On the 10th December 2011 the SA Post Office issued a Folder and a sheet of stamps honouring the 50th anniversary of Chief Albert Luthuli, being the first person from Africa to win the Nobel Peace Prize. The 1960 Nobel peace prize was awarded to Luthuli but he only received the award a year later in 1961.
This stamp will not be the first to pay tribute to Albert Luthuli. He also appeared on a South African postage stamp in 1996 as part of a set of ten stamps in honour of South Africa’s Nobel Laureates. It featured, among others, Desmond Tutu, Nadine Gordimer, Nelson Mandela and FW de Klerk.
Chief Luthuli was born in 1898, near Bulawayo in what was then Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe). In 1908, he was sent back to his family’s home at Groutville mission station in KwaZulu-Natal. After completing a teaching course at Edendale near Pietermaritzburg, Luthuli took up the running of a small primary school in the Natal Uplands. At around the same time, he was confirmed in the Methodist Church and became a lay preacher. Christian principles profoundly affected his political style and beliefs for the rest of his life.
In 1920, Luthuli continued his studies and subsequently accepted a teaching position at Adams College. In 1935, in answer to repeated calls and requests from the elders of his tribe to come home and lead them, he left teaching and returned home where he served his tribe for the next 17 years. Luthuli was not a hereditary chief as his tribe had a democratic system of electing its chiefs.
Luthuli’s public support for the 1952 Defiance Campaign finally brought him into direct conflict with the apartheid government, which demanded his resignation from the ANC and dismissed him from his post as chief when he refused to do so.
Luthuli was elected President-General of the ANC by a large majority in December 1952, winning re-election in 1955 and 1958. Bans imposed in early 1953 and renewed in the following year prevented him from giving direction to the day-to-day activities of Congress.
Six days after the Sharpeville emergency in 1960, Luthuli sought to rally Africans to resistance by publicly burning his pass in Pretoria and calling for a national day of mourning. On 30 March, he was detained and held until August, when he was tried and given a six-month suspended sentence.
Awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1960, Luthuli was allowed to travel to Oslo to receive the award the following year. In his acceptance speech on 10 December 1961, Luthuli said: “It can only be on behalf of the people of South Africa, all the people of South Africa, especially the freedom-loving people, that I accept this award, that I acknowledge this honour. I accept it also as an honour not only for South Africa, but also for the whole continent of Africa…”
In his Nobel lecture, delivered at the University of Oslo on the following day, Luthuli said: “Our vision has always been that of a non-racial, democratic South Africa which upholds the rights of all who live in our country to remain there as full citizens, with equal rights and responsibilities with all others. For the consummation of this ideal we have laboured unflinchingly. We shall continue to labour unflinchingly.”
At the end of his lecture, after much applause, Luthuli sang the African anthem, “Nkosi sikelele’ iAfrika”.
On 21 July 1967, while taking a walk near his Natal home, Luthuli was killed, reportedly when a train struck him.