself among continents. Chief Albert Luthuli’s contribution to the birth of democratic South Africa is a profound legacy we should embrace as we all work to make the nation building project sustainable and enduring.
We started off by pointing to the fact of a black man in South Africa, during those trying times writing a classic. It is now worth concluding by quoting Chief Albert Luthuli’s words of great wisdom when he said: “To Mother Africa, so long in fetters; To all who love her and strive to set her free; and to two noble women: Mtonya, my late mother, and Nokukhanya, my wife, to whom, under God, I am most deeply indebted”. The great leader has laid a solid foundation upon which our country and our continent will continue to use as a lodestar to prosperity.
As our beautiful motherland continues to sail through artificial limits, it is hoped that the aspirations of the eminent leader will enduringly stand the test of time to deliver total liberation to all the people from the clutches of poverty and underdevelopment. Chief Albert Luthuli’s autobiography remains one of the greatest contributions for social justice. Our mother continent is therefore privileged to have had this great son of the soil who stood tall in defence of the rights of his people. In the annuls of history, Chief Albert Luthuli and his generation shall forever be remembered as our country’s foremost freedom fighters and Africa shall enjoy the fruits of their toil eternally. It is therefore befitting for Africa and her children to celebrate this great legacy. Africa is at a space wherein the unity of all her children is more than necessary for development, peace, stability and a treasurable social justice.
Since the passing on of Chief Albert Luthuli, South Africa has moved steadily into a new era ushered in by the 1994 political breakthrough. For the first time in the history of the country, all qualifying people voted in the watershed elections of 27 April 1994. In a way this autobiography is a call to duty for every African to know and fully understand that governing institutions of state requires that we respect the rights of the people and that to them we should always deliver complete justice.
Publisher: Tafelberg & Mafube Publishers
Reviewed by: Goldrick Mafologela
Reporter and Editor: SwordEntertainment Online Publication