Zuma quoted Luthuli extensively throughout his speech, at one point saying that when the 1960 Nobel Peace Prize laureate was asked during the treason trial why he worked with communists when he was a nationalist and a businessman, Luthuli replied that “communists were trustworthy, honest and committed to doing the work to liberate our people”.
“Of course we had communists of a different type at the time. Real communists, who understood communism and were fighting for socialism.Who had worked hard to create a relationship between the ANC and communists,” Zuma said.
The ANC leader has been heavily criticised by the current SACP leadership who have made numerous calls for him to step down.
The president’s relationship with the Gupta family and his decision to fire former finance minister Pravin Gordhan and his deputy, Mcebisi Jonas, have also been questioned by SACP leaders.
Further to the ailing Tripartite Alliance with the ANC, the communist party recently announced that it had contemplated contesting elections.
But Zuma, who spoke richly of Luthuli, pointed out that unlike today, communists of that time understood the importance of the relationship with the ANC and how that link would help them on their route so socialism.
“Those comrades understood the struggle sufficiently, they never said a word against the ANC. They were not careless.
“I believe the ones we have now don’t understand their task,” he said.
Zuma added that Luthuli was a leader who united the communists and the ANC, and led in harmony.
He criticised those who complained about the current ANC being different to that of the party led by late former president Nelson Mandela, saying the organisation was simply adapting to new conditions.
“Some people, when they see the happenings in the ANC, they think it’s the first time.Those are people who don’t know the ANC, they think the ANC belongs to individuals,” Zuma said.
He said Luthuli, who died after being struck by a train in 1967, was one of the most illustrious sons of Africa.
Zuma called on all South Africans to emulate Luthuli’s values of respect, selflessness and accountability.
“He left behind a legacy of peace, non-racialism, anti-racism and the quest for freedom, justice and a better life for all,” said Zuma.
Weekend Argus Saturday