South Africa


Tutu’s Rainbow Nation and Mandela’s powerful vision are under severe stress

Tutu’s Rainbow Nation and Mandela’s powerful vision are under severe stress
Nobel laureate Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu is helped by his daughter Reverend Mpho Tutu after a televised address to the nation regarding the late South African president Nelson Mandela, in Cape Town, South Africa, on 6 December 2013. (Photo: EPA / NIC BOTHMA)

President Cyril Ramaphosa is doing everything in his power to revive the Mandela vision and values after almost a decade of the disastrous rule which took the country to the very edge of failed state status. There is hope again but the restoration process will be long and hard.

I see only one hope for our country, and that is when white men and black men… desiring only the good for their country, come together to work for it. I have one great fear in my heart, that one day when they are turned to loving, they will find that we are turned to hating….”

The prophetic words of Theophilus Msimangu, a Zulu priest, in Alan Paton’s iconic novel Cry the Beloved Country is still the best-selling book – other than the Bible – in South African literary history.

At the time of Paton’s death in 1988 aged 85, it had sold more than 15-million copies in 20 countries since its publication in February 1948, the year the National Party came to power in South Africa. Long Walk to Freedom, Nelson Mandela’s autobiography is said to have clocked up sales of 15-million worldwide since its publication in 1994.

Paton’s work has twice been adapted for the cinema (1951 when apartheid was just getting into its stride and 1996 the year South Africa adopted its first non-racial Constitution following the first democratic elections in 1994.) And in 1949 it was adapted as a musical on Broadway based on the Book Lost in the Stars by American author Maxwell Anderson with music by German émigré Kurt Weil.

Paton was looking at South Africa as a liberal and a Christian of British origin who had made South Africa his home.

What is most remarkable about Paton’s towering literary and moral achievement is how it resounds with the South Africa of today and what has happened in the seven decades since he wrote the book making allowance for his reference to men rather than men and women and one or two other dated turns of phrase.

The context of the quote about hate is a discussion between Kumalo and Msimangu about the corrupting influence of power and whether white men are more corruptible than black men.

They bemoan the fact that it is this corruption that is restraining South Africa from progressing from and they share their dreams of black/white co-operation to enable the country to realise its true potential. Sound familiar? That was written 70 years ago before apartheid had made it into the Oxford dictionary.

Other events of note occurred in 1948.

Zionism triumphed after a long struggle in Palestine and the state of Israel was created. India gained its independence after a long non-violent campaign against British imperialism. And the National Health System was established in Britain. To mention a few. Apartheid, the clash between Zionism and the Arab world and the struggle against British colonialism all led to a lot of hate and violence.

Major restructuring took place in all three conflict situations; India got its independence; South Africa following racially flawed independence in 1910 and departing the Commonwealth in 1960 had democratic elections in 1994; and Israel and the Palestinians are still slugging it out after countless failed peace attempts.

My first three years as a journalist in South Africa in the late 1970’s were spent inter alia covering the systematic destruction of the so-called coloured community of District Six at the foot of Table Mountain under apartheid’s draconian Group Areas Act which imposed racially separated neighbourhoods and the Slum Clearance Act which provided a flimsy excuse for ethnic cleansing.

A vibrant matrix of traders, professionals, gangs and street sellers waited for a knock on the door – would arrive home to find a notice attached to their door giving them 30 days to vacate their homes.

This continued relentlessly until the bulldozers had flattened the entire neighbourhood and everyone of the last 66,000 were banished to the wind-swept and barren wastelands of the Cape Flats which in turn gave rise to far more violence and gangs and all the social ills associated with displacement. All that remained was a pile of rubble and a scar on the mountainside still visible today.

How do you not turn to hate when such injustice is meted out by a soulless and vicious white minority regime?

This systematic ethnic cleansing and social engineering amounted to a genocide of the soul.

When the bulldozers turned on the black shantytowns s of Modderdam, Unibel and Werkgenot I would search for a flicker of humanity in the eyes of the white public works employees as they ripped apart corrugated iron houses which were home to tens of thousands of people.

As a South African correspondent in the Middle East, I saw another brand of hatred with much deeper roots. How can a conscripted 18-year-old Israeli soldier at a checkpoint between Jerusalem and the West Bank ever hope to find the humanity in a Palestinian when his first interaction with them is lining him or her up in the sights of his or her automatic weapon.

When I was posted there in the mid-1990’s I was not prepared for the reality. It was not popular to compare Israel with apartheidSouth Africa but I could not escape equating the processes of dehumanisation which enabled Israelis to treat Palestinians as lesser human beings to justify a series of actions which they would never have inflicted on their own people.

The intersection of identity, fear and hate is a toxic mix which is very difficult to roll back once it has passed the point of no-return as it did in the Israeli/Palestinian conflict a long time ago and as can be seen today.

In Asia it can be seen in the treatment of the million Rohingya’s driven out of the Rakhine State in Myanmar; in the fundamentalism of ISIS and persecution of the Yazidis; the Tutsi’s fleeing from the Hutu’s; the Falun Gong, the Uighurs and the Tibetans in China; the Bahai in Iran; the Kurds in Turkey, Syria and Iraq; and one could go on and on.

Or we can reach back into recent history to the concentration camps of Nazi Germany or the gulags of Stalin’s Russia or the cultural revolution in China. Or the killing fields in Cambodia. The Protestants and Catholics in northern Ireland; the Crusaders; the era of slavery in which the UK was a major player and financial beneficiary; the US in Vietnam and Guantanamo Bay. There is no shortage of anecdotal evidence when it comes to man’s inhumanity to man and indeed to woman.

There are too many examples in history of how differentiation and stereotyping has led to hatred and violence.

What do all these have in common?

Human beings need very little encouragement to be really nasty to each other as the experiment with the brown eyes and the blue eyes so chillingly illustrates.

There is a recurring pattern of exclusion and denial leading to alienation, resentment and eventually fear and violent conflict which exacerbates racial or ethnic tension and, if unchecked, can lead to a race war where interaction is dominated by stereotypes, dehumanisation of “the other” and xenophobia.

Although there are still some horrific racial attacks of white on black — and ongoing attacks on white farmers and small-holders – and no shortage of hate speak from the likes of the Economic Freedom Fighters and the lobby group Black First, Land First – the fundamental dynamic in South Africa of racial tension is driven by economic inequality and opportunism rather than racial hatred per se.

The relative atmosphere of hope and reconciliation under Nelson Mandela which continued to some extent into the Thabo Mbeki era rapidly unravelled during the nine-year administration of Jacob Zuma characterised by patronage and corruption, a loss of moral direction and a widening of the gap between rich and poor.

President Cyril Ramaphosa is doing everything in his power to revive the Mandela vision and values after almost a decade of the disastrous rule which took the country to the very edge of failed state status. There is hope again but the restoration process will be long and hard.

President Ramaphosa has a tough journey ahead but has made significant progress in rebuilding institutions, reviving fair play and the rule of law.

Today the Archbishop’s (Desmond Tutu) powerful vision of the Rainbow nation – and the Mandela vision – are under severe stress.

In South Africa, xenophobia is never far below the surface putting a heavy burden on leadership to set an example of tolerance and inclusion rather than reinforcing stereotypes.

The solution to hatred is invariably to highlight our primary identity as humans and from that base strive to understand the point-of-view of “the other” and reach a compromise based on inclusion, understanding and ongoing communication to prevent a reversion to the stays quo ante. It calls on us to transcend our basest instincts.

Good education and strong and sound leadership can go a long way to achieving these goals.

The Archbishop’s commitment to the values of Ubuntu – I am because you are – is the way he lives his life. He is a living example that what really matters is not what you do in life but the way that you do it.

Nowhere was his commitment to the values of Ubuntu clearer than in the Truth and Reconciliation Commission where his focus was always to humanise both the perpetrators and victims by bringing perpetrators and victims together and acknowledging perpetrators as human beings and thus assisting them to take responsibility for their often terrible actions.

Nelson Mandela, despite having to meet the challenges of political power, was always clear on the principles of acknowledgement of the humanity of “the other” and the principle of inclusivity.

These qualities of true leadership were crucial to the – at times seemingly impossible – achievement of a negotiated settlement in South Africa.

One does not need to be a psychologist or academic expert to see that hatred is inevitably preceded by an act of exclusion – or perceived exclusion – followed by alienation, resentment, hate, fear and eventually violent conflict.

But there are no quick fixes when it comes to removing the underlying causes of hatred.

Archbishop Tutu insisted during the TRC process that reconciliation could come only with the perpetrator confronting the full horror of his or her actions and the victim experiencing deep forgiveness. Only in such a profound exchange could there be redemption and release from hate and all the pain that accompanies it.

So the question becomes: how do we deal with these challenges in a post-conflict situation still contaminated by residual inequality as in South Africa.

Here the values of inclusivity, magnanimity, forgiveness and steadfastness become vital.

The Tutu Foundation UK is doing a great job initiated by the late Paul Randolph in reaching out to marginalised youth in disadvantaged London Boroughs to build bridges and break down barriers between the youth and the police. This initiative has gained a new urgency with the alarming proliferation of knife crime in London.

Baroness Doreen Lawrencemother of Stephen Lawrence, who was tragically murdered by police 20 years ago, has turned adversity into triumph with the Stephen Lawrence Foundation and the launch next month of the Stephen Lawrence Research Centre. Baroness Lawrence recently visited South Africa in her role as Chancellor of De Montfort University.

The life lived by Nelson Mandela was an exemplary demonstration of Ubuntu. And the Archbishop is a living example ofUbuntu.

In his 1999 book, No Future Without Forgiveness, Archbishop Tutu elaborates on the notion of Ubuntu which is so close to his inclusive heart.

A person with Ubuntu is open and available to others, affirming of others, does not feel threatened that others are able and good, for he or she has a proper re-assurance that comes from knowing that he or she belongs in a greater whole and is diminished when others are humiliated or diminished, when others are tortured or oppressed.”

These values need to be engendered in our youth and should permeate the education system at all levels.

And they are the qualities not only embraced but lived by Archbishop Desmond Tutu to inspire the youth of today to make for better world leaders tomorrow. DM

John Battersby is a Global Peace Ambassador for the Tutu Foundation UK. This is an extract of a speech at the 4thannual Desmond Tutu Peace Summit held at Regents University in London on Thursday, 11 April, 2019. The Theme was Hate: Causes, Consequences and Cures


Please peer review 3 community comments before your comment can be posted


This article is free to read.

Sign up for free or sign in to continue reading.

Unlike our competitors, we don’t force you to pay to read the news but we do need your email address to make your experience better.

Nearly there! Create a password to finish signing up with us:

Please enter your password or get a sign in link if you’ve forgotten

Open Sesame! Thanks for signing up.

We would like our readers to start paying for Daily Maverick...

…but we are not going to force you to. Over 10 million users come to us each month for the news. We have not put it behind a paywall because the truth should not be a luxury.

Instead we ask our readers who can afford to contribute, even a small amount each month, to do so.

If you appreciate it and want to see us keep going then please consider contributing whatever you can.

Support Daily Maverick→
Payment options

Become a Maverick Insider

This could have been a paywall

On another site this would have been a paywall. Maverick Insider keeps our content free for all.

Become an Insider
Elections24 Newsletter Banner

On May 29 2024, South Africans will make their mark in another way.

Get your exclusive, in-depth Election 2024 newsletter curated by Ferial Haffajee delivered straight to your inbox.