/ 12 March 2008

Tutu: Reitz, Skielik no bar to a caring country

South Africa can become a caring society despite the racist incidents at Skielik and Reitz hostel at the University of the Free State, Archbishop Desmond Tutu said in Johannesburg on Wednesday.

”We are a wonderful country with many talented people who want to contribute their skills, but are marginalised because they do not belong to the charmed circle of a particular political affiliation,” Tutu said in launching an exhibition honouring struggle stalwarts Walter and Albertina Sisulu.

”We can become a caring and compassionate society where everyone counts, where human rights are valued, where we can actually overcome crime and HIV/Aids, poverty and corruption, where we have leaders who emulate the Sisulus,” he said.

The Sisulus had given themselves to the cause of liberation selflessly with no thought of reward.

It would be wonderful if South Africans recovered that sense and idealism, said Tutu.

The exhibition celebrates the 90th birthday of Albertina Sisulu this year, coinciding with the 90th birthday of former president Nelson Mandela.

Mandela himself attended the event, teasing Tutu about feeling closer to heaven at seeing him.

”I will absolve you,” Tutu replied.

Xa kutsho wena [if you say], I might have a chance of knocking at the door of heaven,” Mandela retorted.

The Sisulu couple had shown that parenting is not limited to family, said their son, Max.

”They taught us to share everything. It was difficult to appreciate this extreme generosity, but with hindsight we were never short of parental love,” he said.

In September, the exhibition will begin touring the country, moving from Mandela House to the Nelson Mandela Museum in Mthatha, the Albertina and Walter Sisulu Paediatric Centre at Sunninghill Hospital, Fort Hare University and the Hector Petersen Memorial, in Soweto.

Protest against racism

Meanwhile, about 200 students protested against racism at tertiary institutions outside the Department of Education’s offices in Pretoria on Wednesday.

Handing over a memorandum to Director General Duncan Hindle, the South African Students’ Congress (Sasco) called for an end to racism.

It demanded a full investigation into, as well as a solution, to racism at all tertiary institutions.

Referring to a recent incident at the University of the Free State where students forced employees to drink soup supposedly laced with urine, Sasco demanded that the vice-chancellor of the university be fired.

”The students must be expelled and refused further enrolment at all South African universities for an extended period of time.

”The culprits must go to jail,” read their memorandum.

It also called on government to allocate resources to black universities as well.

Sasco said the department had failed to regulate fees at tertiary institutions and that academic and financial exclusion violated the education of students.

Hindle said the department would study the memorandum, adding that racism at tertiary institutions was unacceptable. — Sapa