Desmond Tutu mends fences with President Zuma

By Ecumenical News International
August 11, 2009

Nobel Peace Prize Laureate, Archbishop Desmond Tutu, who strongly opposed Jacob Zuma becoming president of South Africa, says he should be given a chance to prove himself in office - writes Munyaradzi Makoni.

"The people of South Africa overwhelmingly supported a particular party [the African National Congress] in recent democratic elections. This party and its president should be given the chance to prove their mettle in government," said Tutu in a statement made available to Ecumenical News International as Zuma was to mark his first 100 days in office.

Tutu met Zuma for an hour-long meeting behind closed doors in Pretoria, the South African administrative capital, on 6 August 2009, the former Anglican archbishop of Cape Town said in his statement released after the meeting.

The Arch, as Tutu is known, was preparing to leave for Washington DC to accept his latest award, the 2009 Presidential Medal of Freedom, from U.S. President Barack Obama on 12 August.

"The family is very proud of him, he is very spiritual and humble," his wife, Leah Tutu, told the Sowetan newspaper. "He bears no grudges, he can fight with a person today and tomorrow he will forgive them."

Tutu once questioned Zuma's fitness to hold office, insisting he should stand trial for corruption charges to avoid "the cloud" of suspicion hanging over him. Before his election in April, corruption charges against Zuma were dropped. Tutu's comment that Zuma should still have faced the charges in court drew strong criticism from Zuma's supporters.

When Zuma was inaugurated as president, Tutu did not attend despite being invited. A number of media reports have noted that while there has been much criticism about his credentials for office, Zuma has reached out to his critics, unlike his predecessor, former president Thabo Mbeki, who shunned many people not fully on his side.

"I am guided only by my love for, and loyalty toward, the country of my birth," said Archbishop Tutu.

President Zuma told the South African Times newspaper that Archbishop Tutu had "prayed" and talked about "critical matters" facing the country. In remarks after the meeting Zuma dismissed interpretations he had been "singled out" by Tutu, whom he noted had also at times been critical of former presidents Mandela and Mbeki when he believed it was warranted.

"The archbishop took the initiative. We talked about what happened before and we discussed that at length. It is in the African style of leadership, and I commend him for it," Zuma said.

Tutu, who along with people such as former president Nelson Mandela is one of the anti- apartheid icons, said he and Zuma discussed a variety of issues, including "the lawlessness and destruction of property by organised workers" that has become a "national disease".

[With acknowledgements to ENI. Ecumenical News International is jointly sponsored by the World Council of Churches, the Lutheran World Federation, the World Alliance of Reformed Churches and the Conference of European Churches.]

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