Kiwi's book launch used to condemn shootings
South Africa's Archbishop Desmond Tutu has used the launching of a New Zealander's book to harshly condemn the police shooting of 34 miners at Marikana near Johannesburg.
He told an audience at the launching of Father Michael Lapsley's new book that the shootings reminded him of apartheid.
"In 2012?" he said angrily, "in a democracy? In a new South Africa? Have we forgotten so soon? Marikana felt like a nightmare, but that is what our democracy is in 2012."
Tutu shouted: "What the heck are you doing...? Why the heck did we have this struggle? What the heck was it for...?
"Is this the kind of freedom people were tortured and people were maimed for?"
Beeld newspaper quoted a highly emotional Tutu as saying: "I am 80 years old. Can't you allow us elders to go to our graves with a smile, knowing that this is a good country? Because truly – it is a good country."
Tutu asked how Marikana could have been allowed to happen, to "besmirch our freedom."
Lapsley, who was born in New Zealand in 1949 and became an African National Congress chaplain, lost an eye and both hands to a parcel bomb sent by the apartheid regime in 1990 in Zimbabwe.
His memoir, Redeeming the Past was launched by Tutu in Cape Town yesterday.
The Cape Times reported Tutu saluted Lapsley for his contribution to freedom and said he had shown how forgiveness and reconciliation trumped retribution.
Tutu said Lapsley was an example of how South Africa could evolve into a country which people had made huge sacrifices for.
"We have wonderful people. Please, please, please do not let this price that had been paid be in vain," Tutu said.
Lapsley said the book reflected his life journey as well as voices of people who spoke about their pain under apartheid.
Before Marikana there had been signs that South Africa was a deeply divided country, Lapsley said, citing the re-emergence of neck-lacing – the burning of people with a fuel soaked tyre.
"We need to urgently have a national conversation about our woundedness.
"To do so we need a new language – not one of the head, but one of the heart."
Lapsley, in a profile by the South Africa Broadcasting Corporation, said his first experience of the country was when the apartheid government refused Maori members to be part of the New Zealand rugby tour to South Africa.
"My next introduction to South Africa was reading Trevor Huddlestone's Naught for Your Comfort about the forced removals of Sophiatown."
"So I knew that there was something happening in South Africa from a very young age that was contrary to the Christian gospel. But, I never imagined that my own life was going to be intertwined with the journey of the people of South Africa."
"The day I arrived in South Africa, I was robbed of being a human being. I became a white man"
He told SABC that he arrived in South Africa and found the situation quite bad.
"I became a white man because suddenly every single aspect of my life, the suburb I lived in, the toilet I could use, the part of the sea I could swim in, everything was decided by race. So in a way I would say that apartheid robbed me of my humanity. It made me in an objective sense part of the oppressor group. So for me to join the liberation struggle was to join the struggle to recover my own humanity, in solidarity with the black people who were struggling for their basic human rights," says Lapsley.
After returning to South Africa after 14-years of exile, he realised that South Africa was a damaged nation. He set up his Institute for Healing of memories to help repair the damage of apartheid.
He told SABC there was still much to be done to heal South Africa.
"We remain a deeply wounded nation, that the very psyche of the nation is wounded. And I think in my experience, very many black people know that apartheid wounded them."
- © Fairfax NZ News