Tutu says he'd welcome new South African opposition party

Archbishop Desmond Tutu 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 Sunday.

The Nobel Peace Prize winner, who turns 77 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.

"I would think you really need to have a viable opposition ... one that gives the impression that it could become an alternative government," he said.

"We don't have anything like that just now and that's probably not such a good thing," he added.

"Democracy flourishes where there is vigorous debate and people are actually careful of what they do, knowing that the electorate can take their revenge, that they can be kicked out of office at the next election."

The ANC holds nearly 70 percent of the seats in parliament, dominating South African politics.

But analysts say many moderate and middle-class blacks are disillusioned by the party after the leadership forced Mbeki to resign on September 20.

The rivalry between Mbeki and ANC leader Jacob Zuma has fed daily media reports of a potential split within the ruling party ahead of next year's elections.

Tutu told the paper he was so unhappy at the political bickering he would not vote if polls were held tomorrow.

"I would be sufficiently unhappy not to vote," he said, unless "there are attempts at healing rifts and people are not into the business of rubbing people's noses in the dust."

He warned the ANC's feud could lead to ongoing political battles as rival leaders vie for power, raising social tensions and heightening the risk of violence.

"I pray that it doesn't happen, but we could easily find ourselves in a situation where we have a series of sort of mini-coups," he said.

Jean-Louis Kayitenkore
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