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Last Updated: Friday, 3 December, 2004, 16:18 GMT
Is the Mbeki-Tutu row demeaning?
The very public row between South Africa's President, Thabo Mbeki, and Archbishop Desmond Tutu has attracted international attention.

Archbishop Desmond Tutu
Tutu criticised government policies on Aids, black empowerment and Zimbabwe
It began with a speech by Archbishop Tutu, in which he said black empowerment was benefiting only a small elite, and that political "kowtowing" within the ruling ANC was hampering democracy.

President Mbeki then hit back, writing: "It would be good if those that present themselves as the greatest defenders of the poor should also demonstrate decent respect for the truth."

That prompted the Archbishop to thank the president for calling him a liar, adding that he would pray for the ANC government as he had done for its apartheid predecessor.

Not only has this row highlighted the debate about the speed and direction of change in post-apartheid South Africa, it has also led to questions about how two such senior figures in the struggle against apartheid could become involved in such an open and personal squabble.

But do those in public life demean themselves when they become involved in trading insults with each other? Or is this a sign of a healthy and free society?

Let BBC Focus on Africa know your views by using the form on the right.

A selection of your opinions will be published below and broadcast on BBC Focus on Africa on Saturday 4 December.


What Archbishop Tutu said has obviously hit a nerve so there is probably truth in it. I am sure that Archbishop Tutu has the plight of the common man in mind.
Gareth Hurley, UK

There is freedom of speech in South Africa! It's not war. Keep it up Tutu, keep it Mbeki! It is good for the country.
Dr Sydney D. Tembo, Thohoyandou, South Africa

They should... remember they are leaders and a lot of people look up to them. Hence exchanges of such nature should not be seen among them.
Nana Baffoe Pieterson, Accra, Ghana

Most people know that what Tutu says is reality. I think it is a celebration of democracy and this incredible man (Tutu) that he can speak out openly about this.
Mike, London (South Africa)

I think the whole thing has been blown out of proportion by the press, locally and now I see internationally. In any case, I feel both characters have outsize egos.
Robert, Pietermaritzburg

I'm not sure if it is good for South Africa to have its most senior leader and its most revered archbishop angry at each other. The two must learn to be patient and think properly before uttering words in public.
Herman Mabasa, Johannesburg, South Africa

Tutu is a controversial person who likes to quarrel a lot. He started the argument and should not cry foul when Mbeki responded.
Elisha Manhando, Harare, Zimbabwe

I admire Archbishop Tutu for never being afraid to express the truth. He has stood up to both the apartheid and present government, in the face of vociferous criticism.
Brett McDougall, Johannesburg, South Africa

So long as South Africa's leaders bicker instead of resorting to violence and oppression, I cannot see this as a problem. Besides, even mature democracies have embarrassing incidents: one just needs to see the mudslinging that goes on in Europe.... I think that Bishop Tutu's statements are a celebration of freedom of speech. Sadly though, I really do believe that his statements are extremely valid.
Glenn Lewis, Amsterdam, ex Pretoria

Allow me to say that both Mbeki and Bishop Tutu do not understand the plight of common men. Both men should go and stay with the poor in Soweto and then they can understand what it means to be poor... Shame on Mbeki for trying to incorporate the Africa National Party with the ANC. As for the Bishop, he should come down to Soweto, instead of blaming Mbeki for not empowering the blacks.
Tony Odek, Gaborone, Botswana




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