South Africa' ruling African National
Congress (ANC) has come under fire from Archbishop Desmund Tutu in a scathing
attack on the party ahead of the April 22 general election. The Nobel laureate
reminded the ANC leaders that they are not gods, adding that he made similar
pronouncements to the former Afrikaner government before it lost power to the
ANC. The Archbishop's criticism comes after Pretoria refused to grant Tibet's
leader, the Dalai Lama, a visa into South Africa after allegedly coming under
intense Chinese pressure. The ANC is expected to maintain its two-thirds
majority in parliament despite a stiff challenge from other opposition parties.
Political analyst Fikeni Somadoda tells reporter Peter Clottey that the
Archbishop's criticisms might not have any impact on the upcoming election.
do think that this is quite consistent with him (Tutu) because this is not the
first time that he has actually questioned the leadership of the ANC and what
it has become. But ahead of the elections of course, I do think that that in
itself may not have the impact of swaying people from one party to the other
because you already have a pretty much divided society on a number of issues
affecting the ANC. So those who believe the ANC is on the wrong course will
simply take this as reinforcement. But those who are supporting the ANC will
not actually change their minds because of the Bishop's comment," Fikeni
He said Pretoria's
refusal to give Tibet's spiritual leader a visa to attend a peace conference of
Nobel laureates, which includes Tutu himself, may have been a contributing
factor in Tutu's criticism of the ANC.
Rejection of the Dalai Lama has received wide condemnation in South
"Undoubtedly, that will
always have an impact because remember that Bishop Tutu was also going to be
part of that particular panel when the peace conference was going to take place
together with F. W. De Klerk, the former president of South Africa. And he was
quite open in his criticism of the ANC on this matter of denying the Dalai Lama
entry to South Africa, and that in itself, you can see his criticism now as a
continuation of raising questions about the ANC leadership," he said.
Fikeni said a large number of South
Africans are aware of Archbishop Tutu's increasing criticism of the ANC.
he has been quite critical, they will take it in that context that Bishop Tutu
is a fairly independent mind. He has been critical of the (former South African
president) Mbeki government at times, and he has been critical of (ANC
President) Jacob Zuma and the current leadership of the ANC. So to that extent,
people will take it as a good thing to engage the ruling party, but others will
be furious that this comes so close to elections," Fikeni pointed out.
reiterated that the ANC is expected to maintain its two thirds majority in
parliament despite a stiff challenge from the opposition and that Archbishop
Tutu's criticism would most likely have little impact on the April 22 general
the end I doubt if it will sway too many people. Maybe the undecided voters or
the first-time voters may take this quite seriously, and it may sway them in
their election choices," he said.
said South Africans are sharply divided along political lines ahead of the
country is quite divided actually. Some do think, particularly, the
professional class and the middle class sections of it, do feel that ANC may as
yet in some instances off the road of supporting and respecting the
institutions that it was at the helm of putting in particularly the judiciary
and other institutions. But the masses on the ground seem to still favor the
ANC, as it speaks the language, the bread and butter issues of providing jobs,
even land, building houses, and so forth. Something which the opposition
parties have not yet mastered to woo the masses by speaking directly that grassroots
language," Fikeni noted.
Meanwhile, critics of Pretoria's refusal to give the
Dalai Lama a visa accused the government of caving in to pressure from China,
an accusation the government sharply denies. Archbishop Tutu said it was an
example of the moral degeneration in South Africa, which holds itself up as a
model of democracy and human rights. Although the ruling ANC commands enormous
respect for its long fight against white-minority rule, the party's critics say
it has betrayed the struggle since coming to power in 1994.