24 April 2014

South Africa: Think Before You Vote - Tutu

Photo: Westcapenews
ANC supporters at a rally (file photo).

Cape Town — South Africans should think carefully before they cast their ballots on May 7, Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu warned on Wednesday.

"Don't be voting cattle. Think before you make that cross," Tutu said at a media briefing about his thoughts on the 20 years of democracy celebrations at St George's Cathedral in Cape Town.

Tutu said while he did not actively support the "Sidikiwe Vukani! Vote No" campaign, initiated by former intelligence minister Ronnie Kasrils and former health deputy minister Nozizwe Madlala-Routledge, the move was "shaking things up".

The campaign - which is aimed at getting struggle activists and others not to vote for the ANC, or at least spoil their vote - showed that there were people concerned about the direction the country was taking, Tutu said.

Tutu maintained his negative stance towards the ANC, saying he no longer supported the party's leadership as he did when he first voted on April 27 1994.

"I have sought to support a party that would be as close as possible to the sorts of things we would love to see. On the whole the ANC was that," he said.

"Have you noticed the past tense," he added.

Asked whether he still believed South Africans would one day pray for the downfall of the ANC - a statement he made when the government failed to grant the Dalai Lama a visa in 2011 - Tutu said he still held this view. "I hope that I might be a little more generous... that's not really true," he joked.

Tutu said there were many things the country should be grateful to the ANC for.

He singled out the increase in the numbers of South Africans with clean running water, electricity and social grants.

The fact that under President Jacob Zuma the country had the world's largest HIV/Aids treatment programme, was a feather in the ruling party's cap.

"Maar ons moet die waarheid praat," he said.

"We have to say there are things the world would not have thought our people would do."

He started speaking about the country's chapter nine institutions, but did not complete his sentence.

The Public Protector, a chapter nine institution, last month found Zuma had unduly benefited from security upgrades to his private Nkandla homestead.

Tutu said he did not understand how it was possible that people got away "with so much that is blatant".

The archbishop emeritus made reference to the new Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi, who had limited the number of chauffered cars for his cabinet ministers.

"When are we ever going to get there?" Tutu asked.

"[Here] even communists drive expensive cars."

Tutu also revealed how he felt at not being invited to speak at the funeral of the former President Nelson Mandela.

"I was quite astounded myself, but I tried to pretend I was humble. I was very hurt. He was a very dear friend," Tutu said.

Tutu was later asked to speak in memory of Madiba at a service at Westminster Abbey in London.

"It was not the same thing," Tutu said.

"They [government] shot themselves in the foot in snubbing me. It was sad."

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