Speech by Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu on acceptance of the Honorary Citizenship of Swellendam – 23 October 2013

Meneer die Burgermeester, Nicolas Myburgh

Eerware Ivan Meyer, Weskaapse Minister van Sosiale Ontwikkeling

Raadslede van Swellendam

Dames en Here – pienk, witterig, geël, vaal, bruin – en veral die kindertjies wat so mooi soos engeltjies vir ons gesing het…

Molweni. Goeie middag. Good afternoon.

Baie dankie vir dié besondere eer. Ek is baie trots om u aanbod te aanvaar om vandag ‘n lid to word van die Swellendam gemeenskap. Ek belowe om myself ten alle tye te gedra!

Al ken ek nie baie goed vir Swellendam nie, dit voel amper asof ek vandag huis toe gekom het om twee baie spesiaale rede:
1. In die eerste plek is ek ‘n plattelandse outjie, oorspronklik van Klerksdorp. Ek het in Ventersdorp en Krugersdorp groot geword. My pa was ‘n skoolhoof, en my ma, ‘n besondere mens, het wasgoed gewas. Toe ek nog ‘n jong dominee was, het ek saam met my familie in ‘n klein dorpie in Engeland gewoon. Later het ek as biskop van Lesotho gewerk. Ek woon nou jare in die groot stede, maar waneer ek op die platteland kuier voel ek tuis. (Al was dit somtyds swaar vir ‘n ou met ‘n donker velletjie in die ou dae, toe hy saam met sy familie op en af tussen Johannesburg en Kaapstad gereis het, om ‘n ou toebroedjie in die klein dorpjes te koop!)
2. Tweedens, is Swellendam se ryke geskiedenis. Dit is die derde oudste dorp in Suid Afrika, na Kaapstad en Stellenbosch – maar lank voor die dorp gestig was het ons voorouers, die Khoi en die San, hier geloop. ‘n Paar jaar gelede het slim mense uit Amerika my bloed getoets om my DNA te uitrafel. Al lyk ek so donkerig, was ek baie opgewonde om uit te vind dat my bloed dié van die San insluit – van my ma se kant. Die apartheid regering het vir my swart verklaar, maar eintlik is ek ‘n Bushy.

Soos oud President Mnr Thabo Mbeki gesê het “I owe my being to the Khoi and the San whose desolate souls haunt the great expanses of the beautiful Cape, they who fell victim to the most merciless genocide our native land has ever seen, they who were the first to lose their lives in the struggle to defend our freedom and independence and they who, as a people, perished in the result.”

We live in a beautiful country. We have the mineral wealth, fertile soils and human expertise to be something very special. We have overcome many hardships and divisions, but we cannot rest; the job of reconciling our people is not done.

We have made enormous progress in many sectors of our society: Since 1994 we have embraced democracy, consigned discriminatory laws of the past to the rubbish bin, built millions of homes, provided millions of water and electricity connections, constructed schools and clinics. We have lifted the lead ceiling of apartheid that dictated people of certain pigments were suitable only for certain types of thinking and certain types of careers; we have made it possible for all to achieve their dreams. Possible, but sadly not probable.

Millions of our people still live in poverty. Those fortunate enough to have work often endure harsh working conditions. With the exception of a lucky few BEE businessmen, the economic status quo remains hugely imbalanced. Our country has among the widest gaps between rich and poor in the world.

What I am saying is that nearly 20 years after democracy we have a mixed scorecard. The transformation of our society is, in some respects, relatively advanced. But if you ask me, the number of houses and clinics we build is just part of the equation. The most important transformation project takes place inside us, in our hearts.

Please could I ask that we stand and observe a moment’s silence for Anene Booysen, a platteland girl, one of us…

For the little cousins, Zandile (3) and Yonelisa Mali (2), from Diepsloot, our children…

For 15-year-old Lee Adams from Ravensmead in Cape Town, allegedly beheaded by a 17-year-old, one of us…

And for ourselves, all the people of Swellendam, whose relationships were so severely set back last year when violence visited this town, our town…

The most important transformation project takes place in our hearts.

What men are doing to our women and our children – and our elderly – is not about individual instances of savagery or evil, or Satanism, as they are reported in the papers. No. The awful things that we have been witnessing are signs of a society that, nearly 20 years into its transformation project, remains deeply scarred and distressed.

There is something profoundly wrong with the soul of our nation. Nearly 24 years since the release from prison of our beloved Madiba, and all the others’, too many of our people still feel too alienated, too powerless, too angry, too desperate, and too unaccountable for the impacts of their actions on others.

Ons vergeet dat ons almal susters en broers is, lede van een familie, God se familie. Ons het vir mekaar nodig.

Ons het vir mekaar nodig op die myne (dit sluit in eienaars, Amcu en Num lede).

Ons het vir mekaar nodig op ons plase (om die beste kos teen die beste pryse op die nasie se tafels te sit).

En ons het vir mekaar nodig in ons gemeenskappe – al is ons pikswart, spierwit, Bushy, gay, Joods, Islamies, man, vrou, kind…

There is an African idiom that it takes the entire village to raise a child. We need to restore our souls by rediscovering compassion for one another, care and love for our neighbours. Each time someone appears in the courtroom opposite the street charged with a heinous crime, consider that the accused, like the victim, is a member of our family. They are our children, raised by our village. We are letting ourselves down, and we are letting God down.

The most important transformation project takes place inside us…

When we are able to feel what others are feeling, deep within our hearts – to empathise, encourage, share.

When we replace the fences that divide us with new relationships, we make God smile.

Ek wil weereens vir julle Swellendammers ‘n hartlikke dankie sê. U het vandag ‘n ou man baie gelukkig gemaak. Dit is ‘n geweldige groot eer vir ‘n afgetreede dominee om oud Presidente PW Botha en uTata Nelson Mandela te volg as vryburgers van dié dorp.

God bless you!