Bishop Desmond Tutu returned to South Africa this week to a mixed reception. A crowd of black supporters broke into song when Bishop Tutu emerged through the customs door at the airport in Johannesburg. But whites generally seem to be waiting for proof that Tutu deserved the Nobel Prize for Peace he was awarded in 1984.
Though obviously aware of this divided reaction, Tutu indicated at a press conference that he intends to continue using his role as a church leader to further the political aspirations of fellow blacks. Tutu is the bishop-elect of Johannesburg, one of the most powerful positions in the Anglican Church here.
``I would hope the diocese [of Johannesburg] will be an effective instrument in the hands of God for working for justice in this land,'' Tutu said. ``My major concern is to be the bishop of Johannesburg. But that says a great deal,'' he added.
Tutu has come under sharp attack at home since he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize last October. At that time, he was on a sabbatical in New York.
The award gave him unprecedented access to the Western news media and to government leaders. He launched stinging attacks on the South African government's racial segregation policies. The content of what he said was not new, but many more people were listening.
Tutu's attacks have not gone down well among whites in South Africa, even among those liberals who oppose the government. The issue that has particularly antagonized whites is Tutu's call while overseas for greater economic pressures on South Africa.
Tutu said his call for economic pressures had been deliberately misrepresented by the South African government and the state-controlled television network as a call for foreign businesses to withdraw their investments in this country.
``I have not yet campaigned for disinvestment. I have called up to now for political, diplomatic, but above all economic pressure as our last chance to avert the blood bath,'' he explained.
Tutu said he favors investment in South Africa, but on the strict conditions that foreign firms use their investments as levers for political change.
He also said economic sanctions should be applied against South Africa if certain demands are not met in 18 to 24 months. These demands are that the migrant labor system in South Africa be ended and black families be allowed to live together, that blacks be allowed to move freely without the restrictions of the so-called ``pass'' laws, that black workers be unionized (a process already under way), and that foreign investors pump money into black education.
One common criticism of disinvestment is that blacks in South Africa would suffer most from lost jobs or a deterioration in the economy. Tutu countered that South Africa is already heading toward major violence and that economic pressure is the last tool available to blacks for forcing peaceful change. ``It is a risk, but it is a risk with a chance,'' he said.
But he quickly repeated his hope that blacks would not be forced to call for out and out disinvestment.
Tutu also revealed that during his lengthy stay abroad he met with leaders of the African National Congress and the Pan-Africanist Congress of Azania, black nationalist groups that are outlawed in South Africa.