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SOUTH AFRICA: Tutu scolds South Africans for 'senseless crime,' warns of new racism

By Donwald Pressly


[Ecumenical News International]  Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Archbishop Desmond Tutu has admonished South Africans for not respecting one another, citing senseless crime, deaths at the hands of hijackers, rapes of children, violence by strikers, and students who damage their campuses.

"Rights go hand in hand with responsibility, with dignity, with respect for oneself and for the other," said Tutu, delivering the annual memorial lecture on September 26 for black consciousness leader Steve Biko, who died in 1977 while in police custody during the apartheid era.

"What has come over us?" said Tutu speaking at the University of Cape Town. "Perhaps we did not realize just how apartheid has damaged us so that we seem to have lost our sense of right and wrong."

Tutu said South Africans lacked pride in their environment. "Of course many of us still live in poverty and squalor," he said. "But you know how, although we were poor long ago, we used to be proud of our surroundings, sweeping even the street?" Things had changed, he said, because "we don't respect one another, because we don't respect ourselves."

He noted: "During our struggle against apartheid we refused to obey unjust laws because, rightly, we wanted to make South Africa ungovernable. We have achieved our goal. We are free ... We have an obligation to obey the laws made by our own legislators."

Tutu also warned black people, now they had achieved democratic rule, not to fall into the trap of treating people from other racial groups in a racist manner.

"We must take seriously the cry of those who say in the past we were not white enough, today we are not black enough, even if they are wrong," he noted. "We must take seriously their perception to try to change it. We must beware the dangers of ethnic strife. See what it has done in Rwanda, Burundi, Bosnia, Kenya, Democratic Republic of Congo."

Tutu recently was attacked verbally by the youth league of South Africa's ruling African National Congress after he criticized ousted vice president Jacob Zuma.

Two years ago Tutu had evoked the ire of President Thabo Mbeki by questioning what he called the cattle-like voting behavior of ruling African National Congress members.

But earlier in September, Mbeki defended Tutu against the attacks on him for questioning former vice-president Zuma's right to stand for the nation's presidency. Tutu had asked Zuma to relinquish his bid for the country's top job after the former deputy president admitted during a rape trial, in which he was acquitted, to having unprotected sex with a young HIV-positive woman.