Film #4980 RFK in the Land of Apartheid
Using never-before-seen archival footage, this beautifully produced documentary brings one of history's most inspiring chapters to life. This is the previously untold story of Robert Kennedy's visit to South Africa at the height of Apartheid.
RFK in the Land of Apartheid: a Ripple of Hope- transcript
[Opening Music Playing]
Kenedy Kagiso Kalo: 00:16
My name is Kennedy Kagiso Kalo.
Kennedy Senegal: 00:18
My full name is Kennedy the other name is Senegal.
Kennedy Malibusha: 00:27
Kennedy Malibusha, he give me this name because he wanted me maybe to live like a king.
Robert Kennedy Makalima: 00:45
My name is Robert Kennedy Makalima.
Kennedy Gowgela Kilokibi Nakala: 00:48
My name is Kennedy Gowgelo Kilokibi Nakala.
Kennedy Lata: 00: 59
My name is Kennedy, my surname is Lata. You know. you are given the name in honor of an individual who came to oppose the injustices that our people were experiencing at that time.
Screen text: 01:17
In June 1966 Senator Robert Kennedy made a five day visit to South Africa. It was at the height of the Apartheid Regime.
I come here to hear from all segments of South African thought and opinion. I come here to learn what we can do together to meet the challenges of our time. To do as the Greeks once wrote, “To tame the savageness of man and make gentle the life of the world.”
RFK In the Land of Apartheid
A Ripple of Hope
Juby Mayet: 02:02
For people who have never experienced apartheid, it’s difficult to understand exactly what that meant, you know. People got uprooted from their homes because they were the wrong color living in the wrong area. They couldn’t send their children to the schools they wanted to because they were the wrong color. You couldn’t catch a bus because the bus was for Europeans Only. You cannot fathom what it was like. I couldn’t give a stuff about politics. Politics was forced upon me because I happened to be not white, and therefore it impinged upon virtually every facet of my life.
Hendrik Verwoerd: 02:50
What is the heritage of White South Africa?
Albertinah Luthuli: 02:55
The 60’s were very tough years in South Africa, I think for everyone. South Africa had become a police state. You struggled to survive, so life was very, very difficult.
Screen text: 03:14
Under Apartheid 4 million whites ruled over 25 million blacks, colored and Asians
Screen text right: 03:20
Present day South Africa
Ian Robertson: 03:24
Well, the idea to invite Robert Kennedy, it just came to me in the middle of the night. The National Union of South African Students had this annual Day of Affirmation in academic and human freedom, and it occurred to me that we should reach outside the country and the person who was most obvious was Robert Kennedy to speak to us because he captured the idealism, the passion, of young people all over the world.
Margaret Marshall: 03:48
The National Union of South African Students was a non-racial organization opposed to apartheid. We were not a political party but we had very strong principles and we led with our chins.
Edward Kennedy: 04:02
He was really very taken with the invitation to go there. He talked about it in the framework of what was happening here in this country. In 1965 we had had the extraordinary riots, whole issues of desegregation. He had been Attorney General and had seen young people assaulted and attacked and even shot at. He thought he heard similar kind of voices among the students with that invitation.
Helen Suzman: 04:28
And, I think it was an important thing for a leading politician like Kennedy to show that he was fighting against the apartheid government.
Helen Suzman: 04:36
And this country is in the news now. I think it’s right that he should have come and especially right that he should have come for young people who are pushing the same sort of principles that the holds so dear in the United States.
Nice to see you.
Hello Mrs. Kennedy.
TV Interviewer: 04:50
One of the South African government’s objections to your visit, they banned your followers, your newsmen, your TV men…
Do you consider yourself a follower of mine?
TV Interviewer: 04:57
I’d like to be. But they banned them and, because they say that this might turn into a publicity stunt. What do you say to that?
Well, I then should ask you why the newsmen wanted to come? I think they are the ones to answer that.
TV Reporter: 05:11
But the supreme question still faces the South African people. If the black inhabitants of South Africa are not allowed a share in their government, will not leaders arise who are bound to see no alternative but violence and alliance with communists?
Franklin Sonn: 05:37
Apartheid was just about completed by ‘66. Mandela had gone to jail. The organizations were banned. The anti-apartheid struggle was driven underground. It was not a time for open political activity.
Franklin Sonn: 06:05
It was in that context of darkness, of a feeling of rejection and alienation from your own country, that Kennedy arrived in South Africa.
Aggrey Klaaste: 06:15
But apartheid was so suffocating that this country became like more claustrophobic. It became like bottled in. You couldn’t go out or in as a black person.
Margaret Marshall: 06:25
There were places for whites, there were places for what the government referred to as non-whites, and, never the twain mixed. And there we all were gathered in Johannesburg awaiting his arrival.
Peter Magubane: 06:41
They arrived at Jan Smuts airport which had those signs “Non-Whites Only” and “Whites Only.” He chose to go to the Non-White area. That’s where they put his podium.
Margaret Marshall: 06:53
I don’t think anybody anticipated that hundreds upon hundreds upon hundreds of people made their way to that airport – which was a long way outside Johannesburg. There was no public transportation. Black South Africans, very few of them, had access to automobiles.
Aggrey Klaaste: 07:13
When Kennedy came, this person from almost outer space really. When something like that happens to a people who are bottled up and oppressed, it sends through an electric shock through the communities of the coming of freedom.
Margaret Marshall: 07:33
The airport was swarming with white, black, brown, Indian, every hue of skin. I don’t think I had ever seen anything like that in my life. And so, that very first night we began to get an inkling of what this visit was going to entail.
[“For he’s a Jolly Good Fellow” sung by the crowd]
Penny Smith: 08:04
I remember, you know, very distinctly, being hoisted on my father’s shoulders in this throng of people and, you know, seeing this famous golden lock of hair of Bobby Kennedy talking to the crowds and this incredible exhilarated feeling.
We are very grateful for your warm reception.
Person in the crowd:
How nice to see you!
And I’m particularly delighted, I’m particularly delighted that, as in my own country, that there is a divergent point of view.
I am particularly delighted that it’s…
[Cheers] [Wreath thrown over RFK’s head from behind]
Thank you very much. I’m delighted that we are able to express it. And I’m delighted that you had the chance and the opportunity to go and write the sign “Yankee Go Home.”
Many times, in my own country of the United States, I’ve seen much worse signs. And I’m glad that those of you who welcome our visit, at least today, outnumber those who are opposed to it.
[For He’s A Jolly Good Fellow sung by crowd]
Ian Robertson: 09:24
When I was President of NUSAS, I was banned under the Suppression of Communism Act about a month before Senator Kennedy came to South Africa and Communism was then defined as any attempt to bring about social, political or economic change.
Margaret Marshall: 09:39
The South African government always called anybody who opposed it a Communist. And, of course, they meant that as the biggest insult that they could think of.
Helen Suzman: 09:47
South African government pushed the point of view that they were a bulwark against a Communist expansion in Africa and, of course, that was an important point as far as the United States was concerned.
Ian Robertson: 10:02
The NUSAS leadership immediately organized nationwide protests which attracted a lot of attention in South Africa and around the world. What a banning order does is it makes that person a non-person. A banned person may not attend a meeting which is defined as more than one other person. If I was in a room talking to my mother and my father came into the room, one of us had to leave, so there was not more than two people there. But, I did have an inquiry from the American Embassy as to whether I would be at home in the couple of hours before Kennedy made his speech and I said I would be, and one of the first things he asked me “Is this placed bugged?” And I said, “I would think it is, yes.” And he said, “Well, do you know how to disturb a bugging mechanism?” And he said, “You can either play music very loud or just stamp your foot firmly on the floor.” And I said, “Well, how do you know that?” And he said, “Well, I used to be Attorney General.”
Do you gather Mr. Robertson is in any trouble after meeting you, sir?
Uh, well, I would hope that he was not. However, I am unable to tell that and he was kind enough to receive me.
Well, thanks very much.
Good luck to you. Nice to see you.
[Applause from outdoor crowd]
How do you feel now after you met the man who you invited here?
Ian Robertson: 11:17
I’m afraid I can’t comment on the situation at all.
Screen text: 11:20
A banned person could be jailed for 5 years if they talked to the press.
Do you feel that it’s helped your predicament in any way?
Ian Robertson: 11:25
Well, it’s been quite gratifying, but unfortunately I, this is a hash. No, I can’t make any comments, really. I can’t comment. Scrap it.
Ian Robertson: 11:37
I left South Africa within a few months of my banning order.
John Lewis: 11:42
During the early part of the Kennedy Administration, both President Kennedy and Robert Kennedy did not really understand what was happening in the American South. President Kennedy was elected in 1960, and Robert Kennedy nominated to be the Attorney General, by the President, they were confronted with Freedom Riders boarding buses to travel from Washington DC, in an interracial fashion, through the heart of the American South. At one point, Robert Kennedy wanted the ride to stop, he thought it was too dangerous, after a bus had been burned in Alabama. After a mob had beaten many of us and left us lying in a pool of blood. And we sort of said to Robert Kennedy, “We cannot stop, and we will not stop.” He said there should be a cooling off period. And one of the black leaders said that “If we cool off anymore, we’d be in a deep, deep freeze.” So, the ride continued. In June of 1963, you could see movement on the part of the Kennedy Administration. And Robert Kennedy became more and more
committed to the simple issue of justice and fairness. And he said to me, “John, I now understand. The young people, the students, have educated me.” And, by the time he was elected United States Senator from the State of New York, in November 1964, he was a changed man. I was with Robert Kennedy the evening we heard that Martin Luther King Jr. had been assassinated in April of 1968. And during that time of shock and unbelief, I said, “We still have Robert Kennedy.” And many of us put our hopes and dreams in the hands of Robert Kennedy.
Screen text: 14:00
In our struggle for freedom and justice in the United States, which has also been so long and arduous, we feel a powerful sense of identification with those in the far more deadly struggle for freedom in South Africa. Martin Luther King Jr. 1965
Wyatt Tee Walker: 14:08
1961 was the earliest recorded time that I remember Dr. King speaking against apartheid, but there was always that link between the struggle against apartheid and our struggle here in the States against the U.S. form of apartheid.
Screen text: 14: 34
Cape Town, dissolve in University of Cape Town
[Background crowd music]
John Daniel: 14:48
Well, of course it was the first speech of his visit, and we weren’t actually sure how it would, how the event would turn out.
Adam Walinsky: 14:56
We started off with a speech that was probably very balanced: Understood their troubles, knew what they were going through. And then Allard Lowenstein, who was really good at this kind of thing, came in and just blew the whole thing up with impassioned denunciations of the speech and everything in it. And this wasn’t “attentive to the struggles of the people” there and how maligned and dreadful the government was and so on. And, I think that it was a really good corrective. It certainly acted as a
jolt for us.
John Daniel: 15:28
When we got on campus and we saw this mass of humanity, and we said, “This is a rally!” You know, “This is like a real rally. Heck, are we even going to get into this hall?” The place was packed and there was enormous buzz. The University had arranged for loudspeakers outside and they were all over the steps and out on the concourse there.
Franklin Sonn: 15:49
The University of Cape Town, the host of Robert Kennedy, was a white university. It operated from a very privileged environment – rich, white English kids – benefitting by apartheid. There you could understand that blacks considered that movement of resistance skeptically – very much the same way that blacks at that time in the United States of America also viewed Kennedy and other people like him- enjoying the fruits of American good life, but at the same time showing some concern for civil rights issues. So, there was a parallel as far as that is concerned. And, I think Robert Kennedy understood that. And he was one of the most conscious people of that particular dichotomy.
Margaret Marshall: 16:43
He was so humble in delivering that. He didn’t stride onto the stage.
I come here this evening because of my deep interest and affection for a land settled by the Dutch in the mid-seventeenth century, then taken over by the British, and at last independent; a land in which the native inhabitants were at first subdued, but relations with whom remain a problem to this day; a land which defined itself on a hostile frontier; a land which has tamed rich natural resources through the energetic application of modern technology; a land which was once the importer of slaves, and now must struggle to wipe out the last traces of that former bondage. I refer, of course, to the United States of America.
John Daniels: 17:53
The most impressive part to me is the introduction. It’s this very clever introduction where he says I come from a country, etc., etc., and you think he’s talking about South Africa, and you think, goodness, this is really bold stuff. And then he says, “…of course, I’m referring to the United States of America.” And so, he was saying, “There are parallels in the historic experiences of dealing with race and race issues.” You know, ‘We’re not that far ahead of you, or all that different from South Africa.’
Ian Robertson: 18:22
Well, the speech Robert Kennedy gave on that occasion was certainly the most important speech of his life. And I think it captured the essence of what he stood for and came to be known for when he ran for president, particularly that one paragraph about the ripple of hope, which has just been quoted over and over and over again.
Each time a man stands up for an ideal, or acts to improve the lot of others, or strikes out against injustice, he sends forth a tiny ripple of hope, and crossing each other from a million different centers of energy and daring, those ripples build a current which can sweep down the mightiest walls of oppression and resistance.
Margaret Marshall: 19:08
At the end of that speech, I remember as if he stopped and looked around as if to say, “Was that enough?”
I thank you.
John Daniels: 19:30
This brought NUSAS very much into the firing line and John Voster, who was then the Minister of Justice, had really targeted NUSAS for destruction and he used to go around describing us as “a cancer in the life of the society.”
Adam Walinsky: 19:45
Cape Town was a picked audience. These weren’t the doubters. These weren’t the Afrikaners. This was an all white audience as well. So, the vast majority of the country wasn’t even represented in that hall. While it’s great, that doesn’t begin to be a triumph in the country.
Juby Mayet: 20:07
At the time of Bobby’s visit, I was just a reporter. But, the system didn’t like me very much. They didn’t like the things I wrote – the truth ! You know, they had designated group areas for Indians, coloreds, Africans and whites. They wanted to kick me out of this house after my husband died because I was born Malay. And, they said to me that I couldn’t continue living here with my children because by law my children took their father’s race and he was Indian. He was Asian. I was Malay and I fell into the colored group area. So, I had to leave my children and I should go live in a colored area. I said, “The hell with that.” So, I got myself reclassified. They hated that article that I wrote about that story. I applied to have myself recolored, uh, reclassified, as Indian so I could stay in this house with my children.
Allistair Sparks: 21:19
The Afrikaners – the Dutch descended Afrikaners – were really the element that produced the ethno-nationalist movement that applied apartheid, that imposed apartheid, that was trying to create South Africa as their God-given homeland.
Hendrik Verwoerd: 21:34
Our policy is one which is called by an Afrikaans’ word, apartheid. And I’m afraid that has been misunderstood so often. Perhaps much better be described as a policy of good neighborliness. Accepting that there are differences between people. But, while these differences exist, and you have to acknowledge them, at the same time, you can live together, aid one another, but that it can best be done when you act as good neighbors always do.
Screen text: 22:19
Under the Apartheid government’s “resettlement” policy, millions of blacks and coloreds were forced out of their homes and into designated areas. The land was given to whites.
Willem van Drimmellin: 22:35
I grew up in a society where apartheid was normal. I never questioned it, it’s the way people live. So, as a child, nothing that I can remember that upset me about apartheid. When I started thinking for myself and I tried to put myself in the shoes of the people that I am dealing with now, that I am telling what they must do, where they must go and live- that’s rubbish, and it proved to be rubbish. We actually believed our own propaganda.
Allistair Sparks: 23:12
Stellenbosch was Afrikanerdom’s Harvard, this was the major nursery of all its Prime Ministers except Botha and De Klerk.
Willem van Drimmellin: 23:23
Uh, there was a meeting. The guys voted, and we decided we’d invite him. I was head of the residence and I was instructed to invite him the following day, which I did by cable. A little bit of background- Simonsberg residence is nicknamed The White House, so you know, we felt we had a nice little tie with the future President of the United States just in that.
Allistair Sparks: 23:48
And, although the government put pressure on bodies like Stellenbosch University during the Kennedy visit to try and stop them hearing him, if you were a dissident Afrikaner, you faced not only the repressive machinery of the government, but you tended to be excommunicated from the tribe. Often families would ostracize children. And it was a very lonely, tough experience.
Willem van Drimmellin: 24:15
Once very amusing thing happened when Robert and Ethel visited Simonsberg. I’m
sure they didn’t know what to expect. They didn’t know whether they were going to run
into hostility and Simonsberg had the tradition that it never gave applause by clapping hands. The soup spoons were banged on the table. When we entered the dining room, 350 guys pushed their chairs back and it sounded like thunder, and started …
Willem van Drimmellin: 25:04
Both Ethel and Bobby must have jumped at least a meter high and were ready to run for it.
Willem van Drimmellin: 25:14
After the speech and after question time, he invited me in the car with him and Ethel to the Cape Town Airport. He was like a very concerned friend. He wanted to know what I thought about these things, why I thought about these things, and why there was support for a policy that we now in retrospect know was an absolute atrocity. And, he did – in that trip – he and Ethel in a very, very nice way, really tried to get into my head.
Willem van Drimmellin: 25:51
Sometime in my life I was a professional and a full-time broadcaster. Now, the South African Broadcasting Corporation was very strongly government controlled in those days and I was shown a photograph of me and Kennedy. And, I was fired because of the Kennedy visit and my invitation. As a result of that, I was just blacklisted by the SABC and that was it. For eight years I wasn’t allowed to broadcast at all.
Peter Sullivan: 26:29
I think most people, when they look at the role they played in fighting apartheid, feel a bit guilty that they didn’t do more. But I feel proud of what our newspapers did do. All the English newspapers did a big job in telling the world what was going on, and in
telling South Africans what was going on. I still get people who say to me, “Oh, but we didn’t know what was going on.” And I say, “Oh, what absolute rubbish.” So, I have no time for those people. Except my mother the other day said to me, “Well, you know I didn’t know what was going on my boy.” And I said to her, “Well, you should have known mom, you really should have.” One of the toughest things was reading the laws of the time. There were a hundred laws that governed what you were allowed to publish and what you weren’t allowed to publish. And we played a kind of daily game with the government. I remember my editor saying to me, “Sullivan, you’re allowed to break the law four times a day, but not more than that,” which is exactly what we did. They published regulations saying that we were not allowed to print anything if there was a riot. So, we would write “Yesterday, there was a conglomeration of people in Eloff Street,” then we would leave a blank white space. And it would just be white. There would be nothing there. And everybody would know the reason that the whole picture was gone was because obviously we had been censored. And then they would bring out a new regulation that said, “You weren’t allowed to have white spaces in the paper.” So, then we put in black spaces. And then it would take them a while to bring out a new regulation that said, “You were not allowed to indicate by means of white or black or blue spaces…” Then we would say, well, “There was a group of people on Eloff Street… Mary had a little lamb, its fleece was white as snow.” And all our readers knew exactly what we were referring to. Then they would bring out a regulation saying you weren’t allowed to indicate by writing anything, or white spaces, or black spaces…” Then we ran a little scissors down the side to show that it had been censored. And all those things were very enjoyable. They were lovely ways of getting around the government, and irritated the government no end. I mean, they were very angry with what we were doing.
Peter Magubane: 28:37
Being a photojournalist in South Africa in the 60’s was not easy. There weren’t many newspapers that one could work for. Drum Magazine was the only magazine that sent out pictures to the outside world.
Peter Magubane: 28:56
Drum Magazine policy was: “Don’t let yourself be intimidated by anyone.” That is the strategy that I have been using all these years. No one comes between me and my camera. I don’t allow anyone. I fight.
Peter Magubane: 29:14
Like this police captain who said to me, in Alexander Township, “Take out your film and expose it to light.” I looked at him- I thought this man was dumb. And he said, “I mean, take out your film and expose it.” And I said, “Why?” And then he hit me, fracturing my nose. I was hospitalized for five days. I took out the film, gave it to him, after exposing it. But, the pain…The most painful thing was not my fractured my nose; was losing those historical images that I knew I could never get again.
Peter Magubane: 29:56
For so many years, the Americans had been supporting apartheid. If you look at the type of pictures that were taken in the Americas, it’s the same type of pictures, the dogs that are used. The hose pipes that were used, you know? We shared the same animal with different skins. One was segregation, one was apartheid.
Peter Magubane: 30:23
I was detained in 1969, spent 586 days in solitary confinement. When I came out of the confinement, I was banned for five years, which meant I couldn’t work as a photographer. I couldn’t be in the company of two people. I couldn’t leave Johannesburg without notifying the magistrate. I just couldn’t work.
Juby Mayet: 30:58
My favorite memory I have of Bobby Kennedy was the night of this party at Clive Menell’s House. Abigail Qubeka…That’s Peter Magubane. And the music, of course, African jazz, there’s nothing better. And my best memory was of Bobby being unable to restrain himself and leaping up and getting down boogying with Abigail. I loved that.
Screen text: 31:36
Adam Walinsky: 31:39
Durban is the first time that you start getting large crowds in the street who were not just believers, but you’re starting to get ordinary citizens, many of whom were obviously
Afrikaners. They were all out there. Cheering him. There was great spirit.
Peter Sullivan: 32:00
But I can remember very clearly going to his speech in Durban where cars lined the streets almost all the way from the airport. And I can remember us walking on the bonnets of the cars and over the top, and everybody having this upwelling… It was like winning the World Cup at soccer.
Glenn Cowley: 32:17
This spot, which is the entrance to the student union, this is where the limo pulled up, he… And which is always very surprising to South Africans, because it’s not the style of politics we have here… is he, his car stopped here, and he got out and he got on the roof and waved and greeted people and did that. It was a dramatic moment. And he sat right there on a chair and he said, “Can I have a few minutes, I just want to work on my speech.” So I said, “No, take a couple of minutes,” obviously. You would now be walking the track he would have walked to make it to the stage.
Peter Sullivan: 32:57
I can remember, I think even now I feel moved by it, but I can remember that when he spoke it really did change my life.
Any of us know all the answers to the future. Any of us know what all the solutions to the problems that affect our particular country or affect the world. But at least to keep challenging, at least to keep looking for solutions. That’s what youth is. That’s the challenge of youth. That’s the challenge of young people. And that’s why I’m proud to be here tonight with all of you.
Peter Sullivan: 33:24
It really comes from his words. “Each time a man stands up for an ideal, or acts to improve the lot of others, or strikes out against injustice, he sends forth a tiny ripple of hope, and crossing each other from a million different centers of energy and daring those ripples build a current which can sweep down the mightiest walls of oppression and resistance.” And that made a huge difference to my life. I then realized, any little thing that I did would make a difference.
Glen Cowley: 33:57
People asked questions. One of the questions that came from the floor was, “If you, as Attorney General, had been tougher on Communists, do you think your brother would have been assassinated?” At this point he just went silent, almost like weeping inside. He just stopped and it was just deathly hushed in the room. It was tense. It was a cruel question coming from the right wing at the time, you know, everything was a plot by Communists.
“Is this all that we believe in? Anti-communism? Is that all that we stand for in our own countries and our own hearts?”
Allistair Sparks: 34:29
Official policy in the United States was sympathetic to the South African government. They didn’t like apartheid but they didn’t like the links between the African National Congress and the Communists. The Soviet Union specifically, and the fact that the South African government was able, through its propaganda, to project the image of the ANC as being surrogates of Moscow.
“Is that what we’re fighting in Vietnam about? Is that what we’re helping and assisting other countries around the globe about – because we don’t want them to be taken over by Communism – that is our only philosophy? Anti- Communism? I think we stand for something. I think we stand for something positive.”
Adam Walinsky: 35:14
But what Robert Kennedy was always wrestling with was, “Are we really making the right choices? Do we really have to support this particular country? Is this country really helping us against the Russians, or is that just something that we’re telling ourselves?”
“What is it that we stand for? We stand for human freedom and we stand for human dignity. And we stand for ending discrimination, and ending hunger.”
Adam Walinsky: 35:40
Or, do you have an obligation to say, “Look, you really have to do better.” As, in fact, he was doing in South Africa.
“…and we stand for extending the cause of freedom and justice all over the globe. And that’s why I think we’ve attracted other people – those who have a difficult time in their own lives – to come and follow the banner of the United States, not just because we’re anti-Communist, but because we stand for something.”
Adam Walinsky: 36:03
As long as I worked for him, this was a constant refrain and it came up in Vietnam, all through Latin America – it certainly came up with regard to Cuba – and it came up all the time in Africa. And, in a way, it will constantly now, as we deal with the question of terrorism.
Juby Mayet: 36:34
That’s me and Ethel walking somewhere in Soweto. Not maybe as outgoing as Bobby, but friendly.
Allistair Sparks: 36:48
It was a spiritual experience for both the Kennedys and for those they encountered. A profound experience that went way beyond the kind of politics we see in the world today.
Adam Walinsky: 37:02
Though she was utterly terrified of flying anywhere, boy she wasn’t going not be on that helicopter with him – that tiny little helicopter – going to see Chief Lutuli.
Groutville resident: 37:20
It was about 9:00 in the morning when we saw the helicopter and we were so excited. I had to leave my little baby in the room and had to rush to come and see Kennedy.
Albertinah Luthuli: 37:33
My father said to Kennedy that he cannot join the rest of everybody there so he took him and said that “I can only speak to you alone,” because he was allowed one person at a time.
Have you ever been tempted to live abroad?
Albert Lutuli: 37:52
Personally, I’ve never been tempted at all to go out and live abroad. I feel that I must struggle to gain my freedom, and I feel that Africa is my continent and I must free Africa.
Allistair Sparks: 38:03
Chief Albert Lutuli was the leader of the African National Congress at that time. Although Nelson Mandela was the most prominent figure because he had formed the armed underground wing of the ANC. Lutuli was the President of the ANC. He was the equivalent of Martin Luther King, Jr. He was the man of non-violence. He had not been altogether happy with the ANC’s adoption of the armed struggle.
Groutville resident: 38:34
He was a Christian, a devout Christian. Soft spoken. Strong willed. And, you know he was a person who was, who knew what to live for, and was prepared to die for what he lived for.
Allistair Sparks: 38:52
But the “Young Turks,” as Mandela and his colleagues were called, felt that after a major massacre in March of 1960, at which 69 people were shot dead in a demonstration south of Johannesburg in a township called Sharpeville, they concluded that it was no longer viable to continue a passive resistance campaign – a Ghandian campaign. Nonetheless, the organization had been banned, outlawed… And Luthuli himself had been banned, which meant he couldn’t be quoted, he couldn’t engage in politics. What is more, he had a banishment order which restricted him to a small rural district called Groutville, north of Durban. And there he was silenced, disappeared, the living dead.
Albertinah Luthuli: 39:48
We are on the grounds of my father’s house, at Groutville. This is where I was born – seven children in the family and we grew up here. My father was a very open person. He was just like a friend to us. You could ask him any question. It doesn’t matter whether it related to sex, whether it related to love, he was a down to earth person. The special branch used to come to the house in the unholy hours of the night and raid a man who was highly respected. A gentleman. And reduce him to an ordinary criminal in front of his children.
[speaks to children in Zulu]
We were very angry us the children, but he was amazing in that he kept his, he kept his dignity.
“Luthuli received his award from the Chairman of the Nobel Committee in the cap and necklace of a Zulu Chief. A bitter reminder of his once proud tribe which seemed, somehow, incongruous against the solid assured background of a Norwegian State Orchestra.
Albert Lutuli: 41:20
We are resolved to end such evils as oppression, white supremacy and racial discrimination. In some quarters it is often doubted whether the situation in South Africa is a threat to peace. There is no doubt that any situation where men have to struggle for their rights is a threat to peace.
Adam Walinsky: 41:43
He had been looking forward to seeing Lutuli from the moment that we were planning the trip. That was always going to be a focus if we could get to do it.
Allistair Sparks: 41:52
We, the journalistic community, we’re not with him. We didn’t know about the trip until it was over.
Albertinah Luthuli: 42:02
He used to love coming out and sitting here, my father. He would meditate and think and he loved the Jacaranda tree when it was in bloom. Very beautiful. They sat on this bench and, we were all there on the veranda, even as I was sitting there with the other women- the two men were engaged in very deep conversation.
Edward Kennedy: 42:35
My brother described him as one of the inspiring figures of our time. My brother felt that presence about him. It was one of those rare moments where greatness is revealed. Luthuli was always in his mind.
Albertnah Luthuli: 42:56
The two men struck it. There seems to be a chemistry there which developed, you know, between them. It was truly a moment that one cannot forget.
[Children singing and clapping]
Screen text: 43:16
Adam Walinsky: 43:21
Soweto was perhaps the greatest of all the urban slums that have congregated around great cities.
Adam Walinsky: 42:41
For Robert Kennedy to go there was an unbelievable statement – probably the first time any person of any kind of authority in the entire world – had gone to this enormous place with millions of people in it and said, “You’re human beings. You’re OK. I can come here and talk to you. I don’t have to worry. I’m not armed. I don’t have lots of guards around me. It’s just you and me.”
Allistair Sparks: 44:22
He talked about Chief Lutuli. He spoke about his health, how he was, in good spirits. And that had huge impact. It was seen as a politically courageous thing to do. A hugely important symbol for black South Africans and I think it was one of the things that really awakened a black response to his visit – that he had actually done this thing.
Peter Magubane: 44:46
The people came out in hundreds. It was a joyous moment, you know? Here comes a man and meets people like they have known each other for a long time, you know? I remember an old man who met him and shook hands with him who said, “If I wanted to come to the U.S., would I be able to see you?”
Harry Mashabela: 45:28
One thing that I’ll never forget is this: While we were traveling to Soweto, I mean, we were talking and I said to him, “Why didn’t you get into some of those houses and talk to other people. To talk to people, the residents, and hear what they have to say.”
Lindi Zondi: 45:41
My mother knew that he was going to come because she read about it all in the newspapers and listened to the radio. My mother went out of the house and stood on the gate so that she could see when Kennedy comes through.
Harry Mashabela: 45:57
And he said, “Yes, take me to the…” The was a woman watching in some yard in Orlando East. He said, “Let us go into that house and talk to that woman,” and he did.
Lindi Zondi: 46:08
And then he got into the house and so a lot of white people were all over this little small house, they spoke to her and things like that, and when we came from school she told that “Ooooh, Kennedy spoke to me,” but she was excited, at the same time shy, at the same time confused. You see? Such a big and great man, just comes stopping into a house, you know. What is this? Is this a lark? What is this? Is she going to die, you know? Things like that.
Lindi Zondi: 46:42
This used to be my mother’s bedroom because after everything, my mother became a traditional healer which is called a Sangoma. So, this is her attire of being an African traditional doctor who goes on healing people. And then, unfortunately, she died in 1995 and left all this. So, we still remember my mother with all this. Whenever we look at her attire, it inspires us, as much as she was also inspired by Kennedy’s movements and speeches.
Juby Mayet: 47:32
Well, we are here outside the famous Regina Mundi Church.
[Regina Mundi Church]
Regina Mundi is a sort of brick and mortar symbol of the struggle. Because this is where a lot of anti-apartheid rallies were held over the years. And I think people used to come
and hide out here sometime. And, it’s symbolic of the struggle that we as black people
underwent over the years.
Juby Mayet: 48:13
Robert Kennedy came here. He spoke. The very fact that he was here meant a lot to the people.
Juby Mayet: 48:47
And the fact that a guy like Robert Kennedy could come here and relate to them and speak to them and give them a little bit of hope. It had an impact on me and I’m damn sure it had an impact on a whole lot of other people. It’s not something that one easily forgets.
Ladies and Gentlemen: I’m very pleased to be here.
[University of the Witwatersrand Johannesburg June 8, 1966]
I’m very pleased to have gotten in here ! I asked my wife as I was coming down whether she could think of a joke. She said, “If they look at the top of your head they’ll laugh.” But I hope you excuse me and my… It’s not that we’ve run out of a comb but it didn’t seem to last very long. I have been in your country only a short time. I have flown from Pretoria to Cape Town. I went up to the Indian Ocean to Durban: and now I return to Johannesburg. There are those who say that the game is not worth the candle – that Africa is too primitive to develop, that its people are not ready for freedom and for self-government, that violence and chaos are unchangeable. That the black man cannot be
trusted. That the black man will turn to violence. But those who say these things should look to the history of every part and parcel of the human race. After all, it was not the black man of Africa who invented and used poisonous gas or the atomic bomb, who sent six million men and women and children to the gas ovens. Hitler and Stalin were not black men in Africa.
If you can sweep unjust privilege into the dead past, if you can show the dispossessed and the diseased and the hungry and the untaught, that there is a better life for them and a fair place in the sun for their children – if you can do these things, then all of us will take heart from your example, and this continent can take its place in the modern world.
Allistair Sparks: 51:50
I’m sure he realized that he had a measure of immunity that ordinary South Africans didn’t have. And the fact that he was able to visit people that others couldn’t visit – interact with them – all of that was part of the chemistry of the visit and was part of the uplifting of morale. It was a rearming of my own strength that enabled me to carry on and I’m sure that a lot of young people felt that. Nonetheless, the repressive machinery rolled on and crushed it down again.
Screen text: 52:31
Day of departure June 9, 1966
Albertinah Luthuli: 52:43
Kennedy’s visit gave a person like myself great hope. It was as if somewhere you’d seen the light at the end of the tunnel. And, I’m sure if my father and Robert Kennedy were together now with the new South Africa, I can’t even express it. My father didn’t drink so they wouldn’t toast with champagne, they would toast with water.
Screen text: 53:13
The struggle against Apartheid lasted another 28 years. A democratic South Africa was
established in 1994.
Screen text : 53:27
One year later, in July 1967. Chief Albert Lutuli dies mysteriously. He was supposedly hit by a train while waking near his home.
Screen text: 53:35
Many people believed it was not an accident.
Screen text: 53:43
Two years after his trip to South Africa, on June 6, 1968, Robert Kennedy was assassinated. He had just won the California primary for the Democratic presidential nomination.
Screen text: 53:57
Arlington National Cemetry Washington, DC
Screen text: 54:05
Robert Kennedy’s gravesite
[Camera pans slowly across the “Ripple of Hope quote’ on the wall]