Award ceremony speech


Presentation Speech by Gunnar Jahn*, Chairman of the Nobel Committee

This year the Nobel Committee of the Norwegian Parliament has awarded two Peace Prizes. The prize for 1960 goes to Albert John Lutuli, and the prize for 1961 is awarded posthumously to Dag Hammarskjöld.

In many respects these two recipients differ widely. Albert John Lutuli’s life and work have been molded by the pattern of the African tribal community and by the influence of Christianity, while Dag Hammarskjöld’s were a product of Western culture. Lutuli’s activities have been, and are, confined to his own country, while Dag Hammarskjöld worked in the international sphere. Yet despite these differences, they had one thing in common: both fought to implant the idea of justice in the individual, in the nation, and among the nations; or we might put it like this: they fought for the ideals expressed in the declaration of human rights embodied in the Charter of the United Nations.

Albert John Lutuli was born in 1898. He comes from a long line of Zulu chiefs, but he was influenced by Christianity in his school days and in his later education, first in the American mission school he attended and afterwards during his training as a teacher. After passing his examination at Adams College in Natal, he became a faculty member of the college, where he taught, among other subjects, the history of the Zulu people. During his seventeen years as a teacher, he took no part in the political life of South Africa.

In 1935 a great change took place in Lutuli’s life when he was called to assume the functions of tribal chief. The choice of a chief must be approved by the state, which pays his salary. It was on the basis of this authority that the government was able to remove him in 1952. His seventeen years as a chief brought him daily contact with the individual members of the tribal community, as well as an active part in the work of the Christian church in South Africa, in India, and in the United States.

Both as a teacher and later as a chief, Lutuli did outstanding work. He took his duties as chief very seriously and in doing so won the affection of his tribe. He endeavored to blend its ancient culture with the precepts of Christianity and to promote its economic welfare in various ways – for example, by introducing new methods of sugar production.

Describing this period of his life, he tells us: “Previous to being a chief I was a school teacher for about seventeen years. In these past thirty years or so, I have striven with tremendous zeal and patience to work for the progress and welfare of my people and for their harmonious relations with other sections of our multiracial society in the Union of South Africa. In this effort I always pursued the path of moderation. Over this great length of time I have, year after year, gladly spent hours of my time with such organizations as the church and its various agencies, such as the Christian Council of South Africa, the Joint Council of Europeans and Africans, and the now defunct Native Representative Council.”1

But it was neither as a teacher, nor as a chief, nor as an active member of various Christian organizations that he took a focal position in what was to be his great effort in the post war years.

The forces that induced Albert John Lutuli to abandon his tranquil educational activities and enter politics were unleashed by the increasing pressure which the ruling white race exerted on members of other races in South Africa. In 1944 he became a member of the African National Congress, an organization founded in 1912. In 1952 he was elected its president, an office he held until the Congress was banned in 1960. It is first and foremost for the work he carried on during these years – from the 1940s to the present – that we honor him today.

To get some idea of Lutuli’s achievements, we must know something of the society in which he worked. The white population of South Africa settled there in the latter half of the seventeenth century. The first settlers were French Huguenots, followed later by Dutch farmers. They cleared the land, and their descendants – the Boers – have lived there ever since. They look upon the country as their fatherland; they have no other. The English settlers, who arrived on the scene at the end of the eighteenth century, maintained close contact with their mother country.

The first natives whom the Dutch pioneers met were Hottentots and Bushmen. The Hottentots have now virtually disappeared as a separate racial entity; but through intermarriage with European and other races they have contributed in large measure to the racial characteristics of those so-called “the colored people”.

When the Boers moved into the interior, they encountered other native tribes, among them the Zulus, whom they fought and conquered. These tribes constitute the largest part of the population of South Africa today. In the course of time other racial elements were added: the Dutch imported a number of Malays from the East Indies as slaves, while the British introduced Indian labor to the sugar plantations. In the nineteenth century two communities took shape: the Boer republics of Transvaal2 and the Orange Free State, and the British colony of South Africa, both ruled by whites. At the turn of the century these two communities fought the Boer War of 1899-1902, from which Britain finally emerged victorious. The ultimate result was that the Union of South Africa was set up as an independent British Dominion in 1901. At that time the outside world heard little about relations between whites and nonwhites.

During the fifty years that have since elapsed, South Africa, in common with so many other countries, has developed from an agricultural community into one in which mining, industry, trade, and other such operations now predominate. As in other such countries, the urban population has increased rapidly.

The present-day population of South Africa is some 14.7 million, of whom only some 3.3 million are white. Of the remainder, 9.6 million are Africans, some 0.4 million Asian (mainly Indians) and 1.4 million of mixed race (the so-called colored people). Of the 9.6 million Africans, some 3.3 million live in the agricultural districts of the whites, a large proportion of them as agricultural workers on white farms; 3.7 million live in the African reservations; and 2.6 million live in the towns.

Although some of these figures are only approximate, they still present a picture of a community whose economy and therefore future are dependent on cooperation between all races. The figures testify to the fact that people of all races have helped to build this community. The whites could never have done it alone. This is an incontestable fact. But what is the position of the nonwhite population?

In this community, nonwhites are denied all right to participate in the government of the state. They are discriminated against legally, economically, and socially. And this discrimination between whites and nonwhites has grown steadily during the postwar years. The aim of those now ruling the country is to draw a line between the two communities – between whites and nonwhites – despite the fact that the march of events has clearly shown that the whole community has been developed by the efforts of all races. I cannot here go into the network of laws and regulations passed in order to maintain the barrier between whites and nonwhites. The purpose of these laws is to restrict and regulate every facet of the life of the nonwhite. He has no vote, he has no part in determining his own status; under the pass system, he is deprived not only of the right to live where he likes but also of the right to choose his employer; he has virtually no redress against police tyranny; he is not entitled to the same schooling or education as the white; and any sexual relation between white and nonwhite entails punishment for both parties. An African Christian is frequently not allowed to worship God under the same roof as a white Christian. In short, nonwhites are treated as a subject race.

Is it surprising then that the nonwhites have protested against such treatment? What is surprising is that the protest has not been accompanied by acts of violence on their part. Their patience is remarkable, their moral strength in the struggle boundless.

It was the discrimination between white and nonwhite that prompted nonwhite Africans in 1912 to establish the African National Congress. Its founders were nonwhite Africans who had obtained a higher education, either abroad or at home, in the days when they still had the opportunity to do so. At first the African National Congress tried to influence political development by means of petitions and deputations to the authorities, but when the attempt proved fruitless and new laws restricting the rights of nonwhites were passed, the African National Congress adopted a more active line, especially after 1949. It was in the mid-1940s that Lutuli began to participate in this work of the African National Congress, of which he became a member in 1944. He was elected to the Committee of the Natal Section in 1945 and in 1951 became president of the Natal Section. In December, 1952, he was elected president of the entire African National Congress, a position he retained until the organization was banned by the government in 1960.

It was during these transitional years of adopting stronger action, based on boycotts, defiance campaigns, and strikes, that Lutuli came to influence so profoundly the African National Congress. He says himself that the Congress never passed any specific resolution to the effect that its struggle was to be pursued by nonviolent means. Actually, however, it has been waged with peaceful means, a policy at all times supported by the Congress administration. Lutuli himself has always been categorically opposed to the use of violence. Within the organization he has had to overcome opposition from two different quarters: from the older members, who supported the more passive approach, and from those members – mainly the younger ones – who wanted to make South Africa an entirely nonwhite state.

As a result of Lutuli’s participation in the more active struggle of the African National Congress, the government presented him with an ultimatum: he must either renounce his position as a chief or give up his seat in the Congress. He refused to comply with either of these alternatives and was immediately deposed as chief, whereupon he issued his significant declaration entitled “The Chief Speaks”, which concludes with the words: “The Road to Freedom is via the Cross.” In his declaration, he says:

“What have been the fruits of my many years of moderation? Has there been any reciprocal tolerance or moderation from the Government, be it Nationalist or United Party? No! On the contrary, the past thirty years have seen the greatest number of Laws restricting our rights and progress until today we have reached a stage where we have almost no rights at all: no adequate land for our occupation, our only asset, cattle, dwindling, no security of homes, no decent and remunerative employment, more restrictions to freedom of movement through passes, curfew regulations, influx control measures; in short, we have witnessed in these years an intensification of our subjection to ensure and protect white supremacy.

It is with this background and with a full sense of responsibility that, under the auspices of the African National Congress (Natal), I have joined my people in the new spirit that moves them today, the spirit that revolts openly and boldly against injustice and expresses itself in a determined and nonviolent manner…

The African National Congress, its nonviolent Passive Resistance Campaign, may be of nuisance value to the Government, but it is not subversive since it does not seek to overthrow the form and machinery of the State but only urges for the inclusion of all sections of the community in a partnership in the Government of the country on the basis of equality.

Laws and conditions that tend to debase human personality – a God-given force – be they brought about by the State or other individuals, must be relentlessly opposed in the spirit of defiance shown by St. Peter when he said to the rulers of his day: Shall we obey God or man? No one can deny that insofar as nonwhites are concerned in the Union of South Africa, laws and conditions that debase human personality abound. Any chief worthy of his position must fight fearlessly against such debasing conditions and laws…

It is inevitable that in working for Freedom some individuals and some families must take the lead and suffer: the Road to Freedom Is via the Cross.”

In 1952, after he had been dismissed from his position as chief and had been elected president of the African National Congress, he was forbidden to leave his home district for two years.3 In 1954 he went to Johannesburg to address a meeting which had been called to protest the forced evacuation of colored people from Sophiatown to Meadowsland. He was refused permission to speak and was banned for another period of two years from leaving his home district.

In 1956, together with 155 other persons, he was arrested and charged with high treason. In 1957 the charge against him and sixty-four others was withdrawn; the rest were all acquitted in 1961. In 1959 Lutuli took part in several mass meetings, but was again subjected to a travel ban, this time for a period of five years. In 1960 there was a large mass demonstration against the pass regulations which led to the events in Sharpeville, where police fired on the crowd, killing and wounding many. A state of emergency was declared and wholesale arrests were made. Lutuli, who had been summoned as a witness in the treason trial, which had dragged on ever since 1956, was among those arrested but was allowed to give evidence in the trial.

During the last year, he has lived at home, debarred from leaving his village and from taking part in any meetings. Moreover, he is now no longer president of the African National Congress, for this organization – as already mentioned – was dissolved by order of the government in April, 1960.

He now lives in his village, deprived of freedom of movement and of the right to speak in open debate, but he still maintains his avowed policy, expressing his views in articles published in the newspaper Post.4 Just before the travel ban was imposed on him in December, 1919 – the year before the Union of South Africa was to celebrate the fiftieth anniversary of its foundation – he wrote a long article entitled “Fifty Years of Union – A Political Review,” which he sent to the South Africa Institute of Race Relations.5 This presents, as far as I know, the clearest and the most complete statement of his position concerning the policy pursued by the government of South Africa.

In this article, his attack on the policies of the South African government is stronger and more detailed than before. This discussion and attack on the policy of apartheid and its plan that the nonwhite community should develop along its own lines is new. He asks: Who has drawn the lines? The answer is: Not those who are to follow them, the nonwhites, but the whites in power. The nonwhites have no rights. There is therefore no reason, he says, for them to rejoice or to participate in the Fiftieth Anniversary celebration. The only thing for the nonwhites to do is to work, each and everyone, with courage and patience, to achieve freedom and democracy for all.

Since he wrote this, South Africa has become a republic and is no longer a member of the British Commonwealth. But this has not improved relations between whites and nonwhites, nor has it altered Lutuli’s attitude in any way. He gives a most concise expression of the view he has always maintained in a letter to Prime Minister Striddom6, in which he says:

“We believe in a community where the white and the nonwhite in South Africa can live in harmony and work for our common fatherland, sharing equally the good things of life which our country can give us in abundance.

We believe in the brotherhood of peoples and in respect for the value of the individual. My congress has never given expression to hatred for any race in South Africa.”

Time and again he has reiterated this, right up to the very present.

His activity has been characterized by a firm and unswerving approach. Never has he succumbed to the temptation to use violent means in the struggle for his people. Nothing has shaken him from this firm resolve, so firmly rooted is his conviction that violence and terror must not be employed. Nor has he ever felt or incited hatred of the white man.

Albert John Lutuli’s fight has been waged within the borders of his own country; but the issues raised go far beyond them. He brings a message to all who work and strive to establish respect for human rights both within nations and between nations.

Well might we ask: will the nonwhites of South Africa, by their suffering, their humiliation, and their patience, show the other nations of the world that human rights can be won without violence, by following a road to which we Europeans are committed both intellectually and emotionally, but which we have all too often abandoned?

If the nonwhite people of South Africa ever lift themselves from their humiliation without resorting to violence and terror, then it will be above all because of the work of Lutuli, their fearless and incorruptible leader who, thanks to his own high ethical standards, has rallied his people in support of this policy, and who throughout his adult life has staked everything and suffered everything without bitterness and without allowing hatred and aggression to replace his abiding love of his fellowmen.

But if the day should come when the struggle of the nonwhites in South Africa to win their freedom degenerates into bloody slaughter, then Lutuli’s voice will be heard no more. But let us remember him then and never forget that his way was unwavering and clear. He would not have had it so.

Let us all rise in silent and respectful tribute to Albert John Lutuli.

* Mr. Jahn delivered this speech on December 10, 1961, in the auditorium of the University of Oslo. At its conclusion he presented the Peace Prize for 1960 (reserved in that year) to Mr. Lutuli, who accepted in a brief speech. The English translation of Mr. Jahn’s speech is, with certain editorial changes and emendations made after collation with the Norwegian text, that is carried in Les Prix Nobel en 1960, which also includes the original Norwegian text.

1. Lutuli, The Road to Freedom is via the Cross (statement made in November, 1952, after his dismissal as chief), in Let My People Go, p. 235.

2. Transvaal was set up as a veer state in 1837; recognized by the British in 1852; organized as the South African Republic in 1886; annexed by the British in 1877; and restored to independence in 1881 under British suzerainty. The Orange Free state, settled by the Boers 1835-1848, was created a free republic in 1854. After the Boer War, both became British crown colonies, with the promise of eventual self-government, which they attained 1905-1907; and both became part of the union of South Africa when it was organized in 1910.

3. Actually, he was banned from the larger centers of the Union and from all public gatherings, but was not restricted to one area.

4. Perhaps a reference to the Golden City Post of Johannesburg.

5. The rest of this paragraph and the four paragraphs that follow it are ommited in the English translation in Les Prix Nobel en 1961

6. Johannes Gerhardus Striddom (1893-1958), Nationalist Party leader; Prime Minister of the Union of South Africa (1954-1988); advocate of apartheid and of the Union’s withdrawal from the British Commonwealth.

From Nobel Lectures, Peace 1951-1970, Editor Frederick W. Haberman, Elsevier Publishing Company, Amsterdam, 1972

Copyright © The Nobel Foundation 1960

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