Ripple of Hope

American Newspaper Coverage

  1. Bobby Kennedy: a Political Safari
  2. Kennedy Gets Book On Apartheid, Gives One on U.S. Negroes
  3. Kennedy Denounces Apartheid as Evil
  4. Sen. Kennedy In South Africa Hits Policies
  5. Kennedy Foresees Crises for S. Africa
  6. Kennedy Sees Luthuli and Finds Him ‘Impressive’
  7. S. African Crowds Cheer Kennedy On Last Day of Visit
  8. Kennedy's Warns On Racial Issue
  9. Kennedy's Trek
June 9, 1966

Kennedy Sees Luthuli and Finds Him ‘Impressive’

Senator Travels to Zululand Reserve to Which the Nobel Laureate Is Restricted

Special to the New York Times

JOHANNESBURG, South Africa, June 8--Senator Robert F. Kennedy described Chief Albert Luthuli today as “one of the most impressive men I have met in my travels around the world” after a quiet call on the Nobel Peace Prize winner whose activities have been restricted by the South African Government.
     On the only occasion on which the Democratic Senator from New York was able to come into contact with large numbers of black South Africans, he was cheered by enthusiastic crowds.
     Mr. Luthuli's comments could not be reported by South African journalists because he has been “banned” under the Suppression of Communism Act. But Mr. Kennedy tried after the visit to convey the gist of their conversation. It was at that point that he described Mr. Luthuli as one of the most impressive men he had met.
     “He appeared to be unalterably opposed to Communism,” the Senator said, “and appeared to regret the fact that reforms that people of all races were trying to bring about were labeled as Communism.”

Senses No Animosity

     Chief Luthuli, he said showed “no hatred or bitterness toward the white man,” but rather “a strong affection.”
     “I think he is concerned that present policies will make it impossible ever to bring the races together again,” Mr. Kennedy reported. He said Chief Luthuli had expressed the fear that despair would drive the black majority in South Africa to violence.
     It was the last full day of the Senator's visit to this country.
     At dawn Mr. Kennedy began a short helicopter trip from Durban to the Groutville Reserve in Zululand to which the 66-year-old Chief Luthuli, the former leader of the outlawed African National Congress, has been confined since 1959.
     The Government had given the Senator and his wife, Ethel, permission to enter the reserve, which normally is impossible without a permit. When their helicopter landed, they were accompanied by officials from the Bantu Affairs Department to the chief's modest, tin-roofed home.
     A small contingent of police was on hand to keep out unauthorized persons. The two men were together for about an hour, part of which they passed walking quietly through fields near the house.
     The Senator gave the African leader an illustrated biography of President Kennedy, recordings of his speeches and a transistorized phonograph. He said Chief Luthuli seemed thin but in good health and not despondent.
     “He would still like to play a role in the future of South Africa,” the Senator declared.
     After the visit the Kennedys flew to Johannesburg, where the Senator toured Soweto, the city's complex of black townships. In talks there he said he believed that change was bound to come to South Africa and that Chief Luthuli had helped to convince him that it would come peacefully.
     “You have friends in South Africa, in the United States and all over the world,” he told a cheering audience.
     The Senator stood on top of his car as it drove slowly through the townships, waving to cheering crowds like a political candidate. Soweto does not have political campaigns, so the crowds had never seen anything like it. But they made it obvious to Mr. Kennedy that they were delighted.
     Perhaps the warmest reception he received was at the Soweto Roman Catholic cathedral, where his party was surrounded by thousands of excited African schoolchildren.
     Outside the United States Consulate General in Johannesburg, a large crowd, mostly whites, surged around Mr. Kennedy trying to get close enough to shake hands with him.
     When the car stopped at the Orlando High School hundreds of overjoyed students pressed close to the Kennedys in a small quadrangle. It was a university students' organization, the multiracial National Union of South African Students, that invited the Senator here.
     A spokesman for the organization said when the invitation was issued in October that Mr. Kennedy had been invited because of “his work for human freedom, especially during the time he served as Attorney General,” and because “we thought he represented the younger generation of political leaders.”
     Tonight, in the last major appearance of his visit, the Senator addressed a capacity audience at Witwatersrand University here.
     He called for an open dialogue between South Africa and the rest of the world, saying:
     “The day is long past when any nation could retreat behind walls of stone or curtains of iron or bamboo.
     “The winds of freedom and progress and justice blow across the highest battlements, enter at every crevice, are carried by jet planes and communications satellites and by the very air we breathe.”