Luyt had heart problem
Businessman and former national rugby boss Louis Luyt had struggled with cardiac problems before his death on Friday, his family has said.
“He has had numerous admissions over the past year for this condition, and ultimately this event was not unexpected, although sudden,” said his son, Louis Luyt Junior.
Luyt (80) was admitted to Ethekwini Hospital with dysrhythmia, a condition causing an irregular heart beat.
After an attempt to correct the rhythm disturbance, he went on to develop unco-ordinated contraction of the cardiac muscles (intractable ventricular fibrillation).
Further attempts to correct this condition were not successful, said Luyt Jr.
“We are saddened by the passing of this stalwart of South African society, and this pillar of our family who was always there for us – at all times and in all situations,” said Luyt Jr.
“At the same time, we are truly grateful for having been blessed to be the family of this wonderful person.”
The Luyt family described Luyt Sr. as a someone who had the respect and admiration of those close to him, as well as his adversaries.
SA Rugby Union president Oregan Hoskins sent his condolences to Luyt’s family.
From humble beginnings as a farm-to-farm fertiliser salesman, Luyt rose to become a multimillionaire and a national figure, stirring controversy every step of the way.
Born on June 18 1932, in Britstown, in the Cape, he worked his way up in the fertiliser business to head his own company, Triomf Fertiliser.
He became a “super-Afrikaner”, fraternising with the political bigwigs of the day, among them Bureau of State Security head General Hendrik van der Bergh and Prime Minister John Vorster.
He fronted an assault on the English newspaper group SA Associated Newspapers to wrest control of the apartheid government’s bugbear, the Rand Daily Mail, and when this failed, launched The Citizen in the mid-70s.
He later swore he had no prior knowledge of the secret government funding of the newspaper.
“When I eventually found out, it was too late. I was in too deep,” he was quoted as saying in 1992.
Luyt also invested heavily in a brewing venture, but when both his Louis Luyt Breweries and Triomf went to the wall, he turned to rugby full-time in what one journalist called his “quest for power”.
According to SA History Online, he accepted the Transvaal Rugby Football Union presidency in 1989, and was soon afterwards elected president of the SA Rugby Football Union (Sarfu).
During this period, he came under attack for his administration style and efforts to make the sport professional.
He was accused of nepotism, using bullying tactics, and of autocratic administration.
In 1992, Luyt clashed with the ANC when he chose to play only the Afrikaans section of the national anthem at the Springbok rugby test match against the All Blacks at Ellis Park stadium.
Despite these problems, Luyt played a crucial role in ensuring the national squad’s re-entry into the international arena.
His major contribution was in 1995, to facilitate the Springboks’ capture of the Rugby World Cup.
Luyt was a hostile witness in a commission of inquiry into Sarfu affairs.
Gradually, people – including his former son-in-law Rian Oberholzer, who was the Sarfu MD – distanced themselves from him.
This resulted in Luyt’s sacking as Sarfu president in May 1998.
Luyt then ventured into politics with the Federal Alliance (FA), which he personally financed. His stated purpose in forming the party was to protect the rights and integrity of Afrikaners.
The FA took part in South Africa’s first democratic election in 1999, and in 2000 it merged with the Democratic Party, which became the Democratic Alliance. However, Luyt later associated the party with the Freedom Front Plus.
Luyt served as a Member of Parliament for two years. He was also a member of the Judicial Service Commission.
In his book, Walking Proud, Luyt revealed that his birth name was Oswald Louis Petrus Poley, but that he took the surname of his stepfather, Charles Luyt, when his mother remarried, to become known as Louis Luyt.