Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu on Thursday had harsh words for South Africa’s white population, as well as for Cabinet ministers who he said should lose their expensive cars as a gesture to show the poor that they cared.
“Our white fellow citizens have to accept the obvious: You all benefitted from apartheid. But that does not mean that all are responsible for apartheid.
“Your children could go to good schools. You lived in smart neighbourhoods. Yet so many of my fellow white citizens become upset when you mention this. Why? Some are crippled by shame and guilt and respond with self-justification or indifference. Both attitudes make that we are less than we can be.”
Tutu was speaking at the Stellenbosch Institute for Advanced Study (Stias) on Thursday night, where a book, The Humanist Imperative in South Africa was launched. It features a collection of essays by top academics about how mutual respect between South Africans can be fostered, and how to really listen to one another.
'Apartheid hurt all of us'
Tutu also called on Cabinet members to get rid of their expensive cars in solidarity with the poor.
“There are people in our country who go to sleep without eating a meal. I believe your handbook makes provision for buying expensive cars. And most of you do just that. But in the spirit of ubuntu, I am pleading for you to exchange them for cheaper cars. Just to show the poor that you care for them.
Tutu said South Africa had become notorious for the gap between rich and poor.
He also recounted how a while ago he had been on a Nigerian plane with two black pilots at the helm.
“We suddenly hit heavy turbulence and my first thought was that there wasn’t a white man in the cabin to bring us back to safety.
“That was how badly eroded my self-image had become. When you hate yourself, you project that onto others who look like you. You then sit with black-on-black violence.
“Apartheid hurt all of us - no one escaped. We all carry the wounds with us,” said Tutu.