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Former President of South Africa, Mr Thabo Mbeki, keynote speaker of the 2021 Chief Albert Luthuli Memorial Lecture.

There is an urgent need to deal with the emergence of careerism and corruption decisively in order to protect the African National Congress and the revolution in South Africa, says the country’s former President Mr Thabo Mbeki.

Delivering the keynote address during the 2021 Chief Albert Luthuli Memorial Lecture, themed Africa and Freedom, Mbeki said the ANC’s capacity to transform South Africa was rooted in its cadres and called for the strengthening of quantitative and qualitative measures within the movement. Referring to how the ANC being in power had been the source of its political bankruptcy, he highlighted how members of the ANC ‘fight for deployment as a source of material benefit rather than a reason to serve the public’.

The lecture, delivered in honour of the 60th anniversary of former ANC leader Chief Albert Luthuli receiving the Nobel Peace Prize, was hosted by UKZN in partnership with the Luthuli Museum and the Department of Sports, Arts and Culture.

Mbeki cited Luthuli’s vision for the liberation of South Africa as having an important role to play in the development of the Africa he (Luthuli), Steve Biko and Pixley Seme had envisioned. He also reflected on Luthuli’s Pan-Africanist perspective of an aspirant Africa playing its unique and rightful role in global affairs.

Examining the ANC, Mbeki asked where the organisation was in moving towards a South Africa as envisaged by Luthuli and also where it was in achieving the vision of Africa as advanced by Luthuli.

‘I believe it is self-evident that for the ANC to remain loyal to the commitment Luthuli made, it would have to carry out the programme of African liberation and freedom for all to the best of its ability. It would have to retain its character as a true servant of the people.’

Referring to the policy document of 2007, Mbeki said: ‘Our movement has a track record of being a trusted leader and a loyal servant of the people. Its strength lies in its ability to renew itself ideologically and organisationally, and to take account of the new developments and challenges. Any organisational review or renewal proposal for the ANC has to pass one test and that is to what extent do these proposals enhance the capacity of the movement to remain a trusted leader, a loyal servant of the people and an agent of change?’

In his welcome address, UKZN’s Vice-Chancellor and Principal, Professor Nana Poku said the University was honoured to be part of the memorial event. Poku remarked on the relevance of the theme as he reflected on the July unrest and looting that took place this year saying ‘these events serve as a stark reminder of how far we have travelled as a country and the challenges we still face in pursuit of an inclusive democracy’.

Commenting of Africa’s lack of political awakening, Poku said the continent had endured decades of stalled economic progress, lack of foreign investment, increased debt burden and the expansion of inequalities.

Chairperson of the Luthuli Museum Mr Important Mkhize noted how this year’s lecture was taking place against the backdrop of the 16 Days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence and called for an end to women and child abuse. He celebrated the 60th anniversary of Luthuli being awarded the Nobel Peace Prize and urged South Africans to continue fighting for freedom, justice, peace and reconciliation.

Mkhize said Luthuli had been a leader and a revolutionary with a vision of a united, non-racial and non-sexiest South Africa.  Quoting from Luthuli’s Nobel Prize acceptance speech, Mkhize read: “I accept it as an honour not only for South Africa, but the whole continent of Africa and all its people whatever their race, colour or creed. It is an honour to the peace-loving people of the entire world and an encouragement to us all to redouble our efforts in the struggle for peace and friendship.”

Programme director for the event, TV news anchor Peter Ndoro, encouraged everyone to visit the Luthuli Museum to gauge the story of South Africa, Africa and the fight for human rights.

Ndoro introduced learners from Groutville – the area in KwaZulu-Natal where Chief Albert Luthuli Luthuli was born – who delivered poetry readings in his honour.

Minister of Sports, Arts and Culture, Mr Nathi Mthethwa said Luthuli had been a leader who sought to resolve problems through non-violent means, ethical leadership and respect for human rights. Reflecting on Luthuli’s achievements as the first African and liberation leader of the struggle to be awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, he examined the ANC’s shortcomings, as Luthuli’s former organisation, and implored the ANC ‘to do more of what it set itself up to achieve, to do it better and to do it faster’.

Words: Hlengiwe Khwela

Photograph: Supplied