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The tale of two tutu petitions

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Dan Roodt, Advocate Gcina Malindi (SC) and Dot Cleminshaw

By Zackie Achmat


The Board of the Cape Town Holocaust Centre met with Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu this week to discuss the calls by people who support the Israeli Occupation of Palestinians.

On 24 January 2011, Open Shuhada Street activists Dan Kamen and Lungisa Mndende handed over the 5815 signatures that were collected in support of Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu’s role as a patron of the Holocaust Centre to centre director Richard Freedman. The petition also defends Archbishop Tutu’s right to criticise the state of Israel. (See the letter below and the text of the petition here)

Archbishop Tutu has always united people against injustice. The response to the attack by leading supporters of the South African Zionist Federation against him is a striking illustration of his capacity to bring together the most diverse array of people both online and offline. This note focuses on the people in South Africa who signed this petition.

Noluvuyo Peter lives in Nkanini informal settlement in Khayelitsha, Cati Vawda lives in Westville Durban, Alice Krige lives in Hollywood California, Theodora Steele hails from Braamfontein in Johannesburg — they are women with a sense of justice — they signed the petition supporting Archbishop Tutu.

David Bruce was sentenced to six years imprisonment for refusing to serve in the apartheid army while Gcina Malindi, a Delmas Treason Trialist and former Robben Island prisoner also signed the petition. Nowa senior counsel at the Johannesburg Bar, Advocate Malindi left this comment with his signature online:

“Anyone who opposed or fought against apartheid in South Africa was labeled a communist in order to besmirch their name in an anti-communistworld. The label of being an anti-Semite is similarly misused (deliberately) in order to besmirch those who oppose the anti-human rights actions of the state of Israel. Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu criticises the deeds of the Israeli state not the Semitic people who reside in Israel or associate themselves with the state of Israel. He tackles matters of principle not the people. I support his views on the state of Israel.”

Vice-chancellors of universities such as Professor Saleem Badat (Rhodes University) and Professor Max Price (UCT) and student leaders such as Axolile Notywala (a Khayelitsha engineering student and member of the Social Justice Coalition) and Bianca Sossen (a medical student from CapeTown and Habonim Dror leader) signed the petition.

Professor Price wrote:

“Desmond Tutu is a role model for us all – as much for the positions he takes in defence of peaceful co-existence and human rights as for hiscourage to take unpopular stands and refusal to bow to political correctness.”

South Africa’s most well-known actor Pieter-Dirk Uys and his sister Tessa Uys, a pianist joined Reverend Alex Boraine (Deputy Chairperson ofthe Truth and Reconciliation Commission) in defending Archbishop Tutu while A.B an Afrikaner man left the following comment with his online signature:

“As an Afrikaner who has read some of my own history, I recognise a familiar situation. I will not be on the wrong side again.”

My favourite person who signed this petition is Dot Cleminshaw an 88 year-old activist and one of the few real Liberals in South African history. Their voices stand for freedom, non-violence and equality for all and against them sounds a tiny, baneful chorus of fear and hate.

The petition of hate and intolerance

The petition started by David Hersch (vice-Chairman of the South African Zionist Federation) abuses the pain and memory of the Holocaust and some of its survivors todefend the Israeli Occupation. Fewer than 600 people had signed the petition that called him a “bigoted”, “anti-semite”, however, the peoplewho signed it includes racist defenders of apartheid. The most eloquentracist who signed the petition for his removal as a patron of the Holocaust Centres is Dan Roodt.

“Tutu cares neither for facts nor the truth and has a record of bias in positions of responsibility. During his so-called Truth and Reconciliation Commission in South Africa, he castigated the police and army, but exonerated known terrorists, necklace murderers and those who gratuitously attacked civilians. His position with the Holocaust Centresshould be terminated immediately.”

Perhaps, Roodt has forgotten that both former presidents FW de Klerk andThabo Mbeki took legal action against Archbishop Tutu and the Truth andReconciliation Commission because of its willingness to identify all forms of human rights abuse.

A new generation of leaders

From the dusty streets of Gugulethu and Khayelitsha to the advocate’s chambers in Sandton, people united in defence of Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu and for freedom in Palestine and Israel.

The range of people in South Africa who signed the petition to support Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu includes a new generation of leaders inthe struggle for social justice and equality in South Africa and globally people such as Vuyiseka Dubula, Adam Sack, Matuba Mahlatjie, Melanie Judge, Amelia Mfiki and Dmitri Holtzman. Their voice is one of reason, conscience and justice.

The post also contains the letter from Open Shuhada Street handing over the petition. See alsooriginal Writing Rights article on Tutu and the Holocaust. Open Shuhada Street thanks every person who worked on this petition and all those from across the world who signed it.