South Africa’s Desmond & Leah Tutu Legacy Foundation on Wednesday said the country’s ‘reconciliation project’ must be led by the state itself or it risks failure.The foundation, led by Nobel Peace Laureate and retired Anglican Archbishop Desmond Tutu and wife, said this to observe the country’s Reconciliation Day which falls on every 16 December.
On Monday President Cyril Ramaphosa said that reconciliation could be achieved in South African if the citizenry reached out to one another by learning to speak each other’s languages for easy communication and understanding.
The foundation said the president’s suggestion was not the right way to achieve reconciliation for a country still torn apart by racial injustice and socio-economic inequalities 26 years after the end of white minority rule under the segregation policies of apartheid rule.
“The state must create the framework and provide the materials for civil society to be able to contribute meaningfully to weaving a compassionate and inclusive fabric of common cause for a united nation,” the foundation said.
It called on the state to urgently rediscover its integrity in the eyes of the people by demonstrating “the will and capacity to address corruption, maladministration, inadequate service delivery and obscene levels of societal inequality.”
“If it doesn’t, South Africa’s long-term reconciliation project is at risk of failing altogether and, with it, the country’s global reputation as a beacon of hope in a world of division,” the NGO said.
The foundation acknowledged that the challenges that face South Africa could not be underestimated because they were immense.
“A country defined by its history of colour-coded haves and have-nots, and patriarchy, has — negligently — made scant progress in levelling the playing field,” the foundation observed, charging that political interests had so far stood above the interests of the people.
It added: “Millions of South Africans live in squalor and abject poverty, and just about all of them are black. There has been no freedom dividend for them in terms of the quality of their lives — and rapid urbanisation has arguably made things harder.”
The body also pointed out that “the state’s plans to effect land restitution and reforms have proven impossibly slow to implement.”
“The result is that the skewed pattern of land ownership inherited from the past remains virtually intact, with the majority of South Africans excluded and the state under increasing pressure to act,” it said.
“To an economy already on its knees at the beginning of the year, the coronavirus effectively delivered a coup de grâce to any resemblance of recovery.
“Then, to rub salt into these wounds, adding to the daily reminders of integrity failures provided by the Zondo Commission (of Inquiry into State Capture) came revelations that funds set aside to defend South Africans from the coronavirus pandemic had quickly been looted,” the foundation concluded.