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ANC backs away from 'treason' slur on Tutu

Published Mar 3, 2005

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By Thokozani Mtshali

The ANC has adopted a more conciliatory stance towards Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu, after the souring of relations over recent months.

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The party's softer position follows a call by the SA Council of Churches for the ANC to act against MP Butana Komphela.

Komphela, head of the National Assembly's sport committee, had labelled Tutu's views on transformation in sport "treasonous".

SACC general secretary Molefe Tsele said yesterday: "The national executive committee of the SACC has expressed grave disquiet at recent remarks attributed to the honourable Komphela..."

The ANC's Speed Steyn said his party welcomed the SACC's call "for all South Africans to use temperate language in the course of public exchanges of ideas".

Steyn said the ANC was committed to defending the rights of every citizen to express viewpoints "in

accordance with his or her conscience".

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Yesterday Sports Minister Makhenkesi Stofile fiercely defended the government's position on racial representation in sport, saying the present situation was a "scandal" and not reflective of demographics.

"I am not happy about the current conditions in sports. It is a scandal," he said.

Stofile told a press briefing in Cape Town that the government would only be satisfied by "a reasonable reflection of the country's population dynamics", especially in the "big six" sporting codes - rugby, soccer, cricket, athletics, netball and boxing.

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"We will pay attention to swimming and tennis too," said Stofile.

He dismissed concerns that government's approach was reverse apartheid and argued that the envisaged "transformation is informed by our past and we cannot pretend that we live in an utopia situation".

Stofile said the government was obliged to correct the skewed distribution of resources in South Africa and it would intensify its transformation agenda regardless of the criticism it was drawing.

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"People argue, let's put merits first and then change. You can't use merits in an unequal situation, because merit assumes that all people have equal opportunities. There can be no such thing, that merit can succeed when inequality stares people in their faces," he said.

But Stofile reiterated the position that the government had abandoned the notion of quotas in sport, because they did not work .

"Quotas were well intended but they were abused and we realise we were shooting ourselves in the foot.

"We should emphasise the development of those who play the games and ensure they have access to resources," he said.

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