Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu, lifelong friend of former South African president Nelson Mandela and the man regarded by many as the nation’s voice of conscience, has said he will no longer vote for the ruling African National Congress (ANC).
The Nobel laureate wrote in an editorial published in South Africa’s Globe and Mail newspaper on Thursday that while he is “not a card-carrying member of any political party”, he would not vote for the ANC again “after the way things have gone”. He added that “It is a very huge ache, for oldies like me to see our country deteriorating and slowly sliding off what we thought belonged to us – the moral high ground.”
It is not the first time he has criticised the ANC. In the lead-up to the country’s 2009 elections, he said that “one day we will start praying for the defeat of the ANC government”, just as they prayed for the downfall of apartheid. The ANC condemned the comments, describing them as “sacrilege”.
Dr Tutu’s editorial described the ANC as “a good freedom-fighting unit”, but wrote of his hope that people would stop voting with their hearts and choose a government based on its policies rather than emotional attachment to the liberation movement.
He criticised the country’s developing culture of corruption and unaccountability and described South Africa’s voting record at the United Nations as a “disgrace”, and a “total betrayal”, blaming politicians for the deterioration of Zimbabwe’s democracy and economy.
The ANC declined to comment on the editorial.
Dr Tutu also called on South Africans to prepare themselves for Mr Mandela’s inevitable death: “He’s 94, he’s had a rough time, and God has been very, very good in sparing him for us these many years. But the trauma of his passing is going to be very much intensified if we do not begin to prepare ourselves. The best memorial to Nelson Mandela would be a democracy that was really up and running.”
Dr Tutu himself was discharged from hospital last week after a five-day stay to treat a persistent infection. He was diagnosed with prostate cancer in 1997.