Tutu hopeful about South Africa despite doubts over the new president

By staff writers
April 26, 2009

Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu has re-iterated his belief that corruption allegations against the new president, Jacob Zuma, should have been tested in court, but he remains hopeful for the political process in South Africa.

He made his remarks to the media after voting in last week's general election.

Mr Zuma led his African National Congress to victory with sweeping promises to help the nation's poor, but analysts say he will enter office with little room for manoeuvre due to a faltering economy.

The campaign promises, coupled with his easy charisma, have endeared Zuma to millions and delivered the ANC a 66 per cent majority in the elections, giving him ample political capital with 264 of the 400 seats in parliament. But Archbishop Tutu remains sceptical.

All 16 charges against Mr Zuma, ranging from corruption to fraud and from racketeering to tax evasion, were dropped earlier in April 2009. This quashed the chances of the ANC leader, who has always protested his innocence, ever standing trial.

"It would have been a great deal better for himself and for our country if the charges had been cleared by a court, not something that was done administratively," said Tutu - Noble Peace Laureate and life-long campaigner against injustice and apartheid.

He added: "I don't think it's good for him, I don't think it's good for the country that there should be a doubt."

Asked whether this left a "cloud" over Mr Zuma's head, Archbishop Tutu replied: "I think most people would say so, yes."

Earlier,he had described Mr Zuma as an "embarrassment" and said: "I, for one, would not be able to hold my head high" if he became South Africa's president.

He was cheerful and resolutely upbeat as he prepared to vote on election day, offering conciliatory words to Mr Zuma, laced with coded criticism.

He declared: "Good luck to [Mr Zuma]and good luck to our country. He obviously has got gifts. He's warm and I think he can engage with people. One hopes that he will be able to appoint able people and he doesn't do everything himself. You can have a good minister of foreign affairs, finance minister and so on."

He described Mr Zuma's impending presidency as a "hiccup", but said: "It will clear our throats and we'll be okay, we'll sing again".

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