Archbishop Desmond Tutu said on Monday he was "hurting" about the conditions that led to him to say he would not vote were an election held today.
Anglican Archbishop Desmond Tutu said on Monday he was “hurting” about the conditions that led to him to say he would not vote were an election held today.
“I value my vote very deeply. I know what it costs for me to have the vote ... I am hurting for a country I love deeply and I am trying to do what I can. I am not impotent. This is a cry from the heart.”
Tutu made headlines on the weekend by saying he would not vote in next year’s election unless the ruling African National Congress (ANC) heals its divisions.
He was speaking on Monday at Cape Town’s Milnerton Primary School, where children had their turn to illustrate a national school newspaper called Learn the News ahead of his 77th birthday on Tuesday.
Tuesday’s edition of the newspaper, illustrated by the children on Monday, highlights his birthday.
Tutu said there were many wonderful South Africans who could contribute to its future.
“For goodness sake, we have a fantastic country. Don’t smash it up.”
What the majority wanted was not necessarily right, Tutu said.
He pointed to support, in some quarters, for the death sentence as an example, saying that were a referendum held today, the pro-death sentence lobby would probably win.
“But that doesn’t make it right,” he said.
Meanwhile, Tutu’s stated intention to not vote in next year’s elections has drawn sharp comment.
Inkatha Freedom Party (IFP) leader Mangosuthu Buthelezi said on Monday the answer to the ANC’s “current crisis of leadership” lay in more, not less, public participation in the political process.
“Archbishop Tutu remains an iconic figure and his political opinions matter to many South Africans.
“His vow that he will not vote in the next election is an unfortunate response to the ongoing crisis of leadership in the ruling party.
“The archbishop’s view is practically an endorsement of voter apathy,” Buthelezi said.
The IFP was concerned Tutu made public his choice not to vote just at the start of the national voter registration drive by the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) and individual political parties.
KwaZulu-Natal, in particular, was set to record the lowest level of voter participation since the advent of democracy, given the slump in the number of registered voters in the province and the slow pace of new registrations by the IEC.
“South Africans have only one way of resolving the current political crisis—by participating in the political process and by voting for the alternative to the political party whose internal squabbles have brought this crisis about in the first place,” Buthelezi said.—Sapa