World Cup a ‘shot in the arm’ for ‘damaged’ SA

2010-05-06 08:49

Hosting the football World Cup is a “shot in the arm” for South

Africa, as it still struggles to overcome deep-seated divisions, according to

one of the country’s moral heavyweights, Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu.

In an exclusive interview with the German Press Agency DPA in Cape

Town yesterday, the 78-year-old Nobel peace laureate said he hoped the

tournament would help repair the damage caused by a recent spate of divisive

political rhetoric.

“It just gave us a good shot in the arm because we haven’t had, you

know, this ... feeling good about ourselves too much.

There have been things

that didn’t make you feel too thrilled,” said the outspoken bishop, who won the

Nobel Prize in 1984 for his doctrine of peaceful resistance to apartheid.

Two years later, Tutu became the first black archbishop of Cape

Town, at one point leading street demonstrations in his purple cassock. He

retired in 1996.

He said the level of political discourse in the country has

nosedived since the late 1990s, when Nelson Mandela was president.

“It’s really been gutter level, most of it,” Tutu said.

Without naming them, he took aim at the ruling ANC and the populist

leader of its Youth League, Julius Malema, over the resurrection of an

anti-apartheid song that calls on blacks to “shoot the Boer (white

farmer)”.

When white supremacist leader Eugene Terreblanche was murdered on

his farm last month, allegedly by two black workers, his supporters accused

Malema of incitement for singing the song, which the ANC defended as being part

of its heritage.

Tutu said there may have been a time when songs inciting violence

“could be justified,” but coming 16 years after black South Africans gained

their freedom, such songs were “thoroughly inappropriate”.

The World Cup, which kicks off on June 11 in Johannesburg, could

help put South Africa back on the path to racial reconciliation, the former head

of the 1996-1998 Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) said.

“Sport does have that extraordinary capacity to unite people, it

seems,” he said, recalling how black township dwellers joined in the

celebrations when the virtually all-white South African team won the 1995 Rugby

World Cup.

Analysts say stubbornly high levels of poverty and violent crime

have contributed to the erosion of that feel-good factor in recent years.

While a politically connected few have become fabulously wealthy,

mostly through dealings with government, millions still live in shacks, without

water or sanitation.

Using the biblical analogy of the Israelite exodus from Egypt, Tutu

said: “We all left the house of bondage, we all crossed the Red Sea and we

traversed the wilderness, but only some have crossed the Jordan into the

Promised Land. And that’s a sadness.”

At the same time, South Africa has achieved “many good things” in

16 years of democracy, Tutu said.

“It’s amazing that we can still have the stability that we have,”

he said, taking heart in the number of people who “still want to make a go of it

(unity).”

Despite threats from white extremists to avenge Eugene

Terreblanche’s killing in April – threats they later recanted – there had not

been “a huge kerfuffle”, he pointed out.

Having had Mandela as the country’s first democratically elected

president between 1994 and 1999 set the bar very high for South Africans,

perhaps unrealistically so, Tutu said.

While the liberation leader, now 91, sought only forgiveness and

reconciliation after 27 years in prison, “most us are not aware of how much

apartheid damaged us,” Tutu said.

Germany is proof that reunification was never simple - even when

reuniting people with a common ethnicity and language after a separation of half

a century.

“The former East Germans have been alienated from their fellow

Germans and more surprising is discovering they have a nostalgia for the GDR

(Communist East Germany),” Tutu said.

“I had expected that barring a few exceptions, on the whole it was

going to be a fairly straightforward business, but it isn’t,” he added.

South Africans are also divided over the legacy of his TRC, which

granted amnesty to the perpetrators of apartheid atrocities in return for an

often unrepentant account of their deeds.

Tutu defended his work, saying simply: “Most of the people (victims

and perpetrators) who went through the TRC are a great deal wholer.” - Sapa-DPA



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