LETTER: Stop using Tutu name at refugee centre

A portrait and candle with a picture of late Dr Archbishop Desmond Tutu. Picture: Itumeleng English

A portrait and candle with a picture of late Dr Archbishop Desmond Tutu. Picture: Itumeleng English

Published May 22, 2024


The Archbishop Tutu IP Trust has instructed its lawyers to withdraw the archbishop’s permission to call its Marabastad refugee centre in Pretoria the “Desmond Tutu Refugee Reception Centre”.

This follows raids by the SIU and Hawks at various refugee facilities across the country last week, which made it apparent that the country’s management of refugees from neighbouring countries remains a hive of corruption.

In 2016, Archbishop Tutu agreed to the use of his name after being informed by the Department of Home Affairs that its Marabastad facility was undergoing a turnaround strategy on the principle that refugees deserved protection, access to social services, and to be treated in a fair and humane manner.

The department specifically undertook: “To manage the centre to the highest standards and inculcate a spirit of ubuntu throughout our service delivery.”

The agreement between the archbishop and the department allows for the withdrawal of use of the Tutu name where there is reasonable possibility that such use may impair the archbishop’s reputation.

Since 2016, the Marabastad facility has periodically been in the news for all the wrong reasons, including alleged human rights violations and corruption.

In 2018, after a spate of negative publicity led to his office writing to the Department for an explanation, and issuing a press statement, the archbishop said: “I hope it attracts attention to the awful conditions. Of course I had hoped it would be a refugee friendly facility.”

The head of Lawyers for Human Rights was quoted by SABC over the weekend saying the country’s refugee status determination process has “completely collapsed”, which created loopholes for the extraction of money by corrupt officials.

The archbishop established the Archbishop Tutu IP Trust in 2019, with responsibilities to manage name rights, trademarks, copyrights and permissions in perpetuity. Associating the archbishop with the shenanigans of an ill-managed and corrupt refugee system besmirches his name and is wholly inappropriate.

* Archbishop Tutu IP Trust, Cape Town.

** The views expressed here are not necessarily those of Independent Media

Cape Argus

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