S. African cardinal's swipe at president irks ruling party

(Photo: Reuters / Paulo Cocco)South Africa new cardinal Wilfrid Fox Napier kisses Pope John Paul II after he received the red berretta, a four-cornered red hat, during the Consistory ceremony in Saint Peter's Square Feb. 21, 2001. John Paul II died in 2005.

The head of the Catholic Church in South Africa Cardinal Wilfrid Napier has angered the country's ruling African National Congress by writing that President Jacob Zuma is unfit to rule the country.

Writing an opinion piece in South Africa's Sunday Independent newspaper on Jan. 27, Napier the archbishop of Durban, castigates himself for not voicing criticism of Zuma and his party sooner.

A mixed-race South African who experienced the prejudice of apartheid, he accuses the government of introducing a new style of race discrimination whilst lamenting the lack of respect for life in a country where killings and rape are rife.

Napier, who was educated at Galway in Ireland and Belgium's, Louvain University, wrote, "We must give God back His proper place in public life as acknowledged in our constitution."

He said, "I am what is wrong because I have not taken the opportunities offered to stand up for the truth, when it was being abused and violated by those who will use any means to make themselves look good, or justify the moral short cuts they are taking."

Referring to Zuma, he wrote, "We have a leader who speaks and behaves as if he no longer sees himself as president of all in the country," wrote Napier who was often clashed with the apartheid regime over its racist policies.

"More often than not we are uncertain if being president of his party, of his tribal group, of his family, comes before being president of all South Africans regardless of race, color, creed or social class, including the poor.

Senzo Mkhize spokesman for the ANC in KwaZulu Natal province wrote in the same newspaper on Feb. 3, "Accusing the president of lacking morality is disingenuous and smacks of someone who has assumed an opposition role.

"We have established that scores of Roman Catholic priests are not happy with Napier's views on Zuma. It is our view that churches should offer constructive criticism that can help to propel our country to greater heights."

Mkhize said Zuma was recently praised for the role he played in the fight against HIV/Aids in South Africa. "Former U.S. president Bill Clinton praised Zuma at the International Aids conference in Vienna, Austria, saying South Africa was no longer a 'pariah in the fight against Aids'."

Napier said, "Un-presidential behavior and speeches leave many disappointed, disillusioned and downright ashamed of having trusted him [Zuma] or even given him the benefit of the doubt with regard to his moral lapses, financial mismanagement of his own family and personal affairs."

The president currently has been married six times and currently, he has four wives and he recently spent more than 200 million South African rands ($23 million) public money on his country home.

Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Desmond Tutu, the former Anglican archbishop of Cape Town, has in the past strongly criticized the moral behavior of Zuma.

When democracy was brought in the early 1990s the Race Classification Act was one of the first removed from the Statute Books, but Napier notes citizens are still racially defined.

"The crime against humanity in South Africa is the total and utter disregard and disrespect for the life and limb of the human. Nothing has brought this to the fore more graphically than the stark contrast between South Africa's muted reaction to crime and violence, and the furor in India over the assault, rape and murder of a student.

"There ordinary people spontaneously, but vigorously and unequivocally, rose in protest, saying with one voice: Enough is Enough."

Napier wrote his piece before the killing and gang-rape of a 17-year-old girl in a farming town near Cape Town.

The crime was so brutal it spurred Zuma to issue a statement saying, "Impose the harshest sentences on such crimes, as part of a concerted campaign to end this scourge in our society."

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