Tutu and Mbeki clash over Pretoria's 'sycophantic' stance on Zimbabwe

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The Independent Online

A war of words has erupted between the South African President Thabo Mbeki and the Nobel Peace Prize laureate Archbishop Desmond Tutu over Mr Mbeki's handling of the crisis in Zimbabwe.

A war of words has erupted between the South African President Thabo Mbeki and the Nobel Peace Prize laureate Archbishop Desmond Tutu over Mr Mbeki's handling of the crisis in Zimbabwe.

Mr Mbeki's African National Congress and its ruling alliance partner, the Congress of South African Trade Unions, are also clashing over Zimbabwe, leaving South Africa's ruling tripartite alliance on the verge of disintegration.

Archbishop Tutu, delivering the second annual Nelson Mandela lecture in Johannesburg, asked why the ANC was not taking Mr Mbeki to task over the troubled neighbour. He has often urged the South African government to publicly disapprove of President Robert Mugabe's abuses and bring pressure on him to reform. He said the ANC government was guilty of "uncritical, sycophantic, obsequious conformity".

Mr Mbeki wrote in his ANC's newsletter: "As in all other instances, it would be good [if] those who present themselves as the greatest defenders of the poor should also demonstrate decent respect for the truth, rather than resort to empty rhetoric. We must avoid the resort to populism and catchy newspaper headlines that have nothing to do with the truth and everything to do with the pursuit of self-serving agendas. Rational discussion also demands that we should take the effort to think, rather than submit to the dictates of a reassuring herd instinct."

Mr Mbeki also accused Archbishop Tutu of "gratuitous insults". The archbishop replied with a statement, saying: "Thank you Mr President for telling me what you think of me, that I am a liar with scant regard for the truth and, a charlatan posing with his concern for the poor, the hungry, the oppressed and the voiceless," said Mr Tutu in his statement.

"I will continue to pray for you and your government by name daily as I have done and as I did even for the apartheid government. God bless you."

Zimbabwe's opposition leader, Morgan Tsvangirai, who met MEPs in Brussels yesterday, condemned the England cricket tour, saying that it was being used to confer legitimacy on Mr Mugabe's rule. "How do they feel when the Mugabe regime is committing actions of murder and brutality?" he asked.

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