Chief Luthuli’s foot­steps re­traced

Vuk'uzenzele - - Sport, Arts Culture - Hlengiwe Ngob­ese

A her­ItAGe walk in the hometown of strug­gle icon Al­bert Luthuli not only com­mem­o­rated his death 50 years ago, but high­lighted the rich his­tory of Groutville.

over 500 peo­ple from KwaZulu-Natal and other provinces de­scended in Groutville in the north of the province for the sec­ond an­nual Chief Al­bert Luthuli Legacy Walk and Half Marathon to com­mem­o­rate the icon and trace his fi­nal steps.

In this year’s walk, three gen­er­a­tions of Al­bert Luthuli’s fam­ily walked along­side hun­dreds of ath­letes, in­dus­try lead­ers and the gen­eral pub­lic. The event fol­lowed a week long com­mem­o­ra­tion of the 50th an­niver­sary of Luthuli’s un­timely death.

The route closely fol­lowed the fi­nal path Luthuli took be­fore he was al­legedly struck by a train on the rail­way bridge in Groutville on 21 July 1967.

Cre­at­ing a beau­ti­ful am­bi­ence

His daugh­ter Thandi Luthuli Gcabashe led a group of par­tic­i­pants that in­cluded the grand­chil­dren and great grand­chil­dren of Africa’s first No­bel Peace Lau­re­ate.

“I ad­mired the happy, jolly spirit ev­ery­one ex­hib­ited to cre­ate a beau­ti­ful Luthuli am­bi­ence. We were lucky to have him as a fa­ther. Spe­cial thanks to Zakhele Gumede, the orig­i­na­tor of the walk and half marathon, and all those in­volved. We look for­ward to grow­ing the num­ber of par­tic­i­pants in the years to come,” she said

An­other high­light of the walk was Pres­i­dent Ja­cob Zuma’s un­veil­ing of a new me­mo­rial stone at the grave of Luthuli and his wife at Groutville’s United Con­gre­ga­tional Church.

Grow­ing the event

Eco­nomic De­vel­op­ment, Tourism and En­vi­ron­men­tal Af­fairs MEC Sihle Zikalala pledged his depart­ment’s sup­port for the walk and half marathon in fu­ture. He said he hoped this would help it grow into a ma­jor sports and com­mu­nity event for the province. He de­scribed Luthuli as a lib­er­a­tion strug­gle gi­ant who was recog­nised in­ter­na­tion­ally for his ef­forts to end racial seg­re­ga­tion in South Africa.

The com­mem­o­ra­tive walk and half marathon event was ini­ti­ated last year by Groutville com­mu­nity mem­ber Zakhele Gumede and en­joys the sup­port of the Ilembe District Mu­nic­i­pal­ity, the KwaDukuza Mu­nic­i­pal­ity, En­ter­prise iLembe and the Luthuli Mu­seum. Transnet was also a pri­mary spon­sor this year.

KwaDukuza Mayor Ri­cardo Mthembu said: “This day is very im­por­tant to us as peo­ple of KwaDukuza be­cause as you know, Chief Al­bert Luthuli was a uni­fier.”

A rich legacy

Par­tic­i­pants in the 11.5 km walk and 21 km half marathon were able to ex­pe­ri­ence sev­eral iconic sites that con­trib­ute to the pro­lific his­tory of the area. These in­cluded the Ma­hatma Gandhi me­mo­rial and statue of Chief Luthuli on Chief Al­bert Luthuli Street, the King Shaka Vis­i­tor’s Cen­tre which houses Shaka’s grave, the Ob­ser­va­tion Rock upon which King Shaka used to sit and watch his impis – ac­cord­ing to Zulu his­tory, the soc­cer field where then New York se­na­tor Robert F Kennedy’s he­li­copter landed when he vis­ited Chief Luthuli in 1966, the rail­way bridge where he was killed, his me­mo­rial site nearby and his fi­nal rest­ing place at the Groutville United Con­gre­ga­tional Church grave­yard. “In KwaDukuza we have a rich legacy and we hope these events will help us use our her­itage to build a tourism econ­omy,” said Gumede. All pro­ceeds from the event will go to­wards the Groutville In­tuthuko Yethu NPO formed by the Groutville com­mu­nity.

One of the event par­tic­i­pants, No­ma­lun­gelo Shoba, en­cour­ages youth to take part in fu­ture legacy walks to ex­pe­ri­ence the many iconic sites that con­trib­ute to the pro­lific his­tory of the area.

Hun­dreds of peo­ple gather for the Chief Al­bert Luthuli Legacy Walk and Half Marathon.

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