A tale of two books

2013-11-08 00:00

IN a world in which books are under pressure from a multiplicity of electronic media, historical and political biography stands out as a genre holding its own. Recent subjects include Steve Biko and a range of modern politicians; plus John Dube, Theophilus Shepstone, Magema Magwaza Fuze — and iNkosi Albert Luthuli.

Before he accepted it in 1961, he knew about the formation of the ANC’s armed wing, Mkhonto we Sizwe (MK). Couper argues that Luthuli was convinced of the certainty of eventual liberation and so did not alter his principled opposition to violence. Theologian Simangaliso Kumalo supports this view: Luthuli believed that “the road to freedom [was] via the cross”. Once the armed struggle was adopted, he was effectively sidelined by the movement. On top of his banning by the government, Couper poignantly echoes the title of his autobiography Let My People Go in his view that “Luthuli’s people … let him go”. As Ben Turok points out in an interview for an unscreened documentary A Question of Violence: the Chief Albert Luthuli Story, produced by Sabido Productions, the ANC’s internal debate and meetings went unrecorded. There is no documentary evidence. Couper as biographer relies on Luthuli’s own writing on non-violence and points out that political allegiance does not rule out a greater loyalty.

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