Desmond Tutu explains why he won't vote for South Africa's ANC

(Photo: REUTERS / John Stillwell / Pool)Archbishop Desmond Tutu speaks during a memorial service for former South African President Nelson Mandela at Westminster Abbey in London March 3, 2014. Mandela died on December 5, 2013 at the age of 95.

Retired archbishop Desmond Tutu has urged South Africans not to be "voting cattle" when they go to the polls on May 7 while reiterating a statement last year that he will not vote for the ruling African National Congress.

At a press conference in St. George's Cathedral in Cape Town on Wednesday he called on voters to apply their minds before casting their votes at the general elections.

"I have already said that I will not vote for them [the ANC]; that is something that I have said.

"And I say it with a very sore, very heavy heart because on the whole they have tended to be close to the kind of things we dreamt about," Tutu told journalists in Cape Town.

"South Africa has the biggest gap between rich and poor. We could have at least narrowed that gap," said Tutu, who is aged 82.

Tutu has since the end of apartheid both praised the achievements and damned the failings of those who have held power since them, often infuriating the ANC when he has done so.

He also spoke of his pain at being excluded by the ANC government in the funeral program of his friend Nelson Mandela, who led South Africa after the 1994 elections.

"I was quite astounded myself ...He was a very dear friend," Tutu said.

"I was very hurt. They have the right to say who would speak, but I think they shot themselves comprehensively in the foot in snubbing me. It was very sad."

He said that the leadership of the party that has ruled South Africa for 20 years had fallen short after the group that Mandela had under him.

"We have to admit that not too many of the successors of those leaders have been able to fill their shoes, but of course the shoes were too enormous," he said.


Tutu said he no longer supported the party's leadership as he did when he first voted on  April 27, 1994.

"I have sought to support a party that would be as close as possible to the sorts of things we would love to see. On the whole the ANC was that," he said. "Have you noticed the past tense."

The former Anglican Archbishop of Cape Town, who won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1984, would not say, however, for which party he will vote.

Tutu spoke to journalists about the 20 years of South Africa's democracy, saying he had a large number of interview requests.

When Tutu was fighting against apartheid in the 1980s calling for the release of Mandela he was one of the best known icons of the struggle against the country's racist system.

"Think carefully where you put your X on the 7th of May," he said. "As a religious leader, I would say pray deeply and ask God to direct your decision because on where you put your X so much depends.

"I pray that after May 7, we would all walk tall."

Tutu said he had never belonged to any political party, but he had sought to support a party that would be as close as possible "to the sort of things that we would love to see."

"On the whole, the ANC was that." He added: "Have you noticed the tense?"

"We dreamt about a society that would be compassionate, a society that really made people feel they mattered. You can't do that in a society where you have people who go to bed hungry, where many of our children still attend classes under trees."

The archbishop emeritus praised some of the ANC's achievements but also sharply criticised its failures.

"I am going to recognize, not concede, but recognize the wonderful achievements, the fact that many more people have running water, that there is electricity for very many more people than it used to be, the social grants and we have the largest HIV program ... those are significant feathers in the cap of our government," he said.

But he noted, "This is a country where we shouldn't read stories of a six-year-old falling into a latrine hole. It shouldn't happen. It unconscionable, it's a disgrace.'"

"Many more people have running water. We have mixed races in relationships," said Tutu. "We have to be proud of our nation and our constitution."

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