Citizen Reporter
Reporter
3 minute read
11 Jan 2022
2:09 pm

NPA still probing whether to open inquest into Chief Albert Luthuli’s death

Citizen Reporter

Luthuli died in 1967 after he was hit by a freight train as he walked on the trestle bridge over the Umvoti River near his home in KwaZulu-Natal.

Chief Albert John Mvubi Luthuli; former president of the ANC and the first African Nobel Peace Prize Winner. Picture: Gallo Images/Sowetan

Prosecutors from the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) are still investigating whether to reopen an inquest into the death of ANC leader and Nobel peace prize laureate, Chief Albert Luthuli.

This was revealed by Justice and Correctional Services Minister Ronald Lamola in a written parliamentary response to a question posed by Al Jamah-ah MP Ganief Hendricks, who wanted to know what hindered his department from reopening inquests into the deaths of Imam Abdullah Haron and Luthuli.

According to the official version, Luthuli died in 1967 after he was hit by a freight train as he walked on the trestle bridge over the Umvoti River near his home in KwaZulu-Natal.

Haron was an anti-apartheid activist in Cape Town in the 1960s and died in a police cell in 1969 after 123 days of solitary confinement and daily interrogations by the Security Branch. He allegedly fell down some stairs.

The circumstances behind both men’s deaths and the official version by apartheid police have been challenged by their families, who have called for justice and the reopening of inquests into their deaths.

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Lamola, in his response to Hendricks, said a “thorough investigation is still underway” for the NPA to determine whether to open the inquest into Luthuli’s death.

The minister said “extensive progress” had been made on the case, and the information obtained would enable prosecutors to make an informed decision on how to proceed further.

“The family was consulted and witness statements were obtained. Moreover, for the past four months, the prosecutors dealing with this matter have been waiting for the procurement of an expert to reconstruct the crime scene for the purposes of determining whether or not there are prospects of reopening the inquest into the death of Chief Albert Luthuli,” Lamola said.

With regards to the investigation into the death of Haron, Lamola said the investigation was incomplete due to challenges posed by the passing on of witnesses over the years, the age of the records, documents and evidence tendered in the initial inquests.

But the minister said in the last three months there had been considerable progress in the case due to additional reports and statements that were furnished to prosecutors and investigators.

“Several engagements have been held with members of the concerned family, and we have committed to a clear line of communication with stakeholders and participants in order to facilitate this process. There are ongoing consultations with witnesses and an expert witness on the matter.”

Lamola did not mention any timeframes for prosecutors to conclude their probes in the cases.

With the NPA coming under increasing pressure from South Africans to prosecute the perpetrators of apartheid crimes, the prosecuting authority last year in June set up a specialist unit to deal with cases involving apartheid-era atrocities.

The NPA and the Hawks are working together on the cases, with at least 34 skilled former police officials assigned to these cases.

Compiled by Thapelo Lekabe

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