Cape Town - President Cyril Ramaphosa has slammed those he called beneficiaries of apartheid injustices for shying away from efforts by government to try and address the legacy of the past, including inequality.
Ramaphosa was delivering the 8th Desmond Tutu International Peace Lecture in Cape Town, in which he reflected on the country’s project of restorative justice, 20 years after the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, which Tutu co-chaired.
Ramaphosa hailed Tutu’s role during the TRC, saying it was a critical part of the country’s long journey to peace and freedom after many years of oppression and divisions.
He said his government now had no other choice but to focus on radically transforming the economy and addressing the pressing land issue, as reconciliation would not bring freedom without restorative justice.
“In this sense, the process of truth and reconciliation will not be complete until we have acknowledged the economic and social injustices of the past and also taken steps to correct them so that they pave a future for all our future,” he said.
He, however, lamented that those who benefitted from the country’s brutal past did not want to come to the table and contribute in efforts of addressing the country’s problems. “This is a responsibility that falls both on those who have been beneficiaries of racial privilege and those who suffered its debilitating effect. In this task, we are joined together, and each time I say that those who have benefited immensely from the system of the past have a responsibility to stand up and be counted, many start shying away and hiding in some dark corners,” Ramaphosa said.
Ramaphosa said South Africa could not claim to be a free country when basic constitutionally guaranteed rights continued to be not enjoyed by the majority of South Africans. “We cannot talk of true freedom when 10% has more wealth than the remaining 90% of the population combined. When women are discriminated against in their workplace and are abused in their homes and when privilege and poverty follow the same racial contours of our colonial past,” Ramaphosa said.
“We will not have been able to say we have achieved freedom for all our people until we have corrected the historical injustice of accumulation by a minority on the basis of dispossession of the majority. Until we do that, until we build a South Africa in which the wealth is shared amongst the people and the land is shared among all those who work it, we will not be able to realise lasting peace nor we will have the type of stability that can yield the best life,” Ramaphosa added.
The annual lecture is aimed at stimulating engagement on the vision and values of Tutu and has previously been delivered by the late Ghanaian diplomat and former United Nations general secretary Kofi Annan, The Dalai Lama, former Public Protector Thuli Madonsela and Graça Machel, among other notable figures.
Tutu, who turned 87 on Sunday, could however not attend the event due to his ill health.
Ramaphosa said while the ANC-led government has done a lot to advance the lives of the black majority, since the TRC completed its work some 20 years ago, the trauma of apartheid and its dark shadow continued to linger in their daily lives.
“This is a trauma not of torture. It is not a trauma of detention and death squads but it is a trauma of hunger, homelessness, illiteracy and unemployment. There are none who have seen the conditions which so many South Africans live who could deny that the deliberate impoverishment of our people is in itself a violation of human rights,” he said.