XENOPHOBIA REFLECTS THE STATE OF SOUTH AFRICA’S CALLOUSNESS AND POVERTY

Statement from the Desmond & Leah Tutu Legacy Foundation, on 16 April 2015

Our rainbow nation that so filled the world with hope is being reduced to a grubby shadow of itself more likely to make the news for gross displays of callousness than for the glory that defined our transition to democracy under Nelson Mandela.

The fabric of the nation is splitting at the seams; its precious nucleus – our moral core – is being ruptured.

The most vulnerable members of our family – women, children, the elderly, the poor, the displaced – seem perpetually under attack.

“Nineteen years ago, yesterday, we convened the first public hearings of the truth and Reconciliation Commission – in the East London City Hall. It was as if the nation was electrified by the wails of Nomonde Calata, telling of the death of her husband, Fort. Later that week, many of us broke down as we listened to Singqokwana Malgas, a brave but broken man in a wheelchair, describe his torture at the hands of police,” Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu recalled.

“The reason for the commission shining a light on the past was precisely to contribute to the processes of national healing and ensuring that we never committed such foul deeds again.

“Yet here we are, less than a generation later, witnessing hate crimes on a par with the worst that apartheid could offer. I will pray for the perpetrators of xenophobic violence just as I prayed for PW Botha and his security forces; that their eyes may be opened and they see the fault of their ways,” the Archbishop said.

Professor Pumla Gobodo-Madikizela, a Desmond & Leah Tutu Legacy Foundation board member who served on the Human Right Violations Committee of South Africa’s Truth and ReconciliationCommission, described xenophobia in South Africa as a toxic mix of the unfinished business of post-apartheid healing – social, psychological and economic.

“While the State should take credit for the houses it had built, and the water and electricity connections made, the gap between rich and poor citizens has widened and the national reconciliation imperative of the past has been de-prioritised. The crawling state of the economy is driving citizens to desperation,” Professor Gobodo said.

The Reverend Canon Mpho Tutu, executive director of the Desmond & Leah Tutu Legacy Foundation, said in times of crisis peoples’ knee jerk reaction was to cast blame on the nearest “others”.

“But there are no ‘others’ in God’s world,” she said.

“International borders were created by people; and prejudice and discrimination were invented by people.

“We may speak different languages but we harbour the same basic needs: To love and be loved, and to live dignified lives with sufficient resources and security to raise children with a chance of achieving their dreams.

“Our diversity both defines and strengthens us,” Reverend Canon Tutu said.

ENDS…

Distributed for the Desmond & Leah Tutu Legacy Foundation by Oryx Media.