Luthuli was exemplary

Mhlaba Memela

Mhlaba Memela

President Thabo Mbeki steered away from the ANC's controversial succession debate by urging today leaders to emulate the late party's president, Albert Luthuli.

Mbeki was addressing masses gathered at KwaDukuza Stadium in KwaZulu-Natal, to commemorate the 40th anniversary of Luthuli's death.

He said Luthuli was a true leader of the ANC and one of the people who "steadfastly fought against all forms of factionalism in the organisation".

Mbeki spoke about cliques or pressure groups that existed in the party against Luthuli when Jordan Ngubane defected from the ANC and bad-mouthed the party president.

"If there are cliques or pressure groups in the congress, I am not associated with any, " Mbeki said.

He said because people had put them in a position of power, they needed to be exemplary and patriotic.

"We should respect the teaching that we must never allow ourselves to be slaves of personal material wealth; that we must refuse to succumb to the practice of accumulating personal riches by any means - including by foul means .

"That we must dedicate ourselves to the task of faithfully serving the people.

"And always remain loyal to the teachings of the African philosophy of ubuntu," he said.

Mbeki said people should continue to uphold the humane values that defined Luthuli's life and his leadership, "knowing we are living out ideals that will never perish because of their moral force".

"At the very height of racist bigotry, Inkosi Luthuli sustained the long, tried and tested tradition of his predecessors in the ANC, championing forgiveness, advocating non-racialism, non-sexisism, equality and justice for all.

"All of us South Africans, black and white, rural and urban, men and women, young and old, have an obligation to honour Luthuli by acting in a manner true to his legacy, using his teachings to inform what we do in our daily lives," he said.

Thandeka Gcabashe, Luthuli's daughter, said she was very proud that the role of her father in the society had left a legacy.

"He died 40 years ago, but his spirit still lives with us. We were lucky because even in his busy schedule he was able to have time to spend with his children," she said.

Gcabashe described her father as man who commanded respect among the people, as well as among revolutionary and traditional leaders.

In a separate incident related to the succession battle, businessman Tokyo Sexwale has taken exception to President Thabo Mbeki's statement that it is not ANC policy for people to avail themselves for nominations for the party leadership.

"It's a view, there is no policy. The president is expressing an opinion. He believes that certain traditions should be observed," he told the Northern Cape's ANC fund-raising banquet in Kimberley.

"It's not a new thing in the ANC that people are being asked to stand for leadership positions." Sexwale said the president had a right to his personal views. "The good thing is that it's a lively debate." - Sapa