Blacks in South Africa continue to bear the brunt of inequality in a country that seems unwilling to transform the economy towards a more equitable and sustainable distribution of wealth, says Rev. Mpho Tutu, the daughter of Nobel Peace Prize laureate, Archbishop Desmond Tutu.
The first free elections were held in South Africa 21 years ago after the dismantling of the apartheid regime and the late Nelson Mandela, who was imprisoned for 27 years, became the first Black president of a democratic South Africa.
While all South Africans are considered equal under the constitution, the predominantly Black population continues to face economic inequalities.
“We are a long way from the experience of apartheid in that people have the right to live where they want, attend any educational institution or access medical care in any facility,” Rev. Tutu told Share while in Toronto last week for the Community Inclusivity Equity Council of York Region’s (CIECYR) second bi-annual diversity summit. “However, we are not very far from apartheid in that the reality is that although access is open, it’s just the privileged few who are benefitting from that openness economically in the new South Africa.
“The only way you can close that gap is with a kind of intentionality that unfortunately has been somewhat absent from our recent government’s agenda. That opening can be tightened by providing opportunities for our young people to succeed. We are rewriting the same script by which we have lived with in the past while failing to take care of youths who are our greatest resource.”
Tutu, the youngest of the Archbishop’s four children and the holder of a Master’s in Divinity, was ordained by her father in a historic episcopal church near Washington, D.C. in 2004.
“I have followed in his footsteps of going into the Ministry, but I think the manner in which my ministry is exercised is a little bit more like a kitchen table ministry,” said the married mother of two children. “In that aspect, I have been able to follow a little bit more in my mother’s footsteps. But the experience of being ordained by my father was one that is indescribable, very poignant and very joyful. There are so many layers of emotion that I can’t pick apart.”
Tutu and her father co-wrote two books – Made for Goodness and the Book of Forgiving.
“Made for Goodness was written because many people wanted to know where my father’s capacity for joy and laughter came from in the face of all that horror he had seen and experienced,” she said. “He wanted to make the point that we as human beings are made for goodness and we should not forfeit that essential aspect of being and deviate from behaviour that is joy-giving and life-affirming and brings love and laughter to our creation.”
In the Book of Forgiving, they lay out the simple but profound truths about the significance of forgiveness, how it works, why everyone needs to know how to grant it and receive it, and why granting forgiveness is the greatest gift we can give to ourselves when we have been wronged.
“It’s something like a how-to manual for forgiveness,” she said.
The two-day CIECYR symposium explored the theme of “Truth, Reconciliation and Engagement” within the context of the South African experience and current truth and reconciliation process underway in Canada that focuses on the more than 150,000 First Nations, Metis and Inuit children who were taken from their families and placed in government-funded, church-run Indian Residential schools.
Many were forbidden to speak their language and practice their own culture. While some former students had positive experiences at residential schools, many suffered emotional, physical and sexual abuse and others died.
While in Toronto, Tutu toured the Chippewas Reserve on Georgina Island.
“It was a great pleasure for me to be welcomed to their home,” said Tutu, who also visited the Anglican Church of Canada headquarters in Toronto to talk about the similarities and differences between Canada and South Africa’s truth and reconciliation experiences. “I was very grateful to see a place where First Nations People are able to be autonomous and self-governing. That’s unfortunately a rare privilege.”
A year ago, her father opened a two-day conference on oil sands development and First Nations treaties in Fort McMurray.
Though 83 and battling prostate cancer, the first Black bishop of Capetown still travels frequently. Last month, he was in England for the 12th Skoll World Forum on Social Entrepreneurship and in Dharamshala, the home of Tibetan spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama.
Tutu said her father is doing fine despite his busy schedule.
“He has had a couple weeks of hectic travel, but he will rest for a few weeks,” she said. “He’s well.”
Workshops and a session for young people to learn about the work of Canada’s Truth & Reconciliation Commission were part of the summit’s agenda.
“It offered exactly the sort of educational bridge-building that can help Canada leave behind the terrible legacy of residential schools,” said Canada’s Truth & Reconciliation Commission chair, Justice Murray Sinclair.
The summit concluded with a fundraising gala recognizing diversity and social transformation trailblazers.
Retired Ontario chief justice, Roy McMurtry, was the recipient of a luminary award and Chippewas elder, Wanda Big Canoe, who died last September at age 85, was recognized posthumously with a lifetime achievement award.
York Regional Police Chief Eric Jolliffe was honoured with a Person in York Region Award.
Event co-chair, Michael Bowe, said part of the funds raised from the gala will go towards the construction of a library in a learning centre to be built on Georgina Island.