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Tutu and Franklin: The Present

ARCHBISHOP TUTU: Our country decided that it wanted to look back at the past for the sake of the present and the future, and we said we were going to look at the past for only a specific period, and then we would close the door on that past, not allow it to hold us hostage.

And I think one of the first things you might want to say to people who want to deal with the future, prepare for the future, is you have to acknowledge your past. Any country that wants to have a secure future has got to say we acknowledge our past, warts and all. The good and the bad. The light and the dark. And then we, we said to our government, to our president, what we hope would be applicable to many situations, post-repression, post-conflict situations in the world. That you need to have a government authority that is accountable.

Because many of the human rights violations that we were able to look at in the history of our country came about because authority was not accountable. They, they did very much as they liked. The security police could abduct people, kill them. There was impunity. And so we are saying for the future, ensure that you have accountability.

DR. FRANKLIN: But the question of, of the past, as a historian I have problems with shutting out the past, and closing it down at a certain point.

You suggested that in your country, you hope that the present and future would not be held hostage by the past.

How does one declare that this door to the past is now shut? It hovers over the present in such a profound and powerful way--

ARCHBISHOP TUTU: Yes; yes.

DR. FRANKLIN: --that I don't know how you can close it out, as it were.

ARCHBISHOP TUTU: There is in fact a, a clear way in which that can happen. Imagine if we had not dealt with our past in the way that we did, exposing the gross violations of human rights that happened. That past would then be able to hold us hostage in so far as people could, when it was convenient for them, make an expose. Do you know this man who is today our prime minister? This and this is what he did.

Whereas, in our country, now, we will be able to say, yes, they acknowledged it, they applied for amnesty. It was horrendous acts, but we have accepted that. So in that sense, it would not have the power of holding you hostage with people making revelations when it suited them in order to undermine the new dispensation.

That is what I meant. Ob--obviously we couldn't shut it out, because one of the things we were saying is we must not forget, because if we forget we are likely to repeat what we did.

DR. FRANKLIN: Yes. Santayana--

ARCHBISHOP TUTU: Yeah. Now, now are you, are you happier?

[Laughter.]

DR. FRANKLIN: Not altogether happier, but I'm placated, placated to some extent.

ARCHBISHOP TUTU: Yes. No; no. I didn't mean, I didn't mean--we couldn't possibly--because as human beings, even if we were to have tried to do that, that past, if you dealt with it in a cavalier fashion, would return to haunt you.

DR. FRANKLIN: One of the problems which we have, and we undertake, as you have undertaken, to, to deal with the past as--and, and use it in a certain way, and then to move on.

ARCHBISHOP TUTU: Yeah.

DR. FRANKLIN: One of the problems that we have with respect to our moving on is that so much of our--so much of our perpetrators, so much of the people who were really responsible for what has been happening are in the past, that is, they--our government was set up as a, quote, democracy, unquote, and yet, at the same time it built into its very system a constitutional arrangement which placed certain people at a clear disadvantage,--

ARCHBISHOP TUTU: Yeah.

DR. FRANKLIN: --of not in slavery, that--and all the rest of it. Now we, we came to the end of that period, more than 130 years ago, but we started another period--

ARCHBISHOP TUTU: Yeah.

DR. FRANKLIN: --of segregation and discrimination and degradation, which has had its ups and downs, its variations. But all of the time it tends to persist--

ARCHBISHOP TUTU: Yes.

DR. FRANKLIN: --in one form or another, and our problem is that eve--even if we make amends, as we did at the 13th, 14th, and 15th Amendments--

ARCHBISHOP TUTU: Yeah.

DR. FRANKLIN: --in '65, eight, '68, or even if we make amends such as we did, say, with the Civil Rights Act--

ARCHBISHOP TUTU: Yeah.

DR. FRANKLIN: --of 1965, and the Voting Rights--1964, and the Voting Rights Act of 1965, we still have a--not an elimination of those things, but, but a transition to another form, where subtlety is there, and where the realities are also there.

ARCHBISHOP TUTU: I think this is one of the areas where our situation is different from yours. Ours is al--is the immediate past.

DR. FRANKLIN: Yes.

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The Goree Transcripts
The Present The Future
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