Luthuli’s notes find their home

2013-10-09 00:00

AN unassuming Tudor exercise book with priceless content — handwritten notes by Africa’s first Nobel Peace Prize laureate Chief Albert Luthuli — has found its way back to his family home, now a museum bearing his name.

The extraordinary discovery was made by Pam Didcott, wife of the late former Constitutional Court Judge John Didcott.

The notebook was this week officially donated to the Luthuli Museum by Didcott, who discovered the notebook soon after her husband, a founder member of the Liberal Party and Chancellor of Durban Westville university, died in 1998. It has remained in her possession ever since, as a treasured memento.

Titled My Outlook, dated June 20, 1957, the book contains notes on various topics written by Luthuli, such as the “Spirit of Service to Humanity” and “Why I Champion the Cause of Freedom”.

It also documents his education, membership and participation in other societies, his banning orders and notes around his deposition as a member of the Native Representatives Council.

Didcott said it was hard for her to let go of the book. “But after Dr Jairam Reddy [chairperson of the council of the Durban University of Technology] convinced me and having visited the museum today, I know I am doing the right thing. I am sure it will be looked after and preserved for many more years to come.”

She was accompanied by Reddy and Betty Govinden, a retired lecturer from the (then) University of Durban Westville.

Albertina Luthuli, the daughter of Chief Luthuli, could barely contain her excitement when she heard about the book.

“I did not even know that this notebook existed and it was certainly a pleasant surprise for me. The museum is a place to hold my father’s legacy and this original notebook adds so much value to that,” she said.

Luthuli said she believed there are still more of her father’s original writings out there.

“This kind of information is extremely valuable and I am so grateful to Pam, who brought it to us. I urge the public to come forward with any other form of written material by my father so that we can preserve the legacy that he left behind at the museum.”

According to the Luthuli Museum director Brian Xaba, the notebook will be properly recorded, catalogued and stored in a temperature-controlled environment to safely preserve it. “Further research of the book and its contents will take place for future historical reference and will be placed onto our digital online catalogue.”

Reddy also handed over five black-and-white photographs, records of an occasion in 1993 when he and and several others handed over a taped audio copy of Luthuli’s Nobel Peace Prize acceptance speech to his widow Nokukhanya, affectionately known as “Ma­Bhengu”. She died in 1996.

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