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President Mandela and Archbishop Ndungane discuss differences

Posted on: March 10, 1998 3:12 PM
Related Categories: Southern Africa

(CPSA) The Anglican Archbishop of Cape Town, the Most Revd Njongonkulu Ndungane, emerged from his meeting with President Nelson Mandela on Thursday 5th March encouraged that the air had been cleared, following reports that the President had criticised him in front of two of his bishops and several other clergy.

Archbishop Ndungane, who was accompanied by a delegation of fourteen, including one of the bishops concerned, Bishop Duncan Buchanan of Johannesburg, said that fair and frank views had been exchanged during the meeting.

The President had indicated his unhappiness at remarks by the Archbishop in a newspaper interview published in early February.

Speaking at a press conference, Archbishop Ndungane said he did not want to deal with the detail of the differences that existed between himself and the President.

"But we have cleared the perception that there was tension between Church and state," he said.

He said one of the issues that had been misunderstood was the context in which he had made a remark that "Madiba magic won't solve South Africa's problems." He had made this comment in the belief that all South Africans needed to pull together and that they should recognise that with freedom goes responsibility.

"We cannot expect that the President is the only person who will be able to make a difference. All of us have to do so together,"he said.

Reacting to a question that a presidential spokesman had told the media after the meeting that he was misinformed, Archbishop Ndungane said he would not be drawn into responding to comments made by such spokesmen. Archbishop Ndungane said the government had the unenviable task in terms of meeting the demands and expectations of people who sought social upliftment.

Responding to another question as to whether the Church was the watchdog of the government, he said that all people were stewards of God's creation. "The moral function of the state is coordinate its resources in such a way so that all people had basic necessities, such as sufficient food, housing and shelter," he said. The state's performance would be measured against such benchmarks.

Archbishop Ndungane said he had been assured by President Mandela that his criticism of him at the earlier meeting had not been a personal attack, and that he had simply been seeking to explain what upset him, as he had done at today's meeting.

The Archbishop said he came out of the meeting satisfied that a spirit of reconciliation had been achieved.

Earlier, the Archbishop said the Church would maintain its stand of critical solidarity in its relationship with the government. He reiterated that, when the Church felt it was necessary, it would criticise government.