CAPE TOWN (AFP) - Nobel Peace Prize winner Archbishop Desmond Tutu on Friday made a scathing assessment of South Africa's fall from grace since the euphoria over the end of apartheid 20 years ago.
In a statement to mark the 30th anniversary of winning the Nobel prize for his courageous stand against white minority rule, 83-year-old Tutu condemned government corruption, violence and continuing racism.
"It's as if we're in a time warp, and have returned to the past," he said.
Tutu had been scheduled to attend a Nobel Peace Laureates' summit in Rome this week, but announced on Tuesday that he had cancelled all travel plans for the rest of the year to battle prostate cancer.
Widely regarded as South Africa's moral conscience, Tutu urged the "resuscitating (of) the national spirit of magnanimity and common purpose" which marked the years of Nelson Mandela's presidency.
"The feeling of national euphoria that took hold in those early years of our democracy masked the necessity for us to follow through the work of healing a society battered and bruised by centuries of racial division and oppression," he said.
"While a handful of black businessmen and women have become very wealthy, mechanisms that promised to redistribute the wealth in our country have to a large extent failed - and the gap between rich and poor has widened."
Unemployment was high, land reform sluggish and the education system was struggling to deliver the knowledge and skills to lift the people out of poverty, he said.
"All these factors contribute to retarding the healing of the soul of the nation, and conspire to create the environment for the intolerable levels of violence and racism that bedevil our society today."
Tutu, at whose home Mandela spent his first night of freedom after 27 years in jail, has made no secret of his disillusionment over government corruption and poor administration under President Jacob Zuma.
Contrasting his apparent gloom about the South Africa of today, he looked back with obviously heartfelt nostalgia at the early days of democracy.
"Our relatively peaceful transition, from pariah state to a darling of the world, bordered on miraculous.
"We were the Rainbow People of God. For a period, it felt to many of us that we could achieve anything we set out to, that if we reached for the sky we would literally touch it."