THE recently refurbished Ballito Civic Center in Leonora Drive is the first public building in the region to be named in honour of a woman.
The newly renamed Nokukhanya Luthuli House was officially opened KwaDukuza mayor Ricardo Mthembu, deputy mayor Dolly Govendor, officials from the KwaDukuza Municipality, representatives from the Luthuli Museum Council and members of the Luthuli family.
Wife of the late ANC president Chief Albert Luthuli, the first African to be awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1960 for advocating non-violent resistance to racial discrimination, Nokukhanya Luthuli’s life was dedicated to the service of others.
Paying tribute to his late grandmother’s legacy, Mthunzi Luthuli recalls: “She was indeed more than just our grandmother but our mother too as she raised us grandchildren.
I believe one of the greatest gifts my grandmother gave us was instilling on us a strong work ethic from an early age. The lessons in diligence and her demand for excellence have been invaluable to me as a professional today,” Luthuli said.
Born in 1904, Nokukhanya began her schooling at the Ohlange Institute in Inanda in 1913. She went on to do a two-year teachers training course at Adams College, Amanzimtoti, where she later studied further for her higher teacher’s diploma.
Nokukhanye gave up her teaching career after her marriage to Albert Luthuli to help look after his ailing mother.
An accomplished agriculturist who farmed sugar cane, she grew her own produce that supplemented the family’s income and fed the impoverished families in the community. The mother of seven also set up a post office at her home in Groutville for the local residents.
She rallied the women of Groutville and led a movement for the establishment of a local clinic. Her dedication to gender equality resulted in her leading a delegation of woman to the Zulu King to complain about the extension of passes to women.
She was a founding member of the Groutville branch of ‘Daughters of Africa’, which was the forerunner to the ANC Women’s League.
There was a bottomless reservoir of anecdotes about Nokukhanya’s work ethic, her selfless contributions to her family and community, her humility and her unwavering value system.
KwaDukuza Mayor Ricardo Mthembu said the municipality was honoured to celebrate the life of this influential woman and stalwart of the democratic struggle.
“I really feel we need these historic, strong women who changed the country to be recalled to current memory, so that we can inspire the young women and girls growing up now, reinforce on them that they can have a big impact on our country,”Mthembu said.
Nokukhanya passed away in 1996 at the age of 92. Speaking at her funeral, the late President Nelson Mandela paid tribute to her devoted spirit and her contribution to South Africa’s freedom and justice. In a moving speech Mandela described her as an activist and a leader who had dedicated her life to the betterment of others.
Nokukhanya was laid to rest at the Congregational Church in Groutville beside her late husband, Chief Albert Luthuli.