The consequences of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s business being left unfinished included perpetrators of apartheid era human rights violations evading justice, victims being denied the closure they deserved – and cracks in the fabric of the nation emerging and being exploited by political opportunists, Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu said. Archbishop Tutu was the chairperson of the commission.

Archbishop Tutu was responding to the laying of criminal charges last week against former President FW De Klerk and former police minister, Adriaan Vlok, by an organisation called The Anti-Racism Action Forum. The charges relate to two massacres perpetrated by security forced in Sebokeng (1990) and Daveyton (1991).

Over the past few months, South African media has carried a stream of stories highlighting disturbing expressions of racism and prejudice on social media.

Political commentators have increasingly and misguidedly blamed the country’s reconciliation process for its socio-economic and political woes. It has almost become fashionable to undermine the integrity of former President De Klerk, and even Madiba is being derided in some circles for “selling out” in favour of white capital, Archbishop Tutu said.

South Africans should not be fooled. The country is not in socio-economic trouble because its leaders led it down reconciliation road. While these troubles are partially ascribable to a challenging global economic environment, they are largely due to poor management. And among the issues that have been poorly managed is the post-Commission reconciliation process.

Besides failing to hold to account those who didn’t receive amnesty, the State elected not to follow critical recommendations in the commission’s Final Report to deepen the reconciliation process, including a proposed wealth tax. At the time, many wealthier South Africans would have been been relatively open to the idea.

Let us not throw out the baby with the bathwater by casting aspersions on those who led us from apartheid to democracy. Our best chance of success is for all of our citizens, irrespective of race, to pull together towards a better, more inclusive, less inequitable future, Archbishop Tutu said.


Statement from the Desmond & Leah Tutu Legacy Foundation on 4 February 2016