On July 21 next year, it will be 50 years since South Africa’s first Nobel Peace Prize winner, Albert Luthuli, lost his life in an incident, which has been shrouded in suspicion and mystery for half a century.
As the 50th anniversary of Albert Luthuli’s death looms, it's an opportune time to campaign for a fresh investigation into his death, writes Dennis Pather.

It was a bright morning, by all accounts, as a goods train shunted along the tracks near the town of Groutville on the KwaZulu-Natal North Coast.

All seemed normal until a sudden loud bang jarred the air and an old man walking along the track was struck by the juggernaut.

The driver brought the train to a halt a short distance away, but it was too late. The man died a few hours later in Stanger Hospital.

On July 21 next year, it will be 50 years since South Africa’s first Nobel Peace Prize winner, Albert Luthuli, lost his life in this incident, which has been shrouded in suspicion and mystery for half a century.

Was he an unfortunate victim of his own frailties, as his apartheid tormentors would have us believe? Or was he pushed because, as president of the ANC at the time, he had become a nuisance to the despised regime?

For their part, the apartheid authorities went about trying to satisfy all the legal requirements - like conducting a post-mortem, issuing a death certificate and conducting an official inquest.

But the inquest was hardly a painstaking search for the truth, more an attempt by the authorities to shift blame away from themselves and their employees. What made matters more difficult was the apparent absence of witnesses.

I was reminded of this after bumping into an old Dukuza friend, Harold Samuel, the other day. And in that conversation, he passed on a gem of information that could shed new light on the mystery.

It was by accident that Samuel got to hear about Mrs LR Bonga, who was apparently the last person to have spoken to Luthuli that morning. Bonga had come to see attorney Paul David years later on a legal matter when she began recounting her recollections of the morning. She was a young girl on holiday.

Bonga told David: “We walked with him towards the Mvoti River bridge on the slabs that secured the rail to the sleepers, with Luthuli in the middle. Before we were halfway on the bridge, he stopped and asked us to go back as he was going to the cane fields across the river.

"I suddenly heard a bang. This must have been about 10m away He was down on the ground There was a white man next to him.”

What puzzled Samuel was the “white man”. Why was this man not called to give evidence?

As the 50th anniversary of Luthuli’s death looms, it's an opportune time for political and civic leaders to campaign for a fresh investigation into his death.

The Sunday Independent