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Inquests into apartheid-era deaths of Chief Albert Luthuli, Griffiths Mxenge and Booi Mantyi to be reopened – Lamola

Inquests into apartheid-era deaths of Chief Albert Luthuli, Griffiths Mxenge and Booi Mantyi to be reopened – Lamola
Justice Minister Ronald Lamola. (Photo: Flickr / Dirco)

Justice Minister Ronald Lamola has announced the inquest into the death of former ANC president and Nobel Peace Prize laureate Chief Albert Luthuli will be reopened — 57 years after his death.

Justice Minister Ronald Lamola, acting on the recommendation of the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA), has decided to reopen inquests into the apartheid-era deaths of Chief Albert Luthuli, Griffiths Mxenge and Booi Mantyi.

“With these inquests, we open very real wounds which are more difficult to open 30 years into our democracy, but nonetheless, the interest of justice can never be bound by time; the truth must prevail,” Lamola said on Tuesday night.  

Luthuli, a renowned anti-apartheid activist and Nobel Peace Prize laureate, died on 21 July 1967. The official report stated that he was hit by a train near Gledthrow station, Groutville, KwaZulu-Natal. 

Read in Daily Maverick: The ANC’s fall from grace in icon Albert Luthuli’s KZN home town of Groutville

He was Africa’s first Nobel laureate, in 1960, and was president-general of the African National Congress (ANC) from December 1952 until his death. 

Chief Albert Luthuli poses for a photograph with his wife Nokukhanya, daughter Albertinah and grandson Motsumi, October 1961. (Photo: Luthuli Museum Family Collection)

In September 1967, an inquest held by the apartheid regime at the Magistrates’ Court in Stanger, in the district of Lower Tugela, found the evidence “did not disclose any criminal culpability on the part of the South African Railways and anyone else”.

Representations made to the National Director of Public Prosecutions brought to the fore that in 1967 the inquest did not consider certain “mathematical and scientific principles”, according to Department of Justice (DoJ) spokesperson Chrispin Phiri. He added that this mathematical and scientific report revealed it was highly unlikely that Luthuli was struck by a train and died because of that. 

Phiri said, that considering this information and the investigation done by the Truth and Reconciliation Unit of the Directorate for Priority Crime Investigation, Lamola accepted and agreed that it was in the interests of justice to approach the Judge President of the KwaZulu-Natal Division of the High Court to reopen the inquest into Luthuli’s death. 

The NPA was investigating whether to reopen an inquest into Luthuli’s death as far back as January 2022, News24 reported. It was also looking into reopening an inquest into the death of anti-apartheid activist Imam Abdullah Haron, who died in detention. Lamola subsequently asked the Western Cape Judge President to designate a judge to reopen the inquest into Haron’s death in May 2023. 

Read more in Daily Maverick: Reopened Imam Haron inquest provides dignified but inadequate version of delayed apartheid justice

On 19 November 1981, between 19:30 to 20:00, Griffiths Mxenge was assassinated and his body was severely mutilated in an act of barbaric brutality. (Photo: X)

Griffiths Mxenge and Booi Mantyi

On Tuesday, Lamola also announced the inquests into the deaths of anti-apartheid activists and UDF and ANC member Mxenge and civic leader Mantyi would be reopened. 

Mxenge was found dead on a sports field in Umlazi, KwaZulu-Natal on 19 November 1981. 

“In the wake of his death, an inquest in 1983, conducted under the apartheid regime, failed to identify the perpetrators, despite clear signs of foul play — including evidence of surveillance on Mxenge’s office and the poisoning of his dogs,” Phiri said. 

He said “a thorough investigation was not done” into Mxenge’s death. 

The Harms Commission and the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) later revealed that orders to kill Mxenge came from Vlakplaas — the covert apartheid police unit headed by Dirk Coetzee. Coetzee and his accomplices were granted amnesty for Mxenge’s murder. 

“There is new evidence that certain critical information was not presented to the TRC and the initial inquest — although the perpetrators were clearly identified. Minister Lamola accepts that it is necessary and in the interest of justice to approach the Judge President of the High Court of South Africa in the KwaZulu-Natal Division to reopen the inquest into the death of Mxenge,” Phiri said. 

Read more in Daily Maverick: NPA’s apartheid case shame: State prosecutors have ‘failed’ to investigate crimes exposed by the TRC

Mantyi was killed in an alleged altercation with members of the South African Police on 16 June 1985 in the Northern Cape. 

“A formal inquest held in De Aar in 1985 ruled that no one was responsible for [Mantyi’s] death. A new investigation has revealed that an eyewitness who has not previously testified has been identified,” Phiri said. 

Again, Lamola is of the opinion that it is in the interests of justice to request the Judge President of the Northern Cape Division of the High Court to reopen the inquest into Mantyi’s death. DM

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Comments - Please in order to comment.

  • Soil Merchant says:

    This is a fantastic development, however I do question the timing of the announcement.

  • M E says:

    What will this yield,except more tax payer funded lies? I would love for the families to find peace, but 40+ years have passed in these cases. Going on the word of 1 eye witness after such a long time is highly dangerous as memories contort and gets confused over time. Dangerous game the ANC is playing as they could potentially find scapegoats just to buy face.

  • Random Comment says:

    Let us all be perfectly clear, this is ANC Electioneering using taxpayer funds.

  • Pieter van de Venter says:

    Maybe Luthuli has not found peace and is the reason for the collapse of the ANC – he is walking the corridors of Shell House (sorry donated to become LootHuli house).

  • Alan Watkins says:

    This should have been done 30 years ago. Yes when the ANC came into power. And the recommendations of the TRC should have been implemented at its conclusion. If there was anything there it shoudl have been investigated and prosecuted long long ago. But the ANC chose to do neither because they were hiding skeletons that would have been exposed by such investigations . Nothing has been done by the ANC for 30 years. So why now? The ANC is trying to rekindle anti aprtheid feelings from 30 even 40 years ago ahead of the election to distract from their inaction, criminality and mismanagement in recent years.

  • A B says:

    The ANC was also found guilty of crimes against humanity by the TRC and the UN. When will those victims get justice?

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