The former President of the Republic of Botswana, Mr Festus Mogae, described Africa’s first winner of the Nobel Peace Prize and President of the ANC Chief Albert Luthuli as a distinguished man of peace and a devoted Christian.

Mogae, President of Botswana from 1998 to 2008 when he was succeeded by current leader Ian Khama, was delivering the 11th Chief Albert Luthuli Memorial Lecture at UKZN’s Graduate School of Business and Leadership.

The lecture – held in partnership with the Department of Arts and Culture, the Luthuli Foundation and the Luthuli Museum – was themed Luthuli Remembered.

Mogae said Chief Luthuli was an historic and heroic figure in Africa’s political history. ‘He was a distinct freedom and human rights fighter. His major strategy was peaceful resistance and a passionate belief in peaceful co-existence of people, communities and nations.

‘We are rightly gathered here today to honour and remember a life well lived.  An exemplary life indeed. Chief Albert Luthuli bequeathed to us a tradition of tolerance, love, mutual respect, multiracialism and, above all, peaceful settlement of differences in all spheres of life.  He remains not only an inspiration to African leaders but also a symbol of peace upon which we should all reflect and from which we should learn,’ said Mogae.

Reflecting on Chief Luthuli’s upbringing, Mogae said a blend of African values and Christian tradition produced a man of distinction with a deep understanding of the values embedded in Ubuntu and the principles of freedom.

‘Chief Albert Luthuli left Zimbabwe at a young age for Groutville village in KwaZulu-Natal where he was further raised under the same Christian and African values and custom by his paternal uncle – also a Chief and a devoted Christian.  Chief Albert Luthuli therefore inherited a balanced mix of African and Christian traditions which, as renowned South African authors Mongane Wally Serote and Kumalo have noted, moulded him and many other leaders of his time into a peaceful but formidable personality.’

Welcoming guests, UKZN Vice-Chancellor and Principal Dr Albert van Jaarsveld said people could learn a lot from Chief Luthuli especially in areas of dedication, selflessness and humility, and UKZN would continue to play a role in advancing and preserving this legacy.

Van Jaarsveld announced that from 2018 the University would house the Albert Luthuli Foundation on the Howard College campus adjacent to the UKZN Foundation.

Chairperson of the Luthuli Museum Mr Jabulani Sithole asked what South Africa was doing now to take the baton forward and improve the lives of its people. He said elders were a resource of knowledge and wisdom and it was in this context that the Luthuli Museum welcomed Mogae.

Acting Deputy Director General at the Department of Arts and Culture Mr Vusithemba Ndima said: ‘The lecture has continued, since its inception in 2004, to provide an opportunity for the South African population at large to revisit and relive the legacy of the Chief and the vision of those before us who believed that the future is today.’

TV and Radio Personality Mr Peter Ndoro co-ordinated questions between the audience and panellists who included Chief Albert Luthuli’s granddaughter, Ms Nana Ngobese, and Sithole and Mogae.

Questions raised included the current political events in Zimbabwe, female representation in government and corporate leadership positions, unemployment among the youth and challenges faced by young people today.

Words: Sithembile Shabangu