Statements

Muslim Judicial Council’s “guidelines on same-sex relationships” regrettable

Statement from the chairs: Desmond & Leah Tutu Legacy Foundation and Archbishop Tutu IP Trust

“We all lose out on the great beauty of human diversity when we make it seem that access to God’s love is conditional.”  

Muslim Judicial Council’s “guidelines on same-sex relationships” regrettable

People’s faith exists in the context of their time, and it is important to recognise that although all major religions are rooted in ancient scriptures, the contexts of their prescripts has changed dramatically over the centuries. The development of peoples’ consciousness of the concept of human rights has led to a clear change in religious practices – one is unlikely to find religions advocating for stoning and beating wrongdoers, beating one’s spouse, or not mixing threads of different kinds. 

The process of globalisation, and global existential crises such as climate change and Covid, is leading to an increasing understanding of human inter-dependence. If we truly understand ourselves as interdependent – as only being fully human through our relationships and connections with others – it requires of us the growth of new capabilities for tolerance and inclusion. In particular we need to find a new ability to recognise, and celebrate, those regarded as “other” to us, by virtue of their colour, class, gender, culture, spiritual belief or sexual orientation.

Archbishop Tutu taught, God is not a Christian, nor a homophobe. But across many religions, homophobia remains ever-present – in the behaviour of congregations, or individual people of faith; and often in the leadership of those religions. 

Those who lead their lives according to the prescripts of any particular faith rely on the leaders of their faith to navigate the intersection of traditional scholarly authorities and to place in the context of changing times the ‘Golden Rule’ of all religions – that we should treat people as we would like to be treated. That we should embrace the fullness of all people’s humanity.

In that context, the publication by South Africa’s Muslim Judicial Council of guidelines on same-sex relationships, stating that those who engage in the sin of same-sex relationships have “taken themselves out of the fold of Islam”, and that “our religion teaches us to hate the sin, not the sinner”, is deeply regrettable. 

This view is by no means unique to the Muslim congregations of South Africa. In fact, the Archbishop was so incensed by homophobia within his own church that he declared he would not worship a homophobic God. And that if Heaven was homophobic, he would rather “go to that other place”. 

The notion of Ubuntu – that I am, because you are – means that we are all worse off for making members of our society twist themselves into unnatural, closeted, versions of themselves to please the dictates of religious leaders. We all lose out on the great beauty of human diversity when we make it seem that access to God’s love is conditional.  

Archbishop Tutu viewed all human beings as sisters and brothers of one family, regardless of how they looked or behaved… the human family, God’s family. A family to which we all belong.

Speaking of the treatment of gay people in the Church in South Africa, the Arch noted in his foreword to the 1997 book, Aliens in the Household of God: Homosexuality and Christian Faith in South Africa.

“We make them doubt that they are children of God, and this must nearly be the ultimate blasphemy.”

Ends…

 * Mr Niclas Kjellstrom-Matseke is Chairperson of the Desmond & Leah Tutu Legacy Foundation. Dr Mamphela Ramphele is Chairperson of the Archbishop Tutu IP Trust.

INDIVIDUALS AND ORGANISATIONS WHO FOMENT XENOPHOBIC VIOLENCE MUST BE PROSECUTED FOR HATE CRIMES

Statement from Dr Mamphela Ramphele, Chairperson of the Archbishop Tutu IP Trust, and Mr Niclas Kjellstrom-Matseke, Chairperson of the Desmond & Leah Tutu Legacy Foundation

INDIVIDUALS AND ORGANISATIONS WHO FOMENT XENOPHOBIC VIOLENCE MUST BE PROSECUTED FOR HATE CRIMES

Populist politicians seeking to fuel and exploit anxieties that undocumented migrant workers are the cause of widespread poverty, unemployment and crime in South Africa must be prosecuted for inciting violence and hate speech.

The State has a tiny window of opportunity to demonstrate it is in control of the country, failing which it will have to accept full responsibility for another bloody episode of xenophobic-based violence and destruction.

South Africa has struggled for more than a decade to contain intermittent outbreaks of violence targeting African migrants and refugees. But instead of taking the necessary steps to reform the country’s immigration policies, and the management thereof, the State has allowed the wounds to fester.

This laissez-faire approach, in an extended era of economic hardship, worsened by Covid, has created a lethal cocktail that opportunists are queuing up to exploit.

The language and actions of several South African political and vigilante leaders in the recent past is chillingly reminiscent of the tactics used to spread bigotry and hatred of the Tutsi in the build-up to what became known as the 1994 Rwandan genocide.

There, the Tutsi were labelled cockroaches. Here, African immigrants are termed makwerekwere(apparently an onomatopoeic word describing the unintelligible sound foreigners make when speaking their own languages).

Among other signals of rising tension in recent months, South Africans have witnessed politicians visiting restaurants to check the nationality of workers, conducting door-to-door checks in residential neighbourhoods, and a clear pattern of increasingly organised vigilantism.

This week, in his inaugural speech, a newly elected district mayor in the Western Cape described illegal immigrants as a “stain”, promised citizens’ arrests, and said the Central Karoo would become “an illegal immigrant-free zone”.

These developments are the antithesis of Ubuntu and a denial of the central teaching of Archbishop Tutu about the relationships between justice, equal rights and human inter-dependence.

At the same time as taking the necessary legal steps to stop hate speech and the incitement of violence, and arresting those who engage in vigilantism, the State must demonstrate leadership by:

1.     Committing itself to a set of realistic deadlines to reform the country’s immigration policies, and management thereof; and

2.     Convening a summit of government, labour and industry to discuss means to encourage large employers to prioritise local, above migrant, labour.

Few countries on earth have open border policies allowing for the undocumented flow of individuals in and out of their sovereign territory.

Considering, among other things, however, that most countries’ borders were relatively arbitrarily drawn to suit the whims of colonial powers, South Africa’s historic use of “external” labour (slavery, indentured and migrant), and the support of South African refugees and exiles by the country’s neighbours during the apartheid era, a nuanced and human approach to the country’s immigration policy is required.

Citizens of neighbouring countries fleeing conflict or socio-economic ruin should be entitled to apply to live and work in South Africa and, if granted permission, should be entitled to safety, dignity and respect. 

Allowing migrant workers unhindered access to the country, and leaving them to compete for space, jobs and business with destitute and relatively unmotivated South Africans in the poorest of the poor communities, is not doing anybody any favors. It is unsafe, undignified and unsustainable.

So is the fact that labour brokers supply migrant labour to large employers – including, seasonally, to farmers – while much of South Africa’s so-called working class sits jobless in shacks on the edges of our towns.

If the State fails to act, the void in leadership will be filled (is already being filled) by hate-mongers and vigilantes.

THE TASK OF MAKING ARCHBISHOP TUTU’S WORK PUBLICLY ACCESSIBLE BEGINS

28 March 2022

Statement from the Archbishop Tutu IP Trust…

The monumental task of making the late Archbishop Desmond Tutu’s body of work publicly accessible for posterity has begun.

While the Desmond & Leah Tutu Legacy Foundation last week launched the Truth to Power exhibition in Cape Town, the Archbishop Desmond Tutu Intellectual Property Trust has begun uploading a wide-ranging and little-known series of television messages recorded by the Archbishop over the years onto a specially created YouTube site.

The recordings made for events that the Archbishop couldn’t attend in person encompass:

The personal (such as birthday wishes for President Mandela, His Holiness the Dalai Lama and Queen Rania), to Support for non-profit organisations (the Cancer Association and Hospice and Palliative Care Association, for example), to Activism (calls for justice in the Holy Land, against xenophobia, in support of women in Myanmar etc).

“Most of the messages are unknown beyond the audiences who attended the events for which they were recorded. They are special because they speak to the Archbishop’s super-sized sense of pastoral duty. The subject matter is diverse; each message a strand in a complex tapestry revealing a whole human being,” said chairperson of the Trust Dr Mamphela Ramphele.

“We speak of technology having reduced the world to a global village. The Archbishop understood that a village built on foundations of inequality, bullying, nationalism and injustice was undesirable and unsustainable.

“He understood the primacy of our inter-dependence, as human beings. He embodied the yearning of many people for a new approach to leadership based on shared human values of equality, compassion and sustainable custodianship of the earth,” Dr Ramphele said.

The first batch of 70 messages have been linked to the Trust’s website (www.tutuiptrust.org) – with hundreds more to be loaded. To access the material click on the tab, In His Own Words.

“We know of about 500 of these messages recorded over the last 20 years of the Archbishop’s life, which will be posted online. We also know that there are messages we don’t know of. At some point in the process, we’ll be putting out a call for people who know the whereabouts of additional messages to contact us with the view to our developing a fully comprehensive resource,” Dr Ramphele said.

“The television messages are but one strand of the archive we must build to ensure that the Archbishop’s teaching and wisdom is available to scholars, historians, theologians and leaders now and forever,” Dr Ramphele said.

“There are important collections of his sermons, letters and speeches housed in various academic institutions, locally and internationally, and the Legacy Foundation has gathered together and collated a large quantity of artefacts.

“We have a vast job ahead of us weaving the strands together, physically and virtually, to present a full and usable archive of the Archbishop’s work for generations to come – his heirloom for humanity.

The Archbishop Desmond Tutu Intellectual Property Trust, incorporating the Office of the Founders, was established by Archbishop and Mrs Tutu to act as legal guardian and custodian of their intellectual property rights and legacy. They wanted to free the Foundation of the burden of running their personal office and affairs, and allow it to focus on programmes and projects to keep the Founders’ work relevant and alive.

Ends…

ARCH’S DEPARTURE TO THE LAND OF THE ANCESTORS DOES NOT LET THE WICKED OFF THE HOOK

24 March 2022

Dr Mamphela Ramphele

As events in Eastern Europe unfold so hideously on our television screens, and soon, at our petrol pumps, we feel the loss of values-based leadership, the loss of the Arch, particularly acutely. There is a palpable void that it is our collective challenge, as human beings, to fill.

Archbishop Tutu was not a one-man band. He was as dependent on those around him as anyone else. Had he been on the list of speakers tonight he would have told us that he wouldn’t have been the subject of a public exhibition had he not stood on the shoulders of others, who lifted him up – and had he not sported a recognizable nose. Many of those shoulders are here today. He’d tell us how special we are, and that we should give ourselves a clap.

A few years ago, in their wisdom, Archbishop and Mrs Tutu established a Trust alongside their Legacy Foundation. They wanted to free the Foundation of the burden of running their personal office and affairs, and allow it to focus on programmes and projects to keep the work relevant and alive.

I want to say to the chairperson of the Foundation and his Board, to the outgoing CEO and her staff, past and present, to the Apartheid Museum and all who contributed to developing this exhibition: Thank you. Enkosi. Baie Dankie. Re a Leboga. You have done the Arch proud. Through you, he will continue inspiring new congregants today and tomorrow. It is a great privilege for the Trust to work with the Foundation from this historic space, now deeply rooted in the philosophy and memory of our beloved founding father.

The front page of the Trust’s website lays down the challenge that confronts us, in the words of the ancient Greek playwright, Aeschylus: “Memory is the mother of all wisdom.”

Archbishop Tutu’s wisdom lay in his understanding of the human condition – the human family, God’s family, he called it. He understood the primacy of our inter-dependence, as human beings. He had a natural grasp of the concept of the global village long before the term became de rigueur. And he intrinsically got it that a village built on foundations of inequality, bullying, nationalism and injustice was undesirable and unsustainable.

This wisdom, this blueprint, we call the Arch’s “heirloom for humanity”. It embodies, as he did, the yearning of many people for a new approach to leadership based on shared human values of equality, compassion and sustainable custodianship of the earth.

Our collective responsibility, as Trust and Foundation, is to gather and preserve it, make it accessible to present and future leaders, and repurpose it in relevant ways to confront the new and old challenges ahead of us. 

The Archbishop’s footprints traverse the planet. In a sense, memories of him are virtually uncontainable. There are important collections of his sermons, letters and speeches housed in various academic institutions, locally and internationally, the Legacy Foundation has gathered together and collated a large quantity of artefacts – but there are also many footprints that have never been gathered or recorded. 

It’s like a giant jigsaw puzzle for which we don’t yet have all the pieces. 

As you engage this exhibition, this extraordinary body of work, my challenge to you is to see beyond the beautiful images and the warm, fuzzy feeling that being in the Arch’s presence naturally evokes to glimpse the heirloom contained within. For he was a human role-model.

The love, fairness, humour and compassion, but equally the truth and the courage and the feistiness. And the consistency…

The Arch’s departure to the land of ancestors does not let the State of Israel off the hook for the apartheid it practises against Palestinians. It doesn’t free homophobes on our continent to victimise their sisters and brothers, or misogynists to reinforce male dominance. It’s not a free ride for the wealthy to continue exploiting poor people.  It doesn’t say to oil producers, ‘continue extracting filth’, or to the ANC government, ‘now you’re at liberty to carry on running South Africa into the dirt’.

As we honour the Arch, and treasure the time God gave him to teach us how to be better human beings, we are guided by his values.  Although he said he stood on our shoulders, some things he seemed to understand better than us.

* Remarks by Chairperson of the Archbishop Tutu IP Trust, Dr Mamphela Ramphele, at the opening in Cape Town today of Truth to Power: Desmond Tutu and the Churches in the Struggle Against Apartheid, an exhibition showcasing the Archbishop’s life and legacy.

THE WORLD HAS LOST A LODESTAR AND DOTING PARENT

Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Mpilo Tutu: 7 October 1933 – 26 December 2021

 

The world has lost a lodestar and a doting parent. 

Born in a mining town west of Johannesburg 90 years ago, in the period between colonial and apartheid rule in South Africa, his love, humanity and courage propelled him through the glass ceilings his country and the world imposed on Black people and thought.

His journey through the ranks to head the Anglican Church in Southern Africa, his moral leadership of the struggle against apartheid, including the campaign for South Africa’s economic isolation, his management of the post-apartheid Truth and Reconciliation Commission – and the cocktail of faith, compassion and justice he consistently exuded – led to him occupying a central seat at the world table of human righ

The company he kept included monarchs, presidents and leaders across the spectrum of human endeavour. But what elevated him to the realms of the extraordinary was that in heart and mind he never deviated from his fundamental path: He was a disciplined priest with a structured faith routine and an elevated sense of pastoral duty and responsibility. 

Whether at home, in the office, in a car, visiting Buckingham Palace, or in Gaza, certain times of his day were devoted to prayer. It refuelled him. Without it he would wither, he said.

He was equally at home addressing the United Nations as he was visiting elderly patients in a run-down hospital ward… as he was comforting victims of apartheid atrocities, as he was picking up litter in the street. These actions were all connected in his vision of one connected family and world.

So, too, was his fearlessness and passion in challenging acts of human selfishness, injustice or discrimination wherever they manifested.

In his book, apartheid was more than a crime against humanity, it was a crime against God. It was a sin. And so, too were gender discrimination, homophobia, Islamophobia, anti-Semitism, pollution of the environment…

His became a global voice against nuclear armament, the death penalty and child marriage. As one who had overcome polio and TB in his youth, later living with cancer for decades, who dreamed of becoming a medical doctor – and as priest with deep compassion for the needy and those experiencing any form of suffering  – he was naturally drawn to the health field, to the struggles for universal health care, children’s health, HIV treatment, dignified dying…

He was an activist for justice in Palestine, Myanmar, Sudan, Zimbabwe, Canada, the United States, Australia – drawn like a moth to challenging unfairness, prejudice and intolerance… a critical counter-weight to the earth’s despairing slide through over-consumption and greed to the environmental and social cliffs. 

He directly touched an incredible array of people and championed righteous causes.

***

Although strongly associated with peace and non-violence, Archbishop Tutu didn’t describe himself as a pacifist. 

There were certain rare events where violence was unavoidable in the defence of justice. But there could never be any justification for human rights violations – of any kind, committed by any party. 

In the 1980’s he threatened to emigrate from South Africa if the gruesome practice of necklacing alleged police informers with petrol-filled tyres was not halted. 

And in the 1990s, at the helm of the country’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission, he applied the same balanced principle to spotlighting human rights violations committed by the State and those prosecuting the anti-apartheid struggle. The vast majority of the commission’s findings of violations related to crimes perpetrated by the State, the few that implicated ANC cadres were to have major consequences…

***

Desmond Mpilo Tutu described himself as a prisoner of hope. Others have defined him as a servant leader, voice of the voiceless, mensch, and pebble in the shoe of injustice.

If he was a saint, he didn’t regard himself as saintly – though he often said God has a soft spot for sinners. The Arch was the first to admit that he had faults, like the rest of us. Among them, he said, was what he described as growing too comfortable in the public limelight, which he viewed as a hint of immodesty. Another was an almost pathological inability to ever say “no”. A third, pointed out by his doting wife Leah, was that he laughed at his own jokes.

Neither was Desmond Tutu a politician. Because his pastoral duty extended beyond the confines of his church he crossed paths with politicians. 

In May 1976, for instance, writing as “one Christian to another”, he penned an extraordinarily prescient letter to then Prime-Minister John Vorster. “I am writing to you sir, because I have a growing nightmarish fear that unless something drastic is done very soon bloodshed and violence is going to happen in South Africa almost inevitably.” His letter was dismissed as political propaganda. The following month youth in Soweto sparked a national insurrection. 

When apartheid’s grip began to loosen, and Black South Africans were finally able to join political parties without risking State brutality, he discouraged members of the clergy from joining political parties because, he said, they should be able to serve all people equally, regardless of their political affiliation.

Although some of the clergy strongly disagreed with him, the wisdom of this edict became more apparent over time. God’s work, and that of political parties, are not always perfectly aligned. Prophets’ freedom to speak truth to power should not be watered down by party political considerations.

The Arch was regarded by some as being close to the ANC. The apartheid government, for instance – and most media at the time – came to view him as an ANC proxy. It is true that he interacted with exiled leaders of the anti-apartheid movement, including the ANC. After meeting Nelson Mandela in 1990, following his release from imprisonment, they struck up a close relationship which added to perceptions of a special political relationship. But this was never the case. 

In 2011, when the South African state declined to issue a visa to His Holiness the Dalai Lama to attend the Arch’s 80th birthday celebrations, in deference to China, the Archbishop addressed a press conference in Cape Town warning the ANC that if it didn’t mend his ways he would pray for its demise, just as he’d prayed for the demise of the National Party of apartheid.

He’d became a stern critic of the ANC long before it became fashionable. He spoke out about the elevated lifestyles of politicians under President Mandela, tussled with President Mbeki about HIV treatment and the unfinished business of the TRC, and warned the nation about the consequences of electing Jacob Zuma to the highest position in the land.

***

Among the Archbishop’s greatest sadnesses was a sense that, although he’d always strived to do his duty to his country, his country didn’t always do its duty to him. 

This was particularly so in respect of the completion of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission process. The Arch poured his energy and soul into balancing the rights of apartheid victims and perpetrators, with the interests of post-apartheid healing and reconstruction, as per the letter of the Act which created the commission.

When the commission drafted a final report including findings of human rights violations committed by the ANC, the ANC went to court to try and block its publication. The court found in favour of the commission, and President Mandela defied his party to officially receive it from the Arch. 

Mandela said afterwards that he accepted the report because of the Arch’s integrity.

But Mandela was on the threshold of retirement, and the die was cast.

Instead of implementing the commission’s recommendations, which were fundamental to achieving the balance and justice the commission sought, the post-Mandela government largely ignored them. 

And then, instead of owning up and stating the reasons why it chose not to prosecute perpetrators of human rights violations to whom the commission did not grant amnesty, for example, the State sat back and allowed a poisonous narrative to take root that the commission had been too “soft” and done too little to hold perpetrators to account.

Other critical recommendations, such as the implementation of a wealth tax to reduce inequality – that has since deepened – and on the scope of reparations packages, were similarly ignored.

By ignoring the commission’s recommendations, the state reduced it to a symbolic event, and effectively slammed the door on the possibilities of harvesting the fruits of South Africa’s formal reconciliation and national unity process.

***

Desmond Tutu’s work was richly acknowledged. He received many of the world’s top humanitarian and human rights awards, including the Nobel Peace, Ghandi and Templeton Prizes. He received honorary degrees from an abundance of top universities, and top National awards from many nations, from east to west.

But arguably his greatest prize was conferred on him in July 1955; the certificate of his marriage to Nomalizo Leah Shenxane, a strong woman. A trained teacher, nurse, mother and motor mechanic.

She was his earthly strength for 66 years. She was more than the glue that held the family together, she was his pragmatic confidant and very incisive adviser. She dragged him down to earth, and she enabled him to fly. 

While he turned to prayer for answers to life’s most perplexing questions, she provided an unshakeable base at home to keep things practical and grounded. Besides an abundance of wit and intellect to keep him on his toes.

When asked to name the greatest influences on his life, the Arch usually named his mother, Aletta. From his descriptions of her, she was an extraordinary kind and gracious woman. From old photographs, one can tell he also inherited his good looks from her.

But Nomalizo Leah Tutu was his rock. 

To Ma Tutu, their children, Trevor, Thandeka, Naomi and Mpho, grandchildren and great-grandchildren, we say: Thank you for sharing your lover, partner and parent with the rest of us. For freeing his grace to seep across the earth.

The world has lost a parent and a guiding star. Now it’s up to us to ensure that the gifts of wisdom and understanding of ourselves that Desmond Tutu bequeathed live on forever.

ARCHBISHOP AND MRS TUTU CAST VOTES AT HOME

Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu and Mrs Leah Tutu have cast their votes in Local Government Election 2021. The couple voted at home during a brief visit by a delegation of Independent Election Commission officials.

The Archbishop turned 90-years-old this month. For nearly 63 of those years, he was denied the vote due to the racist policies of South Africa’s post-colonial and apartheid governments.

Acting chairperson of the Archbishop Tutu IP Trust, Dr Mamphela Ramphele, who co-ordinates the Archbishop’s Office, said the Arch and Mrs Tutu wouldn’t allow their relative frailty to get in the way of exercising their right to vote. 

“They are of a generation that felt the full impact of apartheid, and were denied the right to vote for most of their lives.

“They were too close to the struggle, and the Arch presided at too many funerals of struggle martyrs, to ever take this right for granted. They are acutely aware of the preciousness of being able to have a say in who should lead our government,” Dr Ramphele said.

She said Archbishop Tutu was fond of the old maxim (of disputed origin) that, in a democracy, people get the government (or leaders) they deserve.

“If you don’t participate in elections, you can’t expect complaining afterwards to fix much,” Dr Ramphele said.