Tutu vilifies S. Africa government for 'disgrace' over president's home upgrade

(Photo: Ecumenical News / Peter Kenny)Nobel Peace Prize laureate, Desmond Tutut, the former Anglican Archbishop of Cape Town speaking at the World Council of Churches in Geneva on April 20, 2008.

Christian leaders in South Africa including Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu and Catholic bishops have blasted the government over poor leadership in a scandal involving improvements to the private home of President Jacob Zuma costing millions of dollars.

Nobel Peace Prize laureate Tutu said he is deeply sad about the South African government's exoneration of Zuma for spending $24 million of taxpayers' money on home improvement work.

Tutu said he is dismayed at Zuma's joking in the national Parliament about the issue, the State-run SABC reported May 30.

A May 25 report by South African Police Minister Nkosinathi Nhleko found that the construction of a swimming pool, cattle enclosure, amphitheater and a chicken coop as well as improvements to his homestead, was legitimate.

He said these were security features, and that the president would not be required to reimburse any money.

Former South African Anglican leader Tutu said that instead of setting a good example, lawmakers are humiliating themselves, the country and its people by trying to defend the indefensible.

"When the South African government denied His Holiness the Dalai Lama a visa to attend the Nobel Laureates Summit in Cape Town last year, I called them a lickspittle bunch," said Tutu in a statement, Agence France-Presse reported.

"Our police minister's performance in clearing the President of any responsibility for the Nkandla spending, gave new meaning to the word."

The Southern African Catholic Bishops' Conference on June 2 also denounced the poor ethical leadership of Zuma, RDM News Wire reported.

The bishops' Justice and Peace Commission said, "the release of the report by police minister Nathi Nhleko last week' and its determination that Zuma is not liable for any non-security upgrades to his private residence at Nkandla' has been met with dismay."

The commission' established by the Catholic Church to fight for social justice and human rights' said there "are a lot of legal and constitutional matters that are being contested in relation to the Nkandla affair."

"Our role is to remind our political leaders of their ethical responsibility'" said commission chairperson Bishop Abel Gabuza.

"In this role' we wish to remind our political leaders that' at a time when millions of our people are struggling to make ends meet' it is morally unjustifiable for the government to spend excessive amounts of money - R246 million ($24 million) - on one person and on non-security items highlighted by the public protector's report."


If Zuma fails to implement the remedial action the Public Protector suggested in her own report on his private home in Nkandla, the matter might be taken to court said on June 1.

Public Protector Thuli Madonsela in 2014 found that Zuma had "unduly benefited" from the work on his private residence at Nkandla.

Madonsela, the country's ombudswoman, had ruled in March 2014 that Zuma and his family had "benefited unduly" from the work on his personal home in the eastern KwaZulu-Natal province.

President Zuma had in May 2014 deflected criticism by Tutu of the ruling African National Congress (ANC), which has been the governing party since 1994.

"My understanding is that bishops and pastors are there to pray for those who go wrong, not to enter into political lives," Zuma told journalists after the Anglican archbishop who was a thorn in the side of the apartheid rulers questioned the calibre of the country's leaders.

Former Congress of South African Trade Unions general-secretary Zwelinzima Vavi also weighed in saying May 31 the police minister's report is a blight on South Africa's constitutional democracy.

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