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Archive for the tag “Desmond Tutu”

Zuma sells SA sovereignty to stop two old men having a party

The pettiness of the refusal of the government to give a visa to the Dalai Lama to stop two old men having a party puts us back to square one.

As Mamphela Ramphele puts it Ramphele backs Tutu on Dalai Lama – Times LIVE:

“Isn’t it ironic, that when he’s celebrating his 80th birthday, the most fundamental right — the right to association — is being taken away from him?

“He can’t have a party with his friends and they are just old men,” Ramphele said on Monday evening at a candlelight vigil outside Parliament to put pressure on the government to grant the visa.

That’s exactly the kind of petty nastiness one had come to expect from the National Party government. And it’s worse, because our constitution now upholds the rights to freedom of religion, freedom of travel, and freedom of association — all of which are trashed by this act. The old National Party was not as cynically hypocritical as that. They made no bones about it — any foreign religious leader was a persona non grata, and found it very difficult to get a visa. And any Nobel Peace Prize winner, domestic or foreign, was the same, and so the combination would not have much hope.

I suggest that any Southern African religious bodies hosting international conferences to which foreign religious leaders may be invited should seriously think of moving the venue to Botswana or Namibia, or they may find that their speakers are unable to attend. That would include the congress of the Southern African Missiological Society, due to be held in January 2012.

The petty spitefulness of stopping two pensioners having a party, however, is overshadowed by the implications for South African sovereignty. Zuma, who was elected ANC leader by promising to be all things to all men and courting universal popularity, is now finding that popularity gurgling down the drain, and trying to shore it up by disciplinary hearings of his most vociferous critics, but not daring to contradict his (and our) colonial masters.

As a student I sometimes enjoyed listening to Radio Peking (as it was spelt in those days), denouncing US imperialism as “a paper tiger, a bean curd tiger”. But Chinese imperialism seems to be lapping up South Africa like bean curd.

The Dalai Lama visited South Africa when Nelson Mandela was president, and again when Thabo Mbeki was president. Why not now? And above all, why stop him from coming to Desmond Tutu’s brithday party?

Stop selling military aircraft to South Africa, Anglican archbishops urge

Thabo Makgoba, the Anglican Archbishop of Cape Town, and Desmond Tutu, his Nobel Peace Prize winning predecessor, have urged that Sweden stop selling military aircraft to South Africa.

In a move reminiscent of the days when he was vilified by the government-supporting press for proposing economic sanctions and an arms embargo against the apartheid regime, former Anglican Archbishop Desmond Tutu signed a document asking that Swedish Gripen miliary aircraft not be sold to South Africa.

“Stop the sell of military aircrafs to South Africa” – Stockholm News:

KG Hammar, former Swedish archbishop, Karin Wiborn, chairman of the Swedish Christian Council, Desmond Tutu and Thabo Makgoba, South African archbishops have signed the article. They claim that the deal has released a wave of corruption that threatens the transition from Apartheid to democracy in South Africa.

The authors write that the cost for South Africa’s deal with several European countries to buy military equipment is around SEK 42 billion (about 4.2 billion euro). Half of that sum is spent on JAS 39 Gripen. They write that it is hard to gain acceptance in the South African society for the fact that resources are being allocated to military investments instead of fighting the legacy from the Apartheid era.

The four authors demand that the South African and Swedish governments investigate the accusations about corruption and put the whole deal on hold until the investigation is finished.

The ANC and Desmond Tutu

Tony Jackman echoes the thoughts of many when he says Thought Leader — Tony Jackman: Who turned JZ into Mr Min?:

Hearing the ANC attack Desmond Tutu rings with bewildering irony for any of us who lived through the eighties and the so many occasions when the same voice who now criticises this government lambasted the National Party and then premier PW Botha when they were in government.

He attacked them here and abroad. He attacked them when newspapers in this country could not report his words, his words nevertheless being reported abroad so that we could hear his ringing condemnation of apartheid and its atrocities despite the best efforts of the Nats to quieten us and block our ears and minds to the truth.

The ANC now dares to round on this great man of peace, one of the world’s greatest 20th century voices for what is right and against what is wrong.

But it should come as no surprise. Speaking the truth to power is never popular with the powerful, whether the powerful be PW Botha’s National Party or Jacob Zuma’s ANC.

Recently some people have been blogging about David Bosch and his book Transforming Mission (see here and here). There are a couple of things Bosch (1991:429f) had to say that are worth reading in the light of what we are seeing now

The problem seems to be that Christians tend to sacralize “the sociological forces of history that are dominant at at any particular time, regarding them as inexorable works of providence and even of redemption” (Knapp 1977:151)… Albert Nolan writes in similar vein about the struggle of the South African people against an oppressive system: “The power of the people that is manifested in the struggle is indeed the power of God… What the system is up against now is not ‘flesh and blood’ but the almighty power of God.”

The situation is further compounded when exponents of contextualization claim a special or privileged knowledge about God’s will and declare those who do not agree with them as suffering from “false consciousness”. Their own clairvoyance, on the other hand, equips them with the ability to know exactly not only what God’s will is, but also what will happen in the future. With reference to South Africa, for instance, Nolan (1988:144; cf 184) avers “that we can be quite sure that our future will not be oppressive and alienating”. The one thing that south African’s need not fear “is the kind of take-over whereby another group of people simply replaces the present rulers and maintainst the same type of system… That possibility is gone forever.”

It seems that Albert Nolan (a Dominican priest) had forgotten what a Roman Catholic liberal historian had said a century or more before: All power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.

Or, as the Psalmist says, “Put not your trust in princes, nor in any child of man, for there is no help in them.”

Or, as Will D. Campbell and James Y. Holloway said in their book Up top our steeples in politics: What is wrong with us that can be solved by politics is not all that is wrong with us.

Nolan’s comment shows why Orthodox theologians have had reservations about Western liberation theologies — the reverse typology that they apply to the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. They see this as a type pointing to a greater liberation in our time, rather than the partial liberation from oppression that we see in the world as being an imperfect reflection of the liberation won by the death and resurrection of Christ (for more on this see Orthodoxy and liberation theology).

The Dictator, The Bishops, and the Trade Unionists

Church leaders have criticised the South African government for being too chicken to confront the Fuehrer of Zimbabwe, Robert Mugabe, over his stealing of elections and his war against his own people. And Mugabe himself has taunted his neighbours, saying that none of them is brave enough to remove him.

The Times – Tutu: Threaten Mugabe with force:

Nobel Peace Prize winner Desmond Tutu said that the international community must use the threat of force to oust Zimbabwe’s Robert Mugabe from office.

Tutu told BBC radio that he hopes African Union members can be persuaded to issue Mugabe an ultimatum, threatening to intervene if he continues clings to power in the ailing nation.

Asked if Mugabe should be removed by force, Tutu said there should ‘certainly be the threat of it.’ He said Mugabe should also be warned that he could face prosecution at the International Criminal Court for his violent suppression of opponents.

And, from South African Catholic bishops — The Times – Bishops blast SA for protecting Mugabe:

In a statement issued by Cardinal Wilfrid Napier , the Southern African Catholic Bishops’ Conference said Motlanthe should force Mugabe to leave office because talks aimed at forming a Zimbabwean unity government have failed.

“It is now time to isolate Mugabe completely and to remove all forms of moral, material or tacit support for him and his party. Regardless of whether he is a former ‘liberator’ or an ‘elder African statesman’, he must be forced to step down,” Napier said.

What this reveals, however, is the confusion in South African politics, especially in the ANC.

A year ago the ANC conference at Polokwane rejected Thabo Mbeki as president of the ANC, and elected Jacob Zuma instead. Zuma was supported by the trade union movement in the form of Cosatu.

Cosatu had been at odds with Mbeki over several issues, including Zimbabwe. A Cosatu fact-finding mission to Zimbabwe was turned away by Mugabe’s government. Cosatu’s natural ally in Zimbabwe is Tsvangirai’s MDC, which has its support primarily among the urban workers and the Zimbabwean trade unions. Yet the ANC government in South Africa does not seem to have changed its policy towards Zimbabwe since Mbeki’s departure, which seems to indicate that Zuma has drawn Cosatu’s teeth, and the trade union movement in South Africa is now Zuma’s lap dog.

Whether the South African government should threaten to use force to remove Mugabe is a moot point. The record of other violent attempts at regime change over the last few years is not good. The Nato war on Yugoslavia and the US wars on Afghanistan and Iraq have done nothing to improve things, and instead have made things worse. As someone pointed out, it is not ancient hatreds that cause wars, it is wars that cause ancient hatreds.

But the South African government has failed even to voice criticism of Mugabe’s stealing of elections and abuse of power. According to election observers, they were under pressure to declare elections free and fair when they knew they were not. And now Cosatu seems to have been coopted into the power structure too. Only the church leaders are left to speak out.

Tutu says he might not vote

Desmond Tutu, the retired Anglican Archbishop of Cape Town, has said he might not vote in next year’s general election, because of infighting in the ANC.

Tutu says he might not vote: South Africa: Politics: News24:

Johannesburg – Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu said he would welcome the creation of a viable opposition in South Africa, after ruling party infighting forced former president Thabo Mbeki to resign, in remarks published on Sunday.

The Nobel Peace Prize winner, who turns 77 on Tuesday, told the Sunday Times newspaper he was dismayed by the turmoil in the ruling African National Congress (ANC), the party that brought Nelson Mandela to power after the end of apartheid.

One of the problems with this is that South Africa, unlike some other countries, has a pretty wide choice in elections.

In the USA, for example, if you don’t support one of the two main parties, there’s little alternative. There’s little to choose between the two, because there’s very little difference between the two main parties when the gain power. The more vituperatively and viciously the “campaigns” attack each other, the smaller the differences between them appear to be.

In South Africa, on the other hand, we are spoilt for choice. In one election we had the Soccer Party. It didn’t get much support, but there were about 30 others to choose from. The problem with not voting is that it doesn’t send a message to the government. Voter apathy can have any of a number of causes. But voting for an opposition party — any opposition party — sends a message, because in proportional representation every vote counts, while non votes count for nothing.

The only valid reason I can think of for not voting is floor-crossing. My children did not vote in the last election for that reason. They saw no point in voting because the whole process was meaningless. I think that is one reason for political apathy among the youth.

I have been told by someone that there will be no more floor crossing, and that it has been abolished. If that is so it is good news. But it has been very muted news. I haven’t seen much publicity given to it, and if voters are to be roused from their apathy, it is quite important that they should know that, if it is true. If the people you vote for are likely to become crosstitutes within 18 months, there’s really little point in voting at all.

Bishop Desmond has for many years had the knack of drawing attention to the ills of our country. At one time one of those ills was that the majority of people in our country did not have the right to vote. We do have that right today — let’s not throw it away.

Reckless rhetoric or freedom of speech?

clipped from

Archbishop Desmond Tutu has lashed out at political leaders who use “intemperate, inflammatory” language.

He warned that political figures were perpetuating hostility with their reckless rhetoric.

Nearly 29000 of the foreigners were still displaced across the Western Cape, Gauteng and KwaZulu- Natal in June.

Tutu made the comments yesterday at Johannesburg’s St John’s College, during a mass to mark the xenophobic violence that swept South Africa recently.

He linked irresponsible rhetoric with the violence that displaced 47000 foreign nationals in May.

“What has happened when it seems no longer to matter how you’ve behaved, whether you have integrity, that these [characteristics] are deemed irrelevant for public office?” Tutu asked.

blog it

South Africa has a democratic constitution that protects freedom of speech. In saying things like this is Bishop Tutu trying to place an unconstitutional limitation on freedom of speech?

Some bloggers seem to think so, like Richard Catto on his Cape Town News blog.

I am reminded of a case that was reported several years ago, of a professor at an American university, who lost his job because of his communist sympathies. The case came to court, as he accused the university authorities of trying to suppress his right to freedom of speech. The university countered by arguing that if the communists came to power they would abridge everyone’s right to freedom of speech.

The court found for the professor, and said that he had only talked of abridging the freedom of speech of others, whereas the university, by firing him, had actually abridged his freedom of speech, and had therefore done in fact what he was only talking about.

The Times report cited above doesn’t actually say that Archbishop Desmond Tutu criticised Zwelinzima Vavi — the reference was implied rather than actual. But even if he did, was he abridging Zwelinzima Vavi’s freedom of speech?

Zwelinzima Vavi’s reported statements that he would “kill for Jacob Zuma” can be interpreted in various ways. They could, for example, be interpreted to mean that he would kill for Jacob Zuma in the same way that people in Zimbabwe are killing for Robert Mugabe — killing those who are suspected of voting against him. And that would indeed destroy our constitution — freedom of speech must be balanced against other rights. It is not an absolute right, sprueme over all others.
And if that is so, it would seem contradictory, because Cosatu, of which Vavi is Secretary General, is on record as regarding Robert Mugabe as the enemy of the working class. And doesn’t freedom of speech include freedom to criticise certain kinds of speech, as Archbishop Desmond Tutu has done?

Let Tutu speak – protests succeed

This is reported directly from A Jewish Voice for Peace.

We have just learned that the president of the University of St. Thomas acknowledged he made the wrong decision and invited Archbishop Tutu to campus!

Your letters worked! Thanks to you, we generated over 2,700 letters of protest. Please support our work.

With your help, we kept the issue on the news and the editorial pages of a number of local, national, and international newspapers (see a partial list below), including an op-ed published today by JVP’s Cecilie Surasky and Mitchell Plitnick. This op-ed in the Minneapolis Star-Tribune finally demolishes the myth that Tutu compared Israel to Hitler, putting the libel to rest in an American paper for the first time.

The Anti-Defamation League came out with a statement yesterday in support of Archbishop Tutu. After an exchange of letters between JVP and the Jewish Telegraphic Agency (JTA), which mistakenly attributed the false quote to Tutu, the JTA reported today that the Zionist Organization of America incorrectly quoted Archbishop Desmond Tutu as comparing Israel to Hitler and apartheid, despite the ZOA’s protests to the contrary.

At the same time, eighteen member’s of the university’s law faculty released a letter urging the university to reissue the invitation.
Help us to continue doing our work.
With your help, Jewish Voice for Peace spearheaded a true voice of reason—a voice of Jews and allies that oppose censorship and will not stand idle when people of conscience are falsely called anti-Semitic simply for opposing the policies of the Israeli occupation. Help us to continue doing our work.

Jewish Voice for Peace making news with Tutu protest

The Jewish Voice for Peace group has been making news with its protest over the banning of Bishop Desmond Tutu as a speaker at the St Thomas University in Minnesota

From their newletter

Making News
Your letters about Tutu are making the news! Read the Jerusalem Post. Listen to a live conversation between JVP’s Mitchell Plitnick and Steven Walt about the Israel Lobby this Wednesday, Oct 10, 10-11 am PST on KALW-FM.

Also read JVP’s Cecilie Surasky’s recent op-ed in the Fort Worth Star-Tribune, Dissenting at your own risk.

Chicago, Oct 12: In Defense of Academic Freedom
2:00 pm – 7:00 pm, Rockefeller Chapel, University of Chicago, 5850 S. Woodlawn Ave., Chicago.
Finkelstein protest
What is the nature of the assault on academic freedom by organizations mobilized to suppress criticism of Israel’s policies? This one-day symposium features targeted scholars affected by controversy and pressure within academia and the publishing industry. Chair: Tariq Ali (Verso Books). Participants: Akeel Bilgrami (Columbia University), Noam Chomsky (MIT, emeritus), Tony Judt (Remarque Institute, NYU), John Mearsheimer (University of Chicago), Neve Gordon (Ben Gurion University), Norman Finkelstein (formerly DePaul University) and Mehrene Larudee (DePaul University).
Co-sponsored by JVP-Chicago, DePaul Academic Freedom Committee, and others. More info:

Religious Right

It appears from all the reports that the root of the problem in the St Thomas case was “political correctness” on the part of the university authorities — fear of offending the “religious right”. The Jewish religious right put no pressure on the university to cancel Tutu’s visit. Rather the president of the university, Fr Dennis Dease, asked members of the religious right if they would be offended, and when they said they would he decided, on his own initiative, to cancel the visit.

As a result of the efforts of Jewish Voice for Peace, however, Fr Dease has received more than 1800 e-mails asking him to change his mind.

Desmond Tutu barred from US Catholic university

Desmond Tutu barred from speaking at a Minnesota University

A peace and justice group at St. Thomas University in St. Paul, Minnesota has been forced by the university president to cancel an appearance by Archbishop Desmond Tutu.

Archbishop Desmond Tutu

The cancellation was accompanied by the removal of the chair of the Justice and Peace Studies program, Prof. Cris Toffolo from her position as chair. She has tenure, but no longer heads the

The university president, Father Dennis Dease, decided against Tutu’s appearance after consulting one representative from the local Jewish Community Relations Council and several rabbis affiliated with the university. This, apparently, amounted to a Jewish “consensus” in Father Dease’s mind.

The rumor of Tutu’s alleged “anti-Semitism” is based entirely on a propaganda campaign waged by the extremist group, the Zionist Organization of America. Though he is outspoken in his criticism of Israel’s occupation regime, sometimes even bellicose, Tutu has never displayed anything other than deep concern for all peoples and his sympathy for Palestinians suffering under the yoke of occupation.

Please write to Father Dease and urge that he reverse this tragic course. Tell him you want to see Prof. Toffolo reinstated as chair of the Justice and Peace Studies program and that the words and views of Bishop Tutu are important ones for the students at St. Thomas University to hear.

Go to Jewish Voice for Peace to write to Father Dease.

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