World Cup will give South Africa shot in arm, says Tutu

Fri, May 7, 2010, 01:00

STAGING THE World Cup has given South Africa a much-needed “shot in the arm”, said Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu, lamenting how the country has lost its way since Nelson Mandela retired as president in 1999.

In two interviews yesterday, Dr Tutu held little back when discussing the state of the nation only weeks before South Africa hosts the largest sports event ever to be held in Africa. Rampant crime, greed, corruption and poor political leadership were taking their toll on society, he told the Afrikaans newspaper Die Burger.

The father of the nation, 91-year-old Mr Mandela, would be deeply hurt if he were totally aware of recent events, said Dr Tutu (78). “Something happened to us. It looks like we have lost our pride. It is not because of poverty.

“I don’t want to make apartheid the scapegoat but it might be that we are unaware of the damage that was caused to all of us: the damage to people who implemented such an inhuman policy, as well as the damage to victims.”

He lamented the high levels of crime: “We are prisoners in our homes. Look at what is happening to farmers [more than 3,000 white farmers have been murdered on their properties since 1994].

“But it is not only the farmers. You read something horrific almost every day. We should ask ourselves: ‘Hey, what is going on?’” he said.

In an interview with the German Press Agency Dr Tutu took aim at the ruling African National Congress party and its leaders for failing the poor. Millions still live in appalling conditions 16 years after the end of apartheid.

In a reference in ANC Youth League leader Julius Malema’s recent behaviour, the Noble Peace Prize winner said the level of political discourse among certain politicians was operating “at gutter level, most of it”. The ANCYL leader is before an ANC disciplinary committee for inciting racial tensions, by singing a song that called on people to shoot white farmers, despite being ordered not to by the ruling party and courts.

He is also accused of undermining President Jacob Zuma’s mediation efforts in Zimbabwe by supporting President Robert Mugabe’s Zanu-PF party over coalition government partners, the Movement for Democratic Change.

“There must be many ANC members who feel very sad. I am in a way grateful that Madiba [Mandela’s clan name] is not always as aware of what is going on, because I think it would sadden him deeply.”

Dr Tutu said he hoped that staging the World Cup would help to repair the damage done to race relations by recent political rhetoric because “sport does have that extraordinary capacity to unite people, it seems”.

Winning the right to host the World Cup, he said, “gave us a good shot in the arm”.