South Africa: The Great Debate; Desmond Tutu vs Thabo Mbeki

New African, January 2005 | Go to article overview

South Africa: The Great Debate; Desmond Tutu vs Thabo Mbeki


Archbishop Desmond Tutu, well-known for his anti-apartheid credentials, delivered the 2nd Nelson Mandela Lecture in Johannesburg at the end of 2003 and stirred up a hornet's nest in the process.

[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

Part of his speech certainly touched a government nerve, forcing President Thabo Mbeki to hit back in his weekly online "Letter from the President" column that he writes for the ANC web-based journal, ANC Today. His response has since opened up a huge debate in South Africa--with Archbishhop Tutu's supporters, particularly in the white-controlled media, praising his speech, whilst the ANC, though trying to calm tempers as the ruling party, has said Mbeki's statement "reflected the views of the organisation on the matters raised by Archbishop Tutu".

Mbeki had told the archbishop, in part: "It would be good if those that present themselves as the greatest defenders of the poor should also demonstrate decent respect for the truth." Tutu took this to mean having been accused of lying. "Thank you Mr President for telling me what you think of me. That I am a liar with scant regard for the truth and a charlatan posing with his concern for the poor, the hungry, the oppressed and the voiceless. I will continue to pray for you and your government by name daily as I have done and as I did even for the apartheid government," Tutu said.

[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

The ANC was compelled to step in to calm the waters. But its spokesman, Smuts Ngonyama, told the archbishop: "Neither the ANC nor its president regards you as 'a liar with scant regard for the truth', but we do recognise that even someone like yourself has the capacity to err ... We will continue to regard you as a respected leader within our society whose contribution to the life of this country is highly valued ... The archbishop should [however] remember that a debate is two sides talking and he must not cry when the ANC is talking back."

Ngonyama admitted that there was "definitely" a need for debate but there should be cordial relations in the way it was conducted. "We are very cautious in the manner that we express ourselves, because we know that some things can negatively affect perspectives about our country. It is very important to actually show maturity and integrity in all things [and] we must be truly serious when we get into things that are factual. If not, it calls for a response. The archbishop is not saying these things for the first time, but we decided now to give a comprehensive response. We hope he is not taking these things personally and we are very thankful to him for raising the issues."

When the war of words appeared to get out of control, the South African Council of Churches and other organisations and personalities joined in to call for calm. Others, however, chose to keep the heat on.

One of them, Steven Friedman, a research fellow of the Centre for Policy Studies, said Archbishop Tutu had every right to be "an independent source of moral guidance". Friedman added: "The president is being edgy because Tutu can't be dismissed as a racist or as someone who wants the new order to fail. The message that the president should be sending out is that public criticism of government actions should not only be tolerated but encouraged, and it's a pity he is being defensive."

Adam Hess, writing in the Cape Times, took the debate to even hyperbolic levels: "Tutu's criticism of the ANC officialdom's sycophantic party-line manner must be loudly applauded. This fawning behaviour is a sword in the side of our democratic ideals. The good bishop's views on Aids, black economic empowerment and the government's policy on Zimbabwe was a ray of light at a time when the clouds of political mediocrity are increasingly blocking the sun. South Africa should at least be grateful that we still have patriots like the archbishop who has never wavered in his criticism of those who believe power bestows on them the right to act with impunity. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

South Africa: The Great Debate; Desmond Tutu vs Thabo Mbeki
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.