Speech by Minister Lulu Xingwana at the launch of Mandela and Luthuli: In Conversation Exhibition, Constitutional Hill

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25 Jun 2010

Programme Director,
Chairperson of Luthuli Museum, Dr. Sibongile Van Damme,
CEO of Nelson Mandela Museum, Khwezi KaMpumlwana,
Representative of the ANC,
ANC Women’s League,
ANC Youth League,
National Youth Development Agency,
The Diplomatic Corps,
Distinguished Guests,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

I am delighted to be here with you as we open an educative and creative Exhibition, Mandela and Luthuli in Conversation; 2010 Exhibition.

This Exhibition reveals many facets of our great leaders, both of whom are Nobel Laureates; Chief Albert Luthuli was the first African in the continent to be awarded the Nobel Laureate.  They each headed the political organization, the African National Congress. They were icons of the struggle, who were highly recognized and respected by leaders and communities in many parts of the world.  Both the leaders hail from deeply respected Royal families. Both were well developed all round personalities as professionals, deep thinkers and keen sportsmen.

Chief Albert Luthuli was the Natal President of the first South African Football Association and President Nelson Mandela was an eager boxer, who was keenly interested in soccer and rugby. He was instrumental in forming football teams on Robben Island.  In fact a film was recently made around this. It showed how sport was used to bring both inmates and guards together, allowing each to understand the other. Sport was used as a catalyst to get everyone together. The vehicle of sports was used by both the leaders to gather people around. Each of these leaders then communicated with the people discussing various pertinent issues affecting everyone, creating awareness and interest in these issues. Each of them encouraged discussions, a basic ingredient for sharpening people’s minds and a foundation for democracy.  

Being products of a long history of resistance to land dispossession and deprivation by colonialisation, each of these leaders lived and joined the struggle during periods that were completely dangerous; each learnt that real leaders must be ready to sacrifice all for the freedom of their people. They committed their entire lives to the struggle for the freedom of South Africa. They were each selfless and were prepared to undergo various hardship to achieve this freedom. They each displayed high levels of commitment, integrity, and strong moral authority in their struggle against oppression. They were charismatic, dignified and consultative leaders, deeply committed to achieving human rights for all South Africans. They were imprisoned, house arrested and harassed for their noble ideals.

It is appropriate that the Exhibition is being held within the walls of this prison which housed many of the freedom fighters and the two outstanding leaders we are commemorating today.  We have retained this historic prison to remind us of the injustice that was meted out to people struggling for a just society. Constitutional Hill is unique in the way it is being used today.

This Exhibition has juxtaposed these great leaders as engaging in a dialogue with each other. The act of dialogue is highly humbling and democratic – it allows for each person to express his point of view, stating facts to back it up. Dialogue as mentioned earlier, sharpens your thinking as you have to defend your viewpoint when challenged. Engaging in dialogue also opens up one’s thinking to various possibilities. It educates the participant as he/she has to interrogate the thought before he/she announces it; through hearing the participant also learns of various possibilities.

It is therefore important that we, as a nation, engage in national dialogues to sustain and grow our democracy – it will also bring us closer together even though we may differ a little with each other on various issues. I certainly think it would assist us in nation building.

Their conversations illustrate the desire of the two leaders to achieve peaceful resolutions if possible in South Africa. The dialogue demonstrates how different strategies had to be adopted at different moments in history in order to defeat segregation and apartheid.  

This exhibition considers their legacies which reflect most strongly the values that each leader endevoured to instill in the making of a free and democratic South Africa. Luthuli was central to the drawing up and eventual adoption of the Freedom Charter in 1955, the guiding document for many South Africans over the years of struggle and Mandela, many generations later, in a free and democratic South Africa, oversaw the legislation of the democratic Constitution based largely on the sentiments expressed in the Freedom Charter. 

In exhibiting the illustrated story of both Luthuli’s and Mandela’s lives, it is hoped that viewers would learn and appreciate their historic contribution to not only South Africa but to the world. It is hoped that people are inspired to promote democracy and Human Rights.   This exhibition is presently housed at the Nelson Mandela Museum in Mthatha and the Luthuli Museum in Groutville between June and August 2010 and will be staged concurrently at a further six sites around the country.

The department is pleased to announce that this is one of the development projects which will be promoted as 2010 legacy projects for Arts and Culture. It has been conceived as a traveling exhibition to give many people a chance to view and experience it. It would certainly build awareness of the calibre of leadership we enjoyed in our country. These are the iconic leaders who continue to instill pride in all of us.

I declare this Exhibition open.

Thank you.