[an error occurred while processing this directive]
BBC News
watch One-Minute World News
Last Updated: Wednesday, 27 September 2006, 11:39 GMT 12:39 UK
South Africa's deepening malaise
Archbishop Desmond Tutu
As a vocal critic of apartheid, Tutu's comments carry a moral weight
The BBC's Martin Plaut reflects on South African Nobel Prize winner Desmond Tutu's scathing criticisms of South African society.

On the face of it Archbishop Tutu's comments warning of a growing danger of ethnic divisions in South Africa and saying the African reverence for life have been lost seem odd.

South Africa is at peace, and enjoying the longest period of growth in many years.

Unemployment has just fallen by more than half a million, to a six-year low.

And opinion polls show that most people are still optimistic about their country.

But just below the surface there seems to be a deep malaise.


Referring to the accusations of corruption that have been made about a number of South Africa's political leaders, Archbishop Tutu said: "They have shown that they are human. We all have been afflicted by original sin."

These problems have highlighted divisions within the alliance led by the African National Congress which is now in real trouble.

There is a very low sense of moral self esteem in South Africa today. It is really shameful
David Amana, Cape Town

The trade union congress this month practically booed the deputy president, Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, off the stage.

Its delegates sang songs describing President Thabo Mbeki as a "dog". So what's gone wrong?

At the heart of the problem is that President Mbeki has led his country down a road many are now questioning.


The left and the trade unions call for large-scale nationalisation and socialism.

But the government is locked into policies that favour business and globalisation.

Many believe not enough has been achieved for the poor since the end of apartheid, and are no longer prepared to sit in silence.

As the president's own brother, Moeletsi Mbeki put it, the governing alliance is now like a married couple on the brink of divorce.


If this is the perspective of the left in the black community, then the feelings of whites and many coloured people and Indians is equally bitter, but for different reasons.

The sky-high murder rate has convinced many they are not even safe when they shelter behind high walls and razor wire, even though crime rates are falling.

And their sons and daughters, many of whom were not even born when apartheid was in place, now cannot find jobs because affirmative action reserves them for blacks.

A fifth of the white population has left in the past 10 years, taking their skills and much of their wealth with them.

So while the sun still shines on South Africa's overall performance, there is a good deal for all sections of society to be fed up about. And the grumbling is getting louder.

Is S Africa losing its morals?
27 Sep 06 |  Have Your Say
Writing to Tutu
12 Sep 06 |  Magazine

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites

Has China's housing bubble burst?
How the world's oldest clove tree defied an empire
Why Royal Ballet principal Sergei Polunin quit


Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific