I wrote about the American Hustle comb-over while flying to South Africa. Little could I have known the great lessons that awaited me there.
I had asked a Cape Town anti-corruption lawyer if he could meet with me on Friday. I’m not sure which part of his reply email was more surprising: That not knowing me from Adam, so to speak, he invited us to join him for church; or that the service would be conducted by the Archbishop (emeritus) Desmond Tutu.
Yes, that Desmond Tutu, who presided over South Africa’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission and won the Nobel Peace Prize.
And there my wife and I sat, in an intimate and unpublicized early morning gathering at St. George’s Cathedral, as the Archbishop conducted the service in English, Afrikaans, and Xhosa.
The first thing I noticed was that he had lost his hair. And after watching American Hustle, that seemed exactly right.
One learns that Truth and Reconciliation has two elements. Yes, he taught us to reconcile, to forgive. But he also taught that a necessary precondition to reconciliation is truth. He insisted on truth in conducting the Commission, and he insists on it now; he has called out and criticized the rampant corruption of Jacob Zuma and the African National Congress, even though his friend Nelson Mandela would not.
Kindness, yes. Forgiveness, yes. But also truth, courageous, relentless, truth; the truth about the world and the truth about ourselves.
After the service he asked me to introduce myself. “I’m an anti-corruption law professor lecturing here in South Africa,” I said.
“Yes,” he replied, “but is that who you really are?”
I will spend my life answering that question.
In the presence of Desmond Tutu, it seems, comb-overs are not allowed.
Andy Spalding is a senior editor of the FCPA Blog. He is an Assistant Professor at the University of Richmond School of Law.
Welcome to South Africa, are you giving any lectures in Johannesburg?
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