Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu speaking at the launch of The Change Campaign at UCT. Photo: Cindy waxa
Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu speaking at the launch of The Change Campaign at UCT. Photo: Cindy waxa

Graduates can help heal the country - Tutu

By Tanya Farber Time of article published Aug 24, 2011

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Hot on the heels of his controversial “wealth tax for whites” proposal, Anglican Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu has proposed a national community service in which newly qualified graduates would engage in voluntary community outreach before joining the world of paid work.

His statement, issued at UCT yesterday as part of the university’s The Change Campaign, did not explicitly refer to whites, but was made in the context of his speaking about his earlier call for a “wealth tax”.

“In response to my wealth tax statement,” he joked, “many have just said: ‘Eish, why didn’t you just remain retired?’

“What we really need is national community service. Before you go out to find work, it will be good to say: ‘I volunteer my services.’ For goodness’ sake, this is our country and we will all benefit.”

For example, he said, architects could work towards “designing and putting up decent homes for the destitute and homeless”, while other skills could be used in providing clean water and other basic services.

He said it was “disgraceful that some of our children are still learning under trees and others are homeless”, but “when you fly in a plane over this country you see there is more than enough land for every single one of us”.

“We would all be beneficiaries of national community service and would learn to know one another better across different social strata.”

Tutu said he had deep respect for young people’s ability to change the world.

“When America was fighting the Vietnam War, who were the people who demonstrated and got the US out of the war? It was people like you – students – saying ‘No, this is immoral’.”

Tutu said that, in the apartheid era, he travelled to American universities and colleges, calling on the US to disinvest in South Africa at a time when then-president Ronald Reagan was opposed to sanctions.

“They were so passionate and were able to change the moral climate of that country. They were young people like you and you and you and you.”

Tutu only had time to take two questions or comments, and both were from students who said they supported the “wealth tax” proposal. The second student said: “I support the wealth tax, but think 1 percent is far too little. Whites have stolen absolutely everything from us, including land and education.”

Tutu responded, saying: “I cannot leave this talk on that note. Things are a bit raw. My aim at raising the tax issue was not hoping it would come from people who feel guilty, but people who would see it as a gesture of generosity.”

Tutu said it wasn’t money that was the problem so much as finding a way to administer it. “It would have to be… administered by people who are respected in the community, because it is a real sadness that we are aping the people we so opposed.”

*The Change Campaign aims to get students involved in community outreach. “Most students doing outreach here are international students. We want more local students to be involved,” said SRC president Amanda Ngwenya. - Cape Times

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