Dr John Templeton, left, and Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu at a media briefing in Cape Town on Thursday following the awarding of the Templeton Prize to the archbishop. Picture: TREVOR SAMSON
Dr John Templeton, left, and Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu at a media briefing in Cape Town on Thursday following the awarding of the Templeton Prize to the archbishop. Picture: TREVOR SAMSON

ARCHBISHOP Emeritus Desmond Tutu says South African society is now more violent than it was under apartheid, but he has faith that the younger generation has the ability to build a better society.

Mr Tutu was last week awarded the $1.7m Templeton Prize for his lifelong work to promote "love and forgiveness".

The prize, one of the world’s largest annual awards, is given each year to a living person who has made "an exceptional contribution to affirming life’s spiritual dimension".

Speaking at a media briefing in Cape Town on Thursday about the award, he said he wanted to see South Africa revive the "spirit of ubuntu" and regain the moral high ground it held in 1994 at the end of apartheid.

Mr Tutu was careful to steer clear of outright criticism of the ruling African National Congress as his minders tried to shepherd questions away from contemporary politics.

He said the current unequal South African society was unsustainable and that everyone had to remember they were members of one human family.

When asked what had happened to South African society, Mr Tutu replied: "Very simply, we have become one of the most violent societies. That is not what we were even under apartheid, but we are now."

He said that every day the news reported murders and rapes, and even the high road death toll was a reflection of society, as every holiday brought the deaths of hundreds of victims of such accidents.

Mr Tutu said South African society had expected that once apartheid had been defeated, it would be more egalitarian, but statistics proved it was the most unequal in the world.

"But you don’t need statistics; you just need eyes (to see) that there are very many (people) who have not crossed the (River) Jordan into the promised land," he said.

Mr Tutu said South Africa had to recover the spirit of ubuntu, which he explained as the spirit of caring for each other and realising that South Africans depended on each other for their survival.

"The world was thrilled when freedom came to our land," he said. "We pray that South Africa will recover its own sense of worth, the sense of worth of every single human being and our sense of ubuntu, and that we become a gentle, caring, compassionate society.

"I think that 1994 and what happened soon thereafter and the setting up the Truth and Reconciliation Commission made us the flavour of the month. We won the Rugby World Cup and the world really thought we were the cat’s whiskers.

"We can’t pretend we have remained at the same heights, and that is why we must recover the spirit that made us great."

Mr Tutu said he had confidence, however, in the younger generation’s knowledge of their morality and needs.

He will receive the Templeton Prize officially at a public ceremony in London on May 21.