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Nontombi Naomi Tutu Emphasizes Apartheid’s Lessons to BC Students

Photo of Naomi Tutu

by Andrew Peters ’15

On Oct. 21 in Cole Hall, Nontombi Naomi Tutu, peace activist and daughter of Archbishop Desmond Tutu, shared her stories about South Africa’s exodus from apartheid.

As South Africa began to turn its back on apartheid, Tutu’s father, Archbishop Desmond Tutu, helped to form the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC). This committee examined individual cases for amnesty for their actions during the reign of apartheid. Tutu stated, “As we moved into a new South Africa, it was necessary to have a clean break with apartheid.”

During the change from apartheid to a democratic government in South Africa, calls for blanket amnesty of all individuals were made. Revolutionaries were angered by the suggestions of blanket amnesty and called for guidelines to be created, making amnesty more difficult to attain.

Although Tutu was concerned that people did not need to show remorse for their actions, she was happy to see that “you just had to tell the truth and show political motivations” for your actions to receive amnesty.

While many lied about their actions under apartheid, some individuals told the truth and gained amnesty. Tutu commented that for many, it was “the first time that they were telling the truth to the commission and the first time they were telling the truth to themselves.”

Though many of the stories about apartheid were difficult to hear, “the only way to move to forward as a country was to claim all of these stories,” she remarked.

The healing process began soon after. “As a nation, we began to see how amazing our people can be,” remarked Tutu. Once people began talking about their actions, families of the victims could start to forgive them.

During apartheid, South Africa saw “how easy it was to learn the lessons of prejudice,” said Tutu. She emphasized that in order to change, we need to admit that prejudice is part of our culture before we can start the healing process.

Tutu challenged students to change these lessons of prejudice. “If we truly wish to heal, we have to be willing to listen and speak the truth.”

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