CAPE TOWN -- ESPN's Bob Ley sat down here on Tuesday with Archbishop Desmond Tutu to discuss his love for Bafana Bafana, his love for his country and his love for the president.
PRAYING: The Holy Spirit fill the hearts of the faithful and condemn forever, their love, thy spirit and thy shall be made and thy shall renew the face of the earth. AMEN.
Bob Ley: Archbishop, just seeing some of the pictures of you at the match, the concert, it appears you are having a pretty good time at this cup.
Bishop Desmond Tutu: It's been fantastic, none of us I don't think could have predicted, well there's a euphoria an extraordinary that's pervading our country, and it's something bigger than even when Nelson Mandela was released or when we had our first democratic elections or even when we won the world rugby cup.
Ley: How can it be larger than those moments? This is just soccer.
Tutu: Your guess is as good as mine. Yes, in part the majority of the country loves soccer. But that should have been precisely the reason why it would not bind us together. Because it's mainly a black sport and the teams that have been playing, although we have one white fellow, he has not been picked and yet it is this team that's galvanized this country in an amazing type of way.
Ley: I had a white South African tell me the other day, he was seated on this couch, watching the opening match, Shabalala's goal goes in and he started crying. A white South African, he said "I was so proud to be South African." When you hear an account like that, what does it mean to you?
Tutu: Basically, we are just good human beings, you know. This this has been the occasion for us to remember our common humanity. It has been helped by the fact that two rugby matches were played in Soweto ... but it doesn't explain everything. It may also be the people that have been playing for us all over the world, those prayers are baring fruit. I still have to say to you, I am amazed I really am amazed. And when you look at the flags that are being waved and flown, I thought I would be driving along and see our country flag on the bonnet of a car and I would say I'm sure that must be a car driven by or owned by blacks. But lo and behold, no.
This is a huge dream. I was just looking at the Afrikaans paper The Banner. The Banner headline's "Farmers for Bafana," and it's speaking about Afrikaans farmers and most of whom have been fans of rugby and most of whom would be remembering that one of their lot has just been killed and using the blood and many farmers have been victims of crimes of violences (laughs). If you told me that even in January if you said this is what is going to happen I would have said who is your psychologist, you need to go and see your shrink.
Ley: When you think of 1995, the Rugby World Cup, 1996, the African Cup of Nations, the wonder of this World Cup, why is it that sport is so intertwined with the recent history of this country and its development as a democracy.
Tutu: Perhaps in the moments when we have thought that, well, that sport is sport is sport. I don't know that in fact that we have ever thought so in South Africa. Because you know in the battle days when you had teams from overseas playing against an all-white side, almost universally, the blacks would support the foreign side. So that sport was already seen not as just sport, it was sport plus. And sport, and you almost would have said it is almost a kind of religion. Because that is what hit many white people hardest. The sports boycott. They couldn't play, they couldn't play rugby against the all blacks in New Zealand or Australia when they were not allowed to participate in the Olympic Games, that hit many white people more then anything else. It was more powerful psychological lows to them.
Ley: This is a remarkable month for South Africa and you've talked about all that it's meant. Billion of dollars, billions of rand have been spent. How wisely has it been spent?
Tutu: I suppose what you are saying, wouldn't it have been better to spend the money that was allocated for the stadiums, which are the state-of-the-art stadiums that money was not allocated to eradicate poverty. The minute truth there but the far more important thing is it is illustrative of the fact, which the bible said long ago, human beings don't live by bread alone because many of those who are vociferous supporters of Bafana Bafana are not rich people. Many of them would say yes, we think it would have been a good thing to spend some of the money ... but you know what price are able to put to the spirit that pervades our country. The spirit that I was just telling you about, Afrikaans' farmers are saying farmers for Bafana Bafana but yesterday in that same Afrikaans' newspaper, I was reading that a white family, a family have just had twins, and they have named one Bafana and they named the other Mexico. Even if those are nicknames, it is just an extraordinary, I mean you have to keep say ... is this for real. And I said to our president at the opening match, "What we are experiencing is unprecedented; for goodness sake, harness the spirit. If I was in your government, one of the things I would have done is immediately to announce that we are building 50,000 houses." As it happened, in fact they announced that here is a building complex which has been built at the same time as the expenditure which has been allocated to this World Cup.
But can you tell me what dollar value you attach to the positive exposure that we are getting in almost every newspaper. I mean all of those people the gloom doomsayers who were saying they are not going to be able to do anything on time; they are going to miss deadlines. Look at the crime. It's just going to be awful. I mean, people are going to arrive here and the lions are roaming in the streets of South Africa are going to eat them up and if the lions don't, then the crocks are going to do it.
I mean people have been traveling at night. And, yeah, we've put our best foot forward and have not done too badly, I think. And all of these tourists that have come are going to return. You know, they are going to say we had such a great time in South Africa, they will return even when there is no World Cup. I've got to say I'm bursting with pride, I'm bursting with pride because our people are being reminded again as those other incidents, events that you referred to, tried to remind us, hey you are a fantastic bunch of human beings. We have a fantastic country. We can become one of the most wonderful, I usually have said, we are a scintillating success waiting to happen. (laughs)
Ley: You have talked about leaders need to be servants and not in it for self-aggrandizement. With that as a model, with one team, one nation, trying to continue that ethos into the future. How well is this nation led right now by the president and the African National Congress? Tutu: I've been a school teacher and you know a school teacher says, they often say, when they write a report on the students, this student is doing well but there is room for improvement. ... There are some things that have been done well. A single example is what has been happening with the World Cup. I think myself that that there are very many things that we could have done better. But having said so, one has also got to say, things could have gone a great deal horrendously wrong.
Ley: What was the greatest danger?
Tutu: That we would have become a country that was destroyed by a racial purpose. It was a real possibility. And you know to the reservation commission, it was discovered after the negotiated settlement that there were cases of arms that were buried in many parts of our country. So it wasn't just offensive to speak about our country being reduced to dust and ashes. It could have happened. And that fact that it didn't happen must remain a massive feather in the cap of our country, it's government.
Ley: You mentioned the Truth and Reconciliation Committee, which you chaired. Truth being very important to this country, facing to the truth. What is the most difficult truth that this country must face now, following the World Cup?
Tutu: That there is a level of poverty in our country that is unacceptable. That there is a level of corruption that is unacceptable. Ah, it doesn't make me feel better to be able to say look at how British parliamentarians have been behaving; you know that corruption is not something that is peculiar to us. You know when I have a toothache it it it doesn't help me that it to tell me that those are the guys that also have toothaches. But it does make you realize that people shouldn't be too hoity-toity. You know, I hope, in that they our government our leaders will see it really is much better to employ people on the basis of ability and skills, then on the basis of loyalty to the ruling party. I hope they will have seen that we do, have those abilities in this country and we should become a meritocracy. We will surprise the world. Ah, I think I mean that they will have seen that there is a great deal of merit in saying that we want people who are competent, we want people who can meet deadlines, we want people who are ultimately loyal not to party bosses but loyal to our constitution and loyal to our people.
Ley: Let me ask you about Mandeba, Nelson Mandela, who was unable to attend the opening match, the horrible tragedy in his family, the loss of his his granddaughter. What is the sense of his reaction to this month of football here in South Africa?
Tutu: Well, if he could have kicked a ball, he would have kicked it. And I am sure that he would have attended the opening ceremony had the family tragedy not struck them. He, he did the next best thing, which was to meet the team. He's not now as he was a few years ago. I mean when he is sitting down, he is amazing. You know when he is sitting down and speaks, his voice is still firm and he's got that immutable smile and he looks he really looks good. It's when he stands that you realize it's 91 years (old) and he was not in clover. It was a rough life, 27 of those years, were incarceration. But you keep having to say, someone upstairs there was biased in favor of South Africa in giving us this extraordinary gift of Modeba. I mean, in a way only he could have pulled off the sort of things that were indispensable to ensure that we had that translation only ... because part of it was he went against against many in his constituency who were saying clobber these guys good. And, fortunately he had the authority, he had the credibility which enabled him to say things that no one else could have gotten away with. When he said to people that had been roughed up, "We are going to warm the path of forgiveness or reconciliation," I think only he could have managed to persuade the hotheads to accept that this was not defeat it was the best kind of victory, where it's a win win, win win win win.
Ley: In 1986, when you became archbishop, it was technically a crime for you as a black man to even live in the archbishop's residence. At that moment, Medeba was in prison, just a few miles from here. If some had told you at that moment, within a generation, the world would be in this nation, that it would be a democracy and there would be a celebration of sport here from all over the globe, what would you have said then?
Tutu: I have to say I never doubted that we would ultimately be free, that we would be a democracy. But I did not know that, when it came, it would come quite so quickly. I couldn't have bet my bottom dollar that I would be there. Obviously, I was longing to be there at the dawn of democracy, but in 1986 the apartheid wielded us of power, were very firmly in the settle. They were being supported by the West, basically.
When I went to 10 Downing Street to persuade Mrs. Thatcher to apply sanctions, she wouldn't hear. And I tried it at the White House with President Reagan, and he wouldn't hear. And so it looked like, ultimately we would be free but that ultimately seemed (inaudible). When you said in 1990 Madeba is going to be walking out of prison, I would cheer you with about a third of me. It would be an instinctive cheering. But 90 percent of me would say I think that, guys, is crazy (laughs).
Ley: You've spent a lot of time in the United States over the years. What is the link between the U.S. and South Africa, especially now over the last 16 years? What binds these two countries together?
Tutu: It's that you've had a history of losing the bonds of colonialism. I mean, you had the American War of Independence. We had something similar. You seemed to have on the one side whites who wielded power and on the other side you had people of color being roughed up, so there were parallels. Another way of putting it was we were greatly inspired by what happened in the United States. I remember as a young kid at high school, just how we were inspired by the brown bomber.
Ley: JOE LOUIS
Tutu: I mean, when he fought Max Schmeling and, lost it was like we had lost. I mean Sugar Ray Robinson, and yeah I mean we we were inspired, I didn't know what baseball was but I picked up a tattered copy of Ebony, I don't even know where that came from and it was explaining Jackie Robinson breaking into Major League Baseball, going to play for Brooklyn Dodgers. I mean I didn't know baseball from ping-pong, yet that achievement made me grow inches. ...
Then when you had your civil rights movement, it almost seemed that we were moving on sort of parallel ground. We sang, "We shall overcome" here you know, it became for us also a ... even though you were fighting a civil right and we were fighting fundamental rights, we were inspired by what happened. And then young people, your young people. I mean, when I used to go there and visit college and university campuses, it was fantastic. I mean, they were amazing in their anti-apartheid movement. And actually helped to change the model climate in your country. Because I was pointing out a very much-loved president was opposed to sanctions. But as a result of all of those demonstrations, congress passed the anti-apartheid legislation with a presidential veto override.
That was fantastic and I mean I think people saw some parallels between your journey and our journey, and now it has been re-enforced because you are a crazy country. You have a racism there where a black man can be dragged behind his truck to his death, and yet you are a country that is sufficiently democratic so that you can have a black in the White House (laughs). Maybe you suffer from kind of (schitzophrenia)? Because I was there for the (inauguration) of your president (pauses). I don't know that your country has experienced quite ... I mean it's much the same. We seemed to experience a kind of euphoria. People were saying, you know, I've never waved an American flag, but today I'm waving our flag and it was quite amazing. The crowds were quite something else.
One of our daughters said she was going to take her daughter to the inauguration and they left at 4 in the morning, thinking that they were going to find it easy to get very close. At 4 in the morning, they couldn't get through because of the press -- you know, the human bodies -- and we tried ourselves and and and but what was so wonderful too is that although there was so many people and yeah you said security and so on and you needed just one crazy to explode something. I don't remember that there was a single incident and even you had people so tightly pressed against each other. The goodwill that was I mean when you can along with say a child, people opened up almost like the waters of the red sea parting. People children were treated very specially. I mean, it was an incredible moment it was a kind of, it was your Madeba moment. (laughs)
Ley: Archbishop, thank you so much for your time. We deeply appreciate it.
Tutu: Thank you, thank you, thank you. I'm off now because we want to watch our guys.