Desmond Tutu. Picture: REUTERS
Desmond Tutu. Picture: REUTERS

President Cyril Ramaphosa has apologised to Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu for the way the ANC had lost its way in recent years.

Ramaphosa, speaking in Sandton on Thursday night to professionals from various sectors, said he had apologised to Tutu for driving him to a "point of despair", a move which nearly brought both men to tears.

Tutu, a Nobel laureate, has been a vocal critic of the ANC under former president Jacob Zuma, even warning him in a public address that he would start praying for the defeat of the ANC as he had done for the apartheid government.

Addressing professionals is part of a key strategy for the ANC ahead of the 2019 election, after its electoral support in the 2014 polls in Gauteng — a largely urbanised province — dropped by nearly ten percentage points. The decline in support for the ANC among Gauteng’s black middle class as well as across the country has been well documented in its own reports and assessment of its electoral performances.

The meeting with professionals had one surprise guest — former Democratic Alliance leader Lindiwe Mazibuko who indicated that she was invited by ANC head of elections Fikile Mbalula. There has been speculation that Mazibuko was in talks to join the ANC, but these have never been confirmed. Thursday was her first public appearance at an ANC event.

Ramaphosa’s message to professionals on Thursday was in stark contrast with Zuma’s dismissal of the group as "clever blacks" ahead of the 2014 local election.

A video posted on social media by the ANC shows the interaction between Tutu and Ramaphosa. In it Tutu says SA is finally becoming "what it was intended to be".

"We thank God for you and your colleagues and uphold you," Tutu says.

Ramaphosa replies, saying: "We want to apologise, we did put you through a period where you lost confidence in the leadership of the country and it was not a pleasant moment ... you expressing your loss of confidence and hope ... I just wanted to say I am sorry and I will work really hard to regain your confidence and make your proud."

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