Anti-apartheid veteran Archbishop Desmond Tutu wowed a packed Fairfields Hall in Croydon last night at the finale of his British visit. The archbishop was joined by his daughter, Rev Mpho Tutu, in a wonderful night of entertainment hosted by the Tutu Foundation and capped by the 81-year-old statesman answering audience questions.
There was also a strong Sutton influence, with performances by the BSB Sutton youth band, a local dance troupe and singing by the Wallington High School for Girls choir. As a Sutton councillor I was proud to be there. The only regret was that the Council were not able to facilitate the great man coming to the borough in time. However Desmond Tutu’s visit was an undoubted success and the master of ceremonies, BBC presenter Dotun Adebayo, did great job too.
Calling everyone in the audience a “VSP” (very special person), the archbishop paid tribute to the “beautiful diversity of Croydon”, adding: “You are the rainbow people – go and live that out.”
Answering a question from a school pupil about the struggle to overcome oppression, he noted that the evil of racism affects the subconscience of the perpetrators who lose their humanity. He recounted a story, told to him during the Truth and Reconciliation Commission hearings, of a group of white South Africans who had a barbecue while watching a man slowly burn to death.
I had a question read out, which was that while I understood the need for the Truth and Reconciliation process it did not seem like justice when so many murderers went free. After the healing is over how will history judge this?
Rev Mpho Tutu answered this:
“I don’t know if the healing is ever over. I think it can be healed but it’s not something that you can say ‘okay, I’m done with that.’
“They didn’t face punishments in the courts it telling the truth of the kind of horrors that so many committed, just the act of having to face the truth, is in no way going free.
“The battles the perpetrator had to engage in, within themselves, to come to terms with their actions; that is no measure of going free.”
I’m not sure this got to the heart of the question but I appreciated the response. It was an honour to be in the presence of this great man, an historical figure, and he remains an inspiration to many around the world.
By Lester Holloway @brolezholloway