Family embraces Chief Albert Luthuli’s death inquest being reopened

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The Luthuli family has embraced the reopening of an inquest into the death of Chief Albert Luthuli, viewing it as an opportunity to rectify the historical narrative.

The anti-apartheid activist and Nobel Peace Prize laureate died on July 21, 1967, reportedly struck by a train near his residence in Groutville, on the KwaZulu-Natal north coast.

The Department of Justice and Constitutional Development announced the decision to reopen the inquest, acting on recommendations from the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) and extending the same action to the deaths of prominent anti-apartheid lawyer Griffiths Mxenge and civic leader Booi Mantyi.

For over 50 years, the Luthuli family has sought clarity, harbouring doubts about the findings of the official inquest conducted by the apartheid regime.

The regime’s report concluded that Luthuli was fatally hit by a train on a railway bridge near his home in Groutville.

The Justice Ministry acknowledged the persistent speculation surrounding the incident, stating that the exact circumstances remained unclear.

The news of the reopened inquest followed a wreath-laying ceremony at Luthuli’s grave attended by the family over the weekend. Sandile Luthuli, Luthuli’s grandson, expressed that the unresolved matter remained a sore point for the family.

Reopening of inquest into Chief Albert Luthuli’s death welcomed

Sandile emphasised, “It’s for the correction of the historical record and that will hopefully, debunk the myth around the existence of some mysterious train accident and to unravel the historical conundrum about one of the country’s revered leaders.”

The Justice Department previously mentioned that the National Prosecuting Authority was collaborating with experts to reconstruct the crime scene. Sandile asserted that the family supported the investigative approach taken.

He states, “Yes it has been 57 years since he passed away but there are ways and means in which these events can be pieced together, and I believe the NPA has taken the scientific approach to investigating this matter. A significant element is that my grandfather has two surviving daughters who would be the two key persons, who can offer a perspective from the family background.”

In addition to Luthuli’s case, the NPA is investigating the murder of prominent Durban human rights lawyer, Mlungisi Griffiths Mxenge. Mxenge was brutally stabbed over 40 times, with his body discovered on a sports field in Umlazi south of Durban on November 19, 1981.

An initial inquest into his death failed to identify the culprits, but subsequent inquiries revealed that orders to kill Mxenge came from self-confessed Vlakplaas commander Dirk Coetzee.

Coetzee and his associates Almond Nofomela and David Tshikalanga were granted amnesty for Mxenge’s murder. However, the Justice Ministry highlighted new evidence indicating that critical information was omitted from the Truth and Reconciliation Commission and the initial inquest.

Story by: Reneé Heine