Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu has accused South Africa of losing the moral high ground of its anti-apartheid years by failing to stand up to Zimbabwe's dictatorial president Robert Mugabe.
The Nobel peace-prize winner and former Anglican Archbishop of Cape Town told the BBC earlier today that Mr Mugabe might have to be forcibly removed now that all other attempts to mediate politically seemed to have failed.
South Africa's African National Congress (ANC) leader Jacob Zuma has also called for a quick end to what he describes as an "untenable' situation in the neighbouring country.
Archbishop Tutu said he was saddened that his own country appeared not to be on the side of Zimbabweans. He declared: "How much more suffering is going to make us say 'No we have given Mr Mugabe enough time?'"
South Africa had a leadership role as its president chairs the Southern African Development Community, he added. But he told BBC Radio 4's Today programme that South Africa had instead betrayed its legacy by blocking firmer action from the United Nations.
Dr Tutu said: "I want to say first of all that I have been very deeply disappointed, saddened by the position that South Africa has taken at the United Nations Security Council in being an obstacle to the Security Council dealing with that matter."
He continued: "I have to say that I am deeply, deeply distressed that we should be found not on the side of the ones who are suffering. I certainly am ashamed of what they've done in the United Nations. For the world to say 'no, we are waiting for South Africa's membership of the Security Council to lapse and then we can take action'."
The archbishop added that the situation was an "awful indictment" to a country that had a "proud record of a struggle against a vicious system".
He concluded: "We should have been the ones who for a very long time occupied the moral high ground. I'm afraid we have betrayed our legacy."