Martin Luther King disciple who fell from grace
Thursday 09 February 1995
If some saw the latest scandal to engulf South Africa's ambassador-designate to the United Nations in Geneva as a tragedy, Mr Boesak was describing it yesterday as a farce. Claiming he had been given no opportunity to defend himself in a meeting with Scandinavian donors investigating the disappearance of more than £500,000 given to his foundation, he was refusing to make it easy for President Nelson Mandela, who has to decide whether or not to go ahead with his appointment.
"I speak with anger in my heart today; I speak with a lot of hurt," said Mr Boesak. "I have spent most of my life fighting for the liberation of the people. I have found that the justice I have fought for is not for me." The preacherly cadences which have led to his being described as South Africa's finest orator can still be heard, but the lavishness of Mr Boesak's rhetoric simply heightens the disappointment of his followers and the contempt of his opponents when his sins catch up with him.
His rhetorical gifts made him leader of the Coloured (mixed-race) branch of the Dutch Reformed Church, then head of the World Council of Reformed Churches, having persuaded that body to declare apartheid a heresy and to expel the white branch of his church. In 1983 Mr Boesak co-founded the United Democratic Front, which prepared the way for the new South Africa. Like Archbishop Desmond Tutu, his only oratorical rival, he was protected from persecution by the cloth.
Mr Boesak modelled himself on Martin Luther King but that extended to his hero's sexual lapses as well. Previous liaisons were suppressed but in 1990 he was discovered to be having an affair with Elna Botha, a white television producer who was the niece of a former cabinet minister. His marriage broke up and he was forced to resign all church posts.
The unfrocked preacher recovered some ground by marrying Ms Botha and putting his pulpit powers at the service of the newly legalised African National Congress. But last year Mr Mandela had to intervene to put Mr Boesak at the head of the ANC ticket in the Western Cape, the only region won by the Nationalists, the former ruling party of apartheid. He was replaced as the local ANC leader after the election and the Geneva posting was intended to save face.
Now he stands accused of more than mere lasciviousness. Apart from the Scandinavians, his former ally, Archbishop Tutu, has called in the police to investigate the disappearance of money donated by the American singer Paul Simon to a children's fund administered by Mr Boesak's foundation. "There's no way Allan can make a comeback from this," a friend said yesterday. "He's finished."
But the ANC has many prodigal sons; Mr Mandela remains notoriously lenient towards those close to him and it is not impossible that Mr Boesak will be forgiven one more time. A senior official recently admitted in private that the ANC had known there wereproblems all along but had not wanted to weaken the front against apartheid.
Now that the fight has been won, Mr Boesak appears little more than an embarrassment. Martin Luther King was murdered before scandal could outweigh his achievements, but his disciple may not escape that fate.
Sales of the tablet are set to fall again, say analysts
Met Police confirm there was a 'minor disturbance' and that no-one was arrested
George Lucas criticises the major Hollywood film studios
Does Chris Grayling realise what a vague concept he is dealing with?
Trend which requires crisps, a fork and a strong stomach is sweeping Mexico's streets
Parties threaten resort's image as a family destination
I Am Bread could actually be a challenging and nuanced title
- 1 Indian footballer Peter Biaksangzuala dies after injuring spine doing somersault celebration
- 4 Drink alcohol and eat meat to improve male fertility - but cut down on coffee, studies suggest
- 5 Brian Harvey turns up at Downing Street and 'demands to speak to Prime Minister'
Jack the Ripper: Scientist who claims to have identified notorious killer has 'made serious DNA error'
Banksy arrest hoax: Internet duped by fake report claiming that the street artist's identity has been revealed
'Russian submarine spotted' by Swedish military off coast of Stockholm
Brian Harvey turns up at Downing Street and 'demands to speak to Prime Minister'
Kentucky gang rape: 15-year-old boy left in critical condition after sexual attack by group at party
Cameron is warned 'no possibility' of UK reducing immigration and that bid to bring in quota on migrant workers would be illegal
Residents should throw a street party and mix with immigrant neighbours, councils told
Russell Brand threatened with arrest after filming outside Fox News headquarters
London bus driver allegedly kicks gay couple off for kissing
Amal Alamuddin calls for the return of the Elgin Marbles from Britain: 'Injustice has persisted for too long'
Lord Freud: Tory welfare minister apologises after saying disabled people are 'not worth’ the minimum wage
£80 - £140 per day: Randstad Education Leeds: Year 5 Teacher KS2 teaching job...
£35000 - £45000 Per Annum Pensions Scheme After 6 Months: Clearwater People So...
£35000 - £37000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: Systems Analyst / Busines...
£30000 - £35000 per annum + Benefits: Ampersand Consulting LLP: Senior Change ...