Archbishop Tutu punts reparations tax PHILANI NOMBEMBE | 24 August, 2011 01:05
Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu has repeated his call for white South Africans to pay a reparations wealth tax for benefiting from apartheid. The retired cleric addressed students yesterday at the University of Cape Town, where the students’ representative council launched its community outreach programme, Change Campaign.
Tutu drew a lot of criticism after proposing the wealth tax at a book launch at the University of Stellenbosch two weeks ago. “I was not hoping that the response would be of people who still feel guilty but a response of people [who saw the tax] as a gesture of generosity and magnanimity.
“The problem would have been dealt with much better earlier. We had it in our report; unfortunately the government at the time didn’t like the TRC so they didn’t do that,” said Tutu.
“In fact, for me now I could say that we are undermining what I had in mind by all the negativity, but there are people who saying let us look at it differently.” Yesterday, he also laid into the government over what he described as the poor standard of education, poorly managed health facilities and “cadre deployment”.
He said people often asked why he used the word “retired”. “It’s difficult to shut up,” he said.
Those who supported him on the wealth tax proposed that a fund be set up that would be administered by “people who are respected in the community so that people can benefit from that gesture”.
The FW de Klerk Foundation dismissed Tutu’s proposal as unconstitutional and said it would require the reintroduction of the racial classification and “other demeaning racial distinctions that were associated with apartheid”. “It would also be unfair. Would whites who opposed apartheid be expected to pay the same as those who supported it? Would there be different tax scales for whites who supported the ANC, the DP and the old National Party? And what about the many blacks who held well-paid positions in homeland governments?” the foundation said.
Tutu said he was appalled by the plight of school children who were still taught under trees. “It’s embarrassing. I went to a school in Mpumalanga four years ago and went into the library and there were no chairs and no desks. I said: ‘No. Look at the standard of education.’ We are beaten by the poorest countries in Africa. It’s a disgrace,” he said.
SRC president Amanda Ngwenya said the council believed Tutu would inspire others to help communities by participating in its outreach programme. “We feel it’s important for the students to take part in the society broadly and make a contribution. This is the second day in a week of events and I think someone with Desmond Tutu’s calibre will inspire students into action,” said Ngwenya.