How Luthuli’s peace prize changed history

2011-12-12 00:00

SATURDAY marked 50 years to the day when Chief Albert Luthuli received his Nobel Peace Prize.

The occasion was celebrated by the launch of the Chief Albert Luthuli postage stamp series at Groutville in the morning.

In the afternoon former chief justice Sandile Ngcobo delivered the fifth Albert Luthuli Lecture at the Elangeni Hotel in Durban entitled, “Pillars of Democracy — 50/50 View”.

He delivered a powerful message, saying the 50th anniversary of Luthuli being awarded the Nobel Peace Prize was an apt time to stand back and see whether South Africa as a nation was living up to the ideals that Luthuli championed. Ngcobo said the former ANC president stood for human dignity, equality, fundamental human rights and equality for all.

Ngcobo said there is a need to ensure that the foundation laid by Luthuli and fellow leaders are built upon and not destroyed. He said this foundation is contained in the preamble of the Constitution and the challenge that South Africans face is that the Constitution is a promissory note. It promises a new society based on dignity, human values and social justice.

The people of South Africa have entrusted the three arms of government — the executive, legislature and judiciary to deliver on that promise. To do this a delicate balance must be maintained among the three arms and an understanding of the separation of powers.

There is no one arm of government that is superior to the other two and all must be guided in carrying out their duties by the Constitution, Ngcobo said.

He received a standing ovation at the end of the lecture.

Luthuli’s daughter, Thandi Gcabashe, told the gathering she was in Oslo, Sweden, two weeks ago as a guest of the Nobel Prize Committee.

She said the awarding of the prize to her father was a turning point in the history of the awards.

“Previously people received prizes for literature, sciences and economics and such achievements. His was the first prize given for human rights,” she said.

Gcabashe added that the 50th anniversary of her father’s award was appropriately marked when Saturday also saw three women, two from Africa, receiving the peace prize. They were Yemeni “Arab Spring” activist Tawakkol Karman, Liberian President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf and Liberian peace warrior Leyman Gbowee.

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