The 50th anniversary of the death of Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Albert Luthuli will be commemorated in Groutville, KwaZulu-Natal, on Friday.
President Jacob Zuma is expected to deliver a speech and lay a wreath at the grave, a national heritage site, and unveil the plaque at the newly-built Luthuli memorial.
The ceremony is scheduled to start on the Groutville sports ground at 10:00.
Chief Albert Luthuli died on July 21, 1967. He was struck by a goods train while on his way to his home in Groutville.
Before he was elected ANC president in 1952, the apartheid government stripped Luthuli of his chieftainship after he refused to either withdraw his ANC membership or forfeit his office as tribal chief.
In a statement, Zuma called Luthuli an inspiration in South Africans’ struggle for liberation.
He was one of the leaders who spearheaded several demonstrations and strikes against the white minority government, which led to his arrest in 1956 and being charged with treason.
He was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1960.
Durban is leading the way in DNA research, having attracted some of the brightest minds in the science field, in a new state-of-the-art lab in the city.
With cutting-edge technology, such as the next generation DNA sequencing machines, the scientists at the centre, called the KZN Research and Innovation Sequencing Platform (KRISP), are forging ahead in DNA research, with the data collated eventually being able to influence government health policies.
Based at the Nelson Mandela School of Medicine, the centre will be officially launched later this year but scientists are already hard at work analysing data.
Professor Tulio de Oliveira, of KRISP, an HIV genetic data and bioinformatics software development expert, said the Technology Innovation Agency (TIA) and UKZN signed an agreement for the establishment of KRISP, paving the way for KZN to join a national group of state-of-the-art DNA centres.
“Right here in Durban, South Africa, we can now produce some of the best, high-quality data in DNA sequencing, without having to send it out of KZN or even out of the country for analysis,” he said.
DNA sequencing was important because it allowed scientists to see the makeup of a DNA molecule of, for example, HIV in a patient, which allowed them to see how it was transmitted.
DNA sequencing also gave scientists a better understanding of how a particular virus, or disease, was affecting a patient, so treatment could be “tailor-made” for the patient. The facility will allow DNA testing for diseases such as cancer, cases of paternity, and Alzheimer’s.
“The good thing about this centre is that it not only allows researchers and the academic field a space for research, but it can be contracted to businesses, which may use the facilities and technology and expertise here, for work in veterinary, agriculture, pharmaceutical, and food industries.
“The work we do here is very relevant to communities. As an example, there is a lot of work going into antibiotic resistance because, in 10 to 20 years’ time, we may not have any antibiotics,” said De Oliveira.
The centre has attracted academics, who left the country, to come back to SA, and specifically Durban, in what De Oliveira called a “reverse brain drain”.
One such scientist, Dr. Veron Ramsuran, an expert in genetics, was at Harvard in the US when he was lured to Durban.
“I’ve been looking at HIV from a host perspective and we found surprising results that will soon be published in a medical journal. In effect, we can analyse a host and analyse the virus and determine what kind of treatment would work, it allows us to be very specific in treatment,” he said.
Habitat for Humanity South Africa in partnership with the Nelson Mandela Foundation will be hosting their Nelson Mandela International Build Week from 17 to 21 July in Orange Farm, Gauteng. The goal is to build 67 homes for 67 families in honour of the annual call for people to devote one minute of their time for every year of Mandela’s public service.
Habitat for Humanity South Africa is the local iteration of the US non-profit organisation founded by the vision that everyone needs a decent place to live. This year marks their 21st year in South Africa and celebrations will be held in December. In 2013 the strategy of Habitat for Humanity South Africa shifted to building not only homes but entire communities.
To bring this to life, Habitat invokes a ‘P4’ approach – people, public, private, partnership which has become the driving force to bring active citizens together with the help of business and government to address the country’s housing issue. Central to the success of this P4 approach is ensuring the community is at the centre of the partnership in that they know their needs and what they would like to achieve within their community. South Africa has a current housing backlog of two million, with rapid urbanisation exacerbating the situation.
“Mobilising South Africans to become actively involved to uplift communities and give them access to decent shelter, as well as skills to improve their lives is important to us at Habitat for Humanity South Africa,” says the organisation’s national director Patrick Kulati. “We have a wealth of skills within South Africa and we should utilise all citizens so that they can pass their skills on to vulnerable communities.”
The National Development Plan 2030 (NDP) sets out targets to address the housing challenge, one of which is “active citizenry”. This is something that we at Habitat for Humanity South Africa are championing.
An active citizen is someone who plays a vital role throughout the Habitat for Humanity South Africa value chain, including volunteering at build events, involvement in community-development programmes and using one’s voice to transform government policy through our advocacy programmes”.
Yase Godlo, manager of Mandela Day, which is held every year on Madiba’s birthday 18 July, says “the day is an opportunity where we honour and bring to life the vision, values and leadership of our great statesman by taking action against poverty in a way that will bring about sustainable change”.