Sunday, 22 June 2008

Eulogy for Andrew Lukele

In February 2008 my brother, friend, teacher and colleague Andrew Lukele passed away. This is the eulogy that I wrote for his funeral.

The first time I met Andrew was in 1951 after I had just been expelled from Khaiso Secondary School in Pietersburg, now Polokwane, for political reasons. I had then joined the Western Native High School in Newclare. Our meeting was promoted by the late Lawrence Mayisela whose brother Ethan had just finished a B.Com degree at Witwatersrand University. Although my political views were still less than clear Lawrence Mayisela, who was completing his Matric at Western High, thought I should meet his brother Ethan who could clarify some of the ideas I was tossing about. It was after I met Ethan, who was a marvellous teacher and a good human being, that he introduced me to Andrew who was reading Economics at Wits. My political engagement from then on was undertaken together with Andrew, Ethan and Lawrence as well as others.

It was the heady times of the Youth Movement in the All African Convention, the organisation to which Ethan and Andrew already belonged. This organisation was in the process of launching a Youth Section called the Society of Young Africa (SOYA). Together with them I was at the launching of SOYA of the Unity Movement.

Andrew and myself were together in all our political involvements. Apart from the political group meetings which we had preparatory to public meetings in Alexandra Township and elsewhere, we had meetings every Saturday in what was called the Progressive Forum – a Forum which was non-racial and politically very advanced in many fields of study informed as it was by Trotskyism. Its leading light was Dr Seymour Papert. We read lectures, discussed literature and science and so on. Also of course this was a place where black, white, asian and coloured could meet. The ideas were on a high level of quality: a testimony in the words of SOYA – “We fight ideas with ideas”.

Before long we went to Bloemfontein, to the Conference of the All African Convention, as Ethan thought that I should feel the position of the movement. That is where I met such mountain eagles, great men, such as I.B. Tabata, an orator of rare distinction and the author of The Awakening of the People, a book which served as the basis for all members of the Unity Movement. There were other brilliant orators on several levels speaking on what was called the National Question in South Africa as well as the international situation. They included: Jane Gool, Ncaca, Dr Jordan and his brilliant wife, Phyllis. They helped me to sort out some of my ideas in educational and political matters.

It was through Andrew and Ethan that I managed to get to know all these people. I was a Young Soyan, and almost every one of these marvellous young and old intellectuals were willing to make a contribution to my growth, Andrew and myself, therefore, became closer politically. He lived in Alexandra Township, not far from me at No. 40, 17th Avenue and I was at No. 8, 16th Avenue, the next street. His father was a coal merchant.

I found him to be kind, funny, profound and brilliant with passion verve. He enjoyed sport, was athletic and played tennis regularly with another colleague, Simon Noge. I was already benefiting from Andrew’s knowledge: I admired his insights and was never let down by him. Everything he did was thoroughly accomplished, but his brilliance was mediated by a deep sense of humanity and an assiduous studentship. He established these qualities both at Wits and as a lawyer. As an attorney in South Africa he was not only pleasant but researched his cases in depth: he also had a brilliant manner in court because of his mastery of both English and Afrikaans. He did not, however, suffer fools gladly.

Our political affiliations diverged later; Andrew remained steadfast as a member of the Unity Movement. Indeed, some of the books published by SOYA bear Andrew’s address. He had become central in the Unity Movement in what was then the Transvaal. This of course meant mutual influences between the Cape and the Transvaal. (I, on the other hand, found the Unity Movement limited politically and joined the Movement for a Democracy of Content which was also operating internationally in England, America and Germany as well.)

Andrew’s politics, of course, were serious and fundamental in extraction: above all they were produced by a clear dedication to politics as not something that grows on trees, but has to be studied, learned and practised above all as a principled discipline. This attitude, together with his temperament, attracted me and accommodated my searches in the political sphere. In writing Andrew was also precise and accurate as you can see in his book, South Africa’s Outward Adventures. His brilliance comes out in almost everything that he undertook.

We left South Africa separately at different times and by different routes: Andrew went to Swaziland and flew to the UK and eventually to America – I went through Botswana, Zimbabwe (Rhodesia), Malawi (Nyasaland) and Tanzania (Tanganyika). And when we eventually met again in London Andrew was on his way to America.

He was, without doubt, one of the most brilliant black attorneys in South Africa. In a short space of time he had established himself successfully but he still continued with his political contribution. And, particularly, he was helpful in the formation of APDUSA, the African People’s Democratic Union of South Africa, which then represented more the face of the organisations that were in the Non-European Unity Movement. It is a fact that this movement introduced principled politics into South Africa at a time when the ANC did not even have a programme of acion(even though it had been formed in 1912). The ANC’s programme, when it came, was the Freedom Charter with ten points just as the programme of the Unity Movement was also 10 Points.

Andrew continued his legal studies in America and read for a higher degree there as well as practising. He seemed to be more involved in practice than in lecturing and he was not uncomfortable financially at this time.

Such work both in politics and law as he produced was then dealt with in America and, of course, he kept his political contacts with other members of the Unity Movement and former members of the Progressive Forum. The last time I saw Andrew was when I was on holiday in New York. We kept up with developments in South Africa through our writing, letters, articles, on the phone and the internet and so on. Both of us were planning to return there together as we were hoping to make our practical contributions.


sprite said...

we've been trying to trace Dan Mokonyane regarding some important information.

Could you please contact Claire (Hazel's friend) on 0779 689 4181 as soon as possible.

Posted on the 03.12.09

wrlord said...

Mr. Lukele was my first legal client (and my first landlord). I had no idea he had done so much. R.I.P.