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Race debate raised over Tutu’s call for white S.African tax

A call by South Africa’s Desmond Tutu to tax whites for benefitting from apartheid risked a return to racial classification, ex-president’s FW de Klerk Foundation said Monday.

“However devastating apartheid might have been we cannot continue ad infinitum to ascribe everything that goes wrong in South Africa today to the past,” it said in a statement.

“Nor can we accept the dangerous idea of racial guilt — or the very unchristian notion that some South Africans are morally superior to others simply because of the race to which they belong.”

Tutu said at a a book launch last week that whites must accept that they all benefited from white minority rule which denied blacks the vote until 1994.

“You all benefited from apartheid. Your children went to fancy schools, you lived in posh suburbs,” he told the audience, stressing that not all whites had supported apartheid, the Cape Argus reported.

The Nobel Peace Prize laureate told the newspaper that many whites had been ready for a wealth tax during the country’s post-apartheid truth and reconciliation process which he chaired.

“It could be quite piffling, maybe one percent of their stock exchange holdings. Its nothing. But it could have helped… maybe building new homes, and that would have been an extraordinary symbol of their readiness,” he said.

When asked if he was calling for a wealth tax, Tutu said: “Thats what Im saying.”

South Africa has one of the most unequal societies in the world, 17 years after the fall of racial segregation.

But De Klerk’s foundation expressed unhappiness at Tutu for blaming present day social ills on apartheid and whites, and said a wealth tax on one group would be unconstitutional.

“It would require the reintroduction of racial classification and of many of the other demeaning racial distinctions that were associated with apartheid.”

FW de Klerk was South Africa’s last apartheid leader until the historic vote in 1994 and shared the 1993 Nobel Peace Prize with Nelson Mandela, who become the first democratic president.