Desmond Tutu has delivered a withering verdict on the state of South Africa as the country prepares to host the continent’s first football World Cup.
The archbishop emeritus, often described as South Africa’s moral conscience, condemned rampant crime and corruption and said the legacy of racial apartheid was still being felt.
Nelson Mandela, the country’s first black president, now a frail 91 and deep in retirement, would be deeply saddened if he was aware of recent events, he added.
“Something happened to us,” Tutu (78) told Die Burger. “It looks like we have lost our pride. And it is not because of poverty.
“I don’t want to make apartheid the scapegoat, but it might be that we are unaware of the damage that was caused. To all of us South Africans. “The damage to people who implemented such an inhuman policy, as well as the damage done to the victims.”
The Nobel peace laureate, a leading voice in the liberation struggle, remains a giant in South African public life and one of the most respected and trenchant critics of the African National Congress (ANC) government.
His attack comes as a blow little more than a month before South Africa invites global attention as proud host of the World Cup.
The government has staked immense political and financial capital in the tournament, with President Jacob Zuma declaring: “This is the single greatest opportunity we have ever had to showcase our diversity and potential to the world.”
But the ANC has long been dogged by criticism from opposition politicians and the press for greed, corruption and cronyism.
Tutu said: “During the struggle, people were very idealistic; they were ready to make sacrifices. But now the things against which we thought we were fighting have become irresistible to some people.
“There is nothing wrong with becoming rich, except when it is a certain group of people, an elite, who is controlling it.”
‘Many of us feel more unsafe than before’
Violent crime is another post-apartheid scourge that sceptics warn could threaten the safety of fans at the World Cup, which kicks off on 11 June.
“Many of us feel more unsafe than before,” said Tutu, chairman of The Elders group of world leaders. “We are prisoners in our homes. Look at what is happening to farmers.
“But it is not only the farmers. You read something horrific almost every day. We should ask ourselves: ‘Hey, what is going on?'”
Last week marked 16 years since Mandela’s victory in South Africa’s first democratic election. But the spatial segregation of apartheid is still acute, with millions of black people living in impoverished townships outside big cities.
Tutu, who coined the phrase rainbow nation, suggested that multiracial harmony remained elusive. “We have to ask ourselves whether we are completely healed,” he continued.
“Every white person benefited from apartheid. And sometimes it is expected that Afrikaners should carry most of the blame while every white person profited from apartheid.
“I think we as South Africans should sit down together and ask: ‘Are we completely healed or are all of us deeply injured?’ We may not be aware of it.”
Tutu chaired the Truth and Reconciliation Commission in an attempt to deal with the consequences of white minority rule for both perpetrators and victims.
But he admitted there were failures: “We didn’t manage to involve white people enough in the process. And we didn’t get the big fish.”
The fragility of race relations was exposed recently when the ANC’s youth league president, Julius Malema, sang a liberation-era protest song containing the words “shoot the boer”, in defiance of a court order.
Some groups blamed him for inciting racial hatred that led to the murder of white supremacist Eugene Terre’Blanche.
Malema is currently facing an ANC displinary hearing over the song, his vocal support of the Zimbabwean president, Robert Mugabe, and his verbal abuse of a BBC journalist at a press conference.
“There must be many ANC members who feel very sad,” said Tutu, indicating that Mandela may not have heard about the saga. “I am in a way grateful that Madiba [Mandela’s clan name] is not always as aware of what is going on, because I think it would sadden him deeply.” – guardian.co.uk