Share this story
Close X
Switch to Desktop Site

Church Leader Reflects on Two Nobel Winners Who Changed South Africa

NOBEL Peace laureate Archbishop Desmond Tutu, who for years was seen as the voice of outlawed and jailed anti-apartheid leaders, has urged African National Congress (ANC) leader Nelson Mandela to remain above the ``rough and tumble'' of elections and preserve his vital relationship with President Frederik de Klerk.

The respected head of the country's Anglican (Episcopalian) Church chided Mr. Mandela over his recent intervention in a church conference on political violence and recent election speeches in which he had dealt harshly with President De Klerk.

About these ads

``My own longing would be that there is less from Nelson of the hurly-burly stuff,'' Archbishop Tutu told the Monitor in an interview at his official Bishopscourt residence set against the forested slopes of scenic Table Mountain. ``A lot of people see him as a unifying force.''

Tutu, whose calls for sanctions against South Africa in the mid-1980s hastened the demise of apartheid, spoke on the eve of the joint presentation of the 1993 Nobel Peace Prize to Mandela and De Klerk in Oslo today.

Mandela has faced some criticism from radical elements in ANC ranks and militant anti-apartheid groups for agreeing to receive the Nobel Prize jointly with a man so closely associated with apartheid. But Mandela, who described De Klerk as a ``man of integrity'' shortly after Mandela's release from jail in 1990, has said he is prepared to abide by the decision of the distinguished Nobel Peace committee.

On the eve of his departure for Oslo Tuesday, De Klerk told the Monitor that he was comfortable receiving the award jointly with Mandela despite their highly competitive relationship in the run-up to the country's first nonracial election in April next year.

``I have no problem going to Oslo and receiving the award side by side with Mr. Mandela,'' he said. ``The reason for our being in Oslo is not our politics but is about the need for peace and the quest for peace in South Africa.... On that, Mandela and I have been cooperating.''

Mandela's contribution to a negotiated settlement in South Africa was made from behind prison bars as early as 1986 when he began engaging the country's minority white rulers in dialogue. His stature and authority alone persuaded the country's black majority to agree on a compromise that included built-in guarantees for minority rights.

De Klerk had the vision to take the white minority on an uncharted course to majority rule. He broke with his predecessors in courageously legalizing anti-apartheid groups without first securing a commitment to end the ANC's armed struggle against minority rule.

About these ads

Tutu, who received the award in 1984 for efforts to promote a peaceful end to apartheid, said the joint award was an ``appropriate climax'' to the long struggle by black South Africans to end white minority rule. But he expressed reservations about some of Mandela's recent verbal attacks on De Klerk.

``To be involved in the hurly-burly detracts a bit from that kind of stature. One hopes that his strategists will ensure that he is presented as the father figure of the nation and that the rough-and-tumble [of politics] is left to lesser mortals,'' he said. Mandela has accused De Klerk of caring less about black than white lives, and has made it clear that he would be happy if the April 27 vote excluded De Klerk from the elected transitional government.

Tutu praised Mandela for his magnanimity, humanity, and willingness to forgive, and De Klerk for his leadership and vision. ``Without the courageous initiative of De Klerk [in February 1990], we would not have been where we are quite as early,'' Tutu said. ``One cannot underplay the significance of what he did - for whatever reason he did it.''

The archbishop said he and other church leaders were delighted to discover the rapport that existed between Mandela and De Klerk following Mandela's release from prison. ``But I think the relationship has very much deteriorated mainly because of the perception that the government has not done all it could to deal with violence,'' Tutu said. ``It is a shame that things have developed in that direction because the world was looking on them as an icon of what can happen when human beings discover that they are human beings.''

Church leaders were surprised last week when Mandela made an unexpected appearance at a conference of church and community leaders to discuss the problems of political violence. Some 12,000 people have died in political violence since Mandela was freed.

The ANC insisted that practical steps be taken to end the violence. Mandela's intervention led to the dilution of church leader's attempts to urge self-criticism on the violence issue.

But Mandela ``did not do what he is claiming,'' Tutu said. ``He did not produce a strategy.''

Tutu said that, despite the difficult times that lie ahead, he was convinced South Africa would succeed in its transition to democracy. ``The antecedents give us great cause of hope that we are going to make it.''

Follow Stories Like This
Get the Monitor stories you care about delivered to your inbox.