Photo: Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Sir Peter Ustinov.
Ustinov Forum would like to acnowledge the contribution made by the life and work of Archbishop Desmond Tutu.
For his 1997 television series, Planet Ustinov, in which he explored different continents, travelling in the footsteps of Mark Twain, Sir Peter Ustinov interviwed Archbishop Desmond Tutu, in South Africa. One of the instigators and founders, as well as the Chairman of the South African Truth and Reconcilliation Commission, Tutu was involved then in vital activity, during the Presidency of Nelson Mandela, his friend and colleague. The Commission had extraordinary purpose and duty ingrained in its very existence. It was to review and understand the criminal behaviour of many active in, and on behalf of, the Apartheid regime, treating the findings and results as, not punishment of criminals, nor amnesty for criminals, but a way to do what the description said, discover the truth, develop a reconcilliation. It was this, Sir Peter and Archbishop Tutu began their conversation with.
Ustinov: " Can one forgive, when the perpetrators... seem devoid of remorse...do a lot of people get off free and does it matter?"
Tutu: " It was part of the price that had to be paid, for our transition... if at the negotiations, they had decided that all those guilty of gross violations of human rights, were for the "high jump," then it is highly unlikely that the security forces would have permitted the transition to be as reasonably peaceful as it turned out to be, so that was the compromise between those who wanted a blanket amnesty which would have been tantamount to amnesia, and those who said they wanted the Nuremberg type of trial. Forgiveness is not something nebulous, is not something ethereal, for religious people, it is actually deeply pragmatic, it is part of realpolitik, because you come to the realisation that without forgiveness, there is no future."
Desmond Tutu expressed himself naturally, always eloquently, and often vociferously and humourously. He was a staunch man and Minister. On most issues to deal with the domestic situation in South Africa, he was universally, regarded only highly. His patience on some international issues was less evident and less popular, when, for example, on the Israel/Palestine issue, he described Israel, as guilty of Apartheid, and sometimes worse than South Africa. He apologised, but was criticised. It is, however, obvious, that understanding and forgiveness, were as present, at heart, on all issues, and these beat, strongly, beneath the words of frustration, over injustices.
Desmond Tutu was arch, passionate, forceful, opinionated, but he was indeed, a Bishop, compassionate, ministering, kind. As a person and in politics, his efforts were considerable, and his Truth and Reconcilliation Commission, remarkable.
His life and work stand out as brave and brilliant, amidst the life threatening troubles of a violently racist society in which he emerged, and which he sought to change, and to a great extent, helped to succeed in changing.