By Christopher Smith
When Thandeka “Thandy” Luthuli Gcabashe arrived in Dalton, she felt “warmth and genuineness” from locals, particularly from Whitfield County Sheriff Scott Chitwood who greeted Gcabashe Friday afternoon at the Mack Gaston Community Center.
“I am from South Africa and the police there have never been friends of the people,” Gcabashe said. “So when I see the sheriff of the police acting in a human manner, it’s really notable. It’s touching. The police have softened in South Africa, but it’s still too early for them. They are coming from a culture of using force and violence against people.”
Chitwood said meeting Gcabashe was “very pleasant.”
“I’m very glad she was in Dalton,” he said. “She was very gracious.”
Gcabashe, a native of Groutville, South Africa, spoke at the community center Friday and Rock Bridge Community Church’s Dalton Campus Saturday night about “the need to work together, unity, and co-existence” and how South Africans rose out of apartheid — the enforcement of racial discrimination and white supremacy by the National Party government that ended in the early 1990s.
Gcabashe’s father, Albert Luthuli, was given the Nobel Peace Prize award in 1960 for his nonviolent struggle against apartheid. Gcabashe advocates her father’s teachings of nonviolence and social equality to universities, churches and organizations nationwide.
She was invited to speak to the local community by officials with the Concerned Citizens of Dalton and JAM Enterprises, Inc.
“He was a deeply religious man,” Gcabashe said of her father who died in 1967. “He was a man of faith and his ideas shaped him and formed him into the person he became ... someone who was kind, who loved people and lived to serve humanity. He looked at people regardless of race, color and creed.”
Being welcomed by locals in a “warm and friendly way” shows how social equality has grown globally, Gcabashe said.
“I have a very positive impression of Dalton after visiting,” she said. “From the time I arrive, I was impressed by the cleanliness of the city. It reminds me of when I visited Sweden in Europe ... I’m impress by the buildings here in Dalton. They are very well structured. The outlay of the city is a good design. I like that you don’t have skyscrapers. But most importantly, the people here are very friendly ... it seems like a perfect place to live.”
Murray Goodlett, owner of JAM Enterprises, said inviting Gcabashe is a step toward “making an impact locally and building relationships between Dalton and South Africa.”
“Dalton is going to need to retool the flooring business,” he said. “And I see how Mohawk (Industries) is starting to grow and buy different (international) companies. Over there in South Africa, the same flooring we are using they are also using. In the future, we hope to form a partnership and set up an operation.”
Gcabashe said her first visit was to promote a autobiography of Luthuli titled “Let My People Go,” but plans to revisit to find “opportunities for both Dalton and South Africa.”
“I think Dalton could invest in South Africa,” she said. “There is an economic opportunity there. A need for employment. Right now though, we’re just opening the door and promoting the book that talks about the oppression by apartheid government. It was so huge, so unbearable. My task is to promote awareness right now ... one step at a time.”
That was the same philosophy her father had, Gcabashe said.
“My father was called by the people of Groutville,” she said of her hometown. “That community wanted him to be chief, but it was not traditional chieftainship that was inherited. He was democratically elected. A post he held until he was deposed by the apartheid government because they said he could not be a civil servant under that government and campaign against the government as a politician.”
That only gave Luthuli more motivation, Gcabashe said.
“What they didn’t know is that by releasing him of his post, they released him to a larger community,” she said. “Whatever service he was giving to the people was spreading. That is what happened. He dedicated himself to ending apartheid, which happened in many phases. But the first step was defying all unjust laws.
“My father learned from (Mahatma) Gandhi that you could use peace as a potent tool to defeat tyrants, dictators and oppression. Peace is a very powerful tool. He also wrote a speech after he was deposed. He said freedom was through the cross of Jesus. He wrote it because the violence was intensifying around him and it was so ruthless. He realized that hardships laid ahead and we had to sacrifice and suffer like being on the cross before we regained our rights. We had to struggle first.”
The struggles black South Africans faced included removal of their citizenship, relocation and segregation of education, medicine, and government services where blacks received inferior quality service than whites. Nelson Mandela is credited for ending apartheid when he was president of the African National Congress (ANC) from 1990 to 1999, but Luthuli paved the way in the 1960s, Gcabashe said.
“Previous to my father’s leadership, there had been others who sought nonviolent methods to defy unjust laws,” she said. “They were hoping to reform the oppression they were under ... but you couldn’t reform that kind of rule... the Sharpeville massacre (1960) is an example. People were peacefully demonstrating against apartheid laws. They were shot by the military police ... 69 of them were killed; thousands maimed and disfigured.
“After that, the government banned the ANC and we could no longer have peaceful demonstrations. All black political organizations were banned, so some people went underground ... which is what I did for quite a few years before I came out of exile ... eventually apartheid ended, but that part of the struggle belongs to Nelson Mandela.”
Ali Awad, a member of Concerned Citizens of Dalton and 27-year resident of Dalton, said he is “very grateful” for what Luthuli and Gcabashe did.
“I’m from Lebanon and I’m not a black person, but because of their sacrifices the benefit went to me,” he said. “The benefit for people who struggled with civil rights — here or in South Africa — helped all minorities. I feel I owe a debt to these giants. Many give up their lives for the cause. I’m glad we were able to put on this event and bring Thandy to Dalton ... we would like to say thank you to the Dalton Junior Women’s Club who helped us organize.”
To learn more about apartheid or to get a copy of Luthuli’s autobiography, contact Horace Moore at P.O. Box 6583, Dalton, GA 30722-6583. Or contact Goodlett by writing JAM Enterprises, 622 Oxford St., Dalton, GA 30720, by calling (770) 486-9901 or by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org