After Desmond Tutu, the era of South Africa’s new heroes

After a week of national mourning, South Africa’s last moral giant is resting in peace

Archbishop Desmond Tutu is the last truly global figure in the era when South Africa taught the world what courage and reconciliation can achieve.

The last generation of extraordinary moral giants—in the 1980s and 1990s, led a turbulent and traumatized country away from the brutality of apartheid and the edge of the cliff of civil war.

With the departure of Desmond Tutu, South Africa found that it was not completely without direction or leadership, but finally completely free from the shackles of its glorious years.

The contrast between those ages of sacrifice and glory and today’s far shabby political reality will certainly appear sharp.

The country that Tutu ultimately left behind is a troubled country, deep in economic malaise, suffocating high unemployment and persistent inequality, ruled by the former Liberation Party African National Congress (ANC), the party and itself In open war.

Tutu is too weak to comment on the political violence that broke out in July this year-supporters of the humiliated former President Jacob Zuma responded to his imprisonment for contempt of court. Planning an attempted uprising.

But over the years, the archbishop has made it clear that his illusions about the ANC and its involvement in factionalism and corruption have become increasingly disillusioned. Those close to him talked about his deep concern that so many hard-won liberation achievements are being wasted.

On February 10, 1990, South African activist, Nobel Peace Prize, and Anglican Archbishop Desmond Tutu announced at his home in Soweto that the anti-apartheid leader and the African National Congress ( ANC) member Nelson Mandela reacted when he was free.

In 1990, Archbishop Desmond Tutu cheered for the release of anti-apartheid leader Nelson Mandela

Disappointment may be the price people pay for longevity, which may be inevitable.

Not surprisingly, some prominent figures in the ANC in recent days have chosen to remain silent instead of joining those who sometimes hypocritically pay tribute to someone who has spent so much time accusing them of being “worse than the apartheid government”— Some of them chose to ignore or insult, or were simply told to “shut up”.

But this week, others chose to fight back and attack Tutu-of course, especially on social media-as a sort of “sell”, as a person who prioritizes reconciliation over justice, the sensitivity of whites is higher than the majority of blacks. Needs. Such accusations are not new. But it is worth noting.

Over the years, some politicians here have tried to take advantage of the frustration of poor South Africans-they have benefited the least from democracy and years of economic stagnation-accusing Tutu and Nelson Mandela of being too fast with apartheid leadership People and business giants compromise.

They accused the two men of enabling white South Africans to retain their ill-gotten gains and enabling the apartheid death squads to enjoy a comfortable retirement.

In short, they accused Tutu of over-promoting the concept of “Rainbow Country”-a phrase he coined and championed.

A mural depicting the Archbishop Desmond Tutu in Cape Town in 2021.

Desmond Tutu’s critics accused him of over-promoting the idea of ​​”Rainbow Nation”

This allegation has been widely questioned and debated in South Africa.

But this involves something very special about Tutu and Mandela as leaders-their amazing abilities, crucial in the tense and desperate years before and during apartheid, bringing people together and gaining international appeal force. Mandela relied on a relaxed solemnity, full of wit.

Tutu’s attractiveness relies on a more boisterous form of humor and is balanced with his preparations to show fragility and deep emotions.

He would laugh at apartheid leaders, urge them to join “the winning side before it is too late,” and draw laughter among the angry crowds in the troubled black township of South Africa. In the mid-1990s, Tutuhui cried publicly at the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) under his leadership, passing grief and trauma to millions of people watching the exposure of the daily torture and ill-treatment suffered on television. Apartheid security forces appeared. .

Archbishop Desmond Tutu wipes away tears at the TRC hearing

Tutu is often moved by the disturbing testimony of the landmark Truth and Reconciliation Commission

The Truth and Reconciliation Commission is not perfect-and has been questioned by many people in the ANC, including Winnie Madikizera-Mandela, who was found to have Committed a terrible crime And feel that she is therefore unfairly equated with her oppressor. But this was part of the treatment process that was considered vital at the time, and it would be impossible without the existence of Tutu.

In short, what Tutu and Mandela have is charm. And, in different ways, this charm is crucial to South Africa’s journey and its success. Just like compromises made in tortuous negotiations, the country avoided ethnic civil war.

There are few people seeking to rewrite history and weaken Tutu’s legacy without a background.

But it is true, especially in their later years, Tutu and Mandela-so amiable and so tolerant-have become international mascots of tolerance and forgiveness.

It’s easy to understand why some South Africans may feel uncomfortable with the way these people-fierce, uncompromising heroes of the struggle-have been repackaged as “cute” advocates of “rainbowism”, driven out, and cut off. , Even resentment. Express their righteous anger and please Western audiences, rock stars and royals.

Of course, the truth is that graphs are different things to many people. In death, he was claimed and argued like Mandela. This is the essence of the icon.

But after he helped lead the country towards democracy for a whole generation, what legacy did Tutu leave in today’s South Africa?

A lot of time has passed since those exciting days. Does it still make sense to think about what it means for a country to run counter to the great moral leaders of the past?

South African Archbishop and Honorary Elder Desmond Tutu (right) shakes hands with UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon (left) and South African President Jacob Zuma (middle) at the memorial service of former South African President Nelson Mandela FNB Stadium (Football City) in Johannesburg on December 10, 2013.

Archbishop Desmond Tutu relentlessly criticized the government of former President Jacob Zuma (C) and Thabo Mbeki before him

Like Mandela, Tutu will never be forgotten. He will continue to be a role model and inspiration for countless others. Of course, this is enough.

When so many people mourn his death and celebrate his happy, pious, and extraordinary life, it may be difficult to say or argue, but it may be a bad thing that South Africa will eventually be closed and not just another country. A chapter in the history of struggle, but a whole book.

why? Because, as the political commentator Eusebius McKaiser said to me, it may be time for South Africa to find “a different kind of hero—a more boring hero.”

In the modern era of political tensions and economic downturns, this country needs someone who can divert attention from its controversial past and instead inspire people to focus on—and find solutions—to the more tedious technocratic challenges of today.

Most importantly, the top priority is to build and reshape the economy, lift millions out of poverty, and make the rainbow country of Tutu a reality that he has always insisted on.

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