Tutu urges Mandela to set example to children by marrying Machel

 

MOST South Africans are delighted that President Nelson Mandela has a live in lover, but Archbishop Desmond Tutu is among those who think he should marry her.

For the past year, Mr Mandela fried to keep the affair secret, sometimes meeting Mrs Graca Machel (50) in remote lodges on the border between their countries.

But at the weekend, on the President's orders, spokesman Mr Parks Mankahlana confirmed that Mr Mandela (78), and Mrs Machel, widow of the former Mozambique president, Samora Machel, planned to live together for two weeks every month.

Public reaction to the news was positive. But church leaders including Archbishop Tutu, the retired head of the Anglican Church in Southern Africa, have expressed reservations.

Mr Mandela telephoned Archbishop Tutu and senior party leaders last week to warn them that he was about to go public about his love life, sources in his ruling African National Congress said.

"The archbishop told Mr Mandela to think about the example he would be setting to the nation's children," one source said. "He told him he should rather get married," said another.

Mr Kenneth Meshoe of the African Christian Democratic Party also criticised the President, saying this would encourage cohabitation in black society.

In an interview in Maputo earlier this week, Mrs Machel said she and Mr Mandela had already made up their minds not to get married.

The top selling black daily newspaper, Sowetan, commented an editorial: "President Nelso Mandela has the right to enjoy the twilight years of his life in happiness and in this regard his relationship with Graca Machel is most welcome."

The newspaper seemed to reflect popular feeling in radio phone ins and informal newspaper polls, where most said Mr Mandela deserves some personal happiness.

Mrs Machel, whose husband died in a plane crash on the border with South Africa in 1986, is a respected academic and a tireless ambassador for the rights of children.