Tutu backs apartheid protestsBy Katie Schwarz
American protests against apartheid give hope to apartheid's opponents in South Africa, said Bishop Desmond M. Tutu at Harvard University Friday night.
"Some people may want to say to you that what you do ten thousand miles away doesn't affect South Africa, but what you do reverberates around the world," said the 1984 Nobel Peace Prize laureate, speaking at Harvard's Kennedy School of Government on the first day of a twelve-day North American tour.
Anti-apartheid movements in foreign countries send a message to South African activists that their cause is just, Tutu continued, as well as causing foreign governments to put political and economic pressure on Pretoria. Tutu attributed the sanctions imposed by Congress on South Africa last summer to "people power."
A wide gap separates white and black South Africans' perceptions of their country, the Bishop said. "What you see depends on who you are ... when we look at the same reality, we perceive a difference."
White South Africans believe that their country is becoming less segregated, Tutu said, but "the perception of blacks is opposite ... it is as if we inhabit different planets." To black South Africans, reforms such as the repeal of laws forbidding racially mixed marriages are cosmetic and the government "remains as oppressive, as ruthless as ever," he explained.
South African blacks are no longer satisfied with gradual, incremental improvements, Tutu warned. "You don't reform an oppressive state, you destroy it." A proposed new constitution giving greater political power to certain nonwhite races would actually be "a step away from democracy" because it would maintain white minority rule, he said. "We don't want our chains made more comfortable, we want our chains removed," he added, quoting Dr. Nthato Motlana.
Bishop Tutu appeared pessimistic about the prospects for a peaceful solution in South Africa, even though he gained fame for his emphasis on nonviolence. "No society hs voluntarily given up power or been willing to share power," he said. He saw pressure from foreign governments as the only remaining hope for inducing peaceful change in aparthid.
Tutu will call for international punitive sanctions against South Africa if there are no "appreciable developments in the dismantling of apartheid" by the end of March, he said in a press conference after the lecture. If international pressure is insufficient, "we will have Armageddon," he added. "You can't talk about peaceful change when a thousand have already been killed.... The principal violence in South Africa is the violence of apartheid."
About 800 people saw the bishop's 20-minute talk, and another 1000 watched him on closed-circuit TV, according to the event's organizers.
Jaron Bourke, the Harvard sophomore who invited Tutu, called for the university's divestment of stock in companies operating in South Africa in his introduction to the Bishop's talk. In his address, Tutu endorsed a slate of three pro-divestment candidates for Harvard's Board of Overseers.
The Adelphia Foundation, an American church group, is sponsoring Tutu's American tour. A Harvard student organization, the Southern Africa Solidarity Committee, and Harvard's Institute of Politics arranged his Kennedy School appearance.