Peace icon Desmond Tutu on Tuesday condemned South Africa’s police for the “massacre” of 34 mineworkers, but said officers seem powerless against massive levels of violent crime and protests.
“When we consigned apartheid to history, we said never again would it happen that our police and our soldiers would massacre our people,” Tutu wrote in the latest edition of the Business Report, citing brutal shootings like Sharpeville in 1960.
“But our police appear powerless to stop tidal waves of violent crime and what we euphemistically refer to as ‘service delivery protests,’ the latter regularly accompanied by violence and destruction committed with utter impunity,” Tutu added.
Seen as a symbol of South Africa’s conscience, the Nobel Peace Prize laureate said the condemnation of the police’s “massacring” of 34 workers and calls for non-lethal crowd control were right, yet sympathy was needed for the majority of good officers struggling to do difficult jobs, faced with high-level graft and calls by bosses to “shoot to kill.”
The nation’s powerful seemed more concerned with preserving power than leading or helping the poor, he said.
“We have created a small handful of mega-rich beneficiaries of a black economic empowerment policy, while spectacularly failing to narrow the gap in living standards between rich and poor South Africans. Instead, we have allowed the gap to widen,” he said.
Hard-won apartheid battles to gather and march were also being abused in democracy.
“When we march, we demand, we destroy and we loot. We care not whether our demands are reasonable, or what actions we take,” Tutu said.
The country’s healed wounds and divisions from its apartheid past had combined with a climate of political tolerance to trigger the Marikana tragedy, he said.
“As a country, we are failing to build on the foundations of magnanimity, caring, pride and hope embodied in the presidency of our extraordinary Tata [father] Nelson Mandela,” Tutu said.