Sobering theme marks Tutu peace lecture
SELF- enrichment of a few while ignoring poverty affecting the masses is driving unrest around the county and internationally.
That was the sobering message delivered repeatedly last night at the Sixth Annual Desmond Tutu International Peace Lecture at the Artscape. The lecture coincided with the archbishop emeritus’s 85th birthday. Tutu, who was hospitalised last month as a result of an infection following earlier surgery related to his prostate cancer, arrived in a wheelchair.
He chuckled as guests wished him happy birthday, and smiled broadly as a choir and scores of gathered guests sang to him. The lecture was moved to the Artscape from its usual venue at the University of the Western Cape due to student protests.
During a welcome speech, UWC vice-chancellor Tyrone Pretorius said he regretted the move, but he had discussed the unrest with Tutu, who he was glad to see in good health and spirits.
Pretorius said the protests were “a direct result of the failure to address poverty”.
Tutu’s daughter, Mpho Tutuvan Furth, said there would be no real peace in cities if the promise of democracy was not delivered. She said “better lives for all our citizens” needed to applied, rather than only for self-enriching individuals who effectively stole from the state.
Hina Jilani, a multi-award winning human rights activist and advocate for Pakistan’s supreme court of appeal, delivered the official lecture, focusing on the same theme.
Jilani has been awarded several national and international awards, including the Human Rights Award by the Lawyers Committee for Human Rights in 1999 and the Amnesty International Ginetta Sagan Award for Women’s Rights in 2000.
Jilani called Tutu her hero, saying he was not just an “inspiration for millions around the world”, but also a voice of hope in turbulent times.
Jilani said several countries in Africa and Asia were transitioning from authoritarian rule.
“Some of these countries show visible signs of reversal of the initial advancements, and are trapped in a perpetual state of transition.
“Transition to democracy has remained merely procedural and while increasing their power to control, little has been done by governments to build the capacity of the state to protect,” she warned.
This was causing social and political crises to resurface.
Jilani said governments were ignoring human rights norms too.
“Public reaction to the denial of economic, social and cultural rights is increasingly becoming the reason for public protest,” she said.
“In many countries, stability rather than development has become an imperative to be achieved through the use of state force to repress popular movements… Such actions have resulted in increased public resentment against authorities, and in narrowing the space for dialogue.”
The governance practices which states adopted determined the risks faced by residents. Previous lectures were delivered by outgoing Public Protector Thuli Madonsela and former first lady Graça Machel.
Full speech in tomorrow’s Weekend Argus.
Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu is surrounded by well-wishers as he arrives in a wheelchair at Artscape last night.