Tutu, his conscience and Tony Blair

Jeremy Gordin on the Archbishop's ditching of the Discovery "leadership" summit

You hear about His Holiness, the Most Righteous Archbishop emeritus Desmond "two-three" Tutu, and what he did yesterday?

Since 2009 (I think it is) the Discovery Group, Seffrica's "largest private health care provider" and "fastest growing diversified financial services group in the country" has held a "leadership" summit.

It's the kind of thing such poncey groups do; and it looks to be a very poncey event. They have important folk around ("leaders," my brothers, "leaders") who share their intemellectual capital with us - well, with those who can afford the no doubt steep entry fee. It's the kind of event to which the Johannesburg social climbers will flock; I could name names but shan't.

They've never invited me, or the Bullfinch for that matter. Or Little Julie Malema. Or Gwede Mantashe. But hey, we live in hope.

Anyway, this year - the conference is tomorrow by the way - they seem to have a very exciting line-up.

There's Adrian Gore - no relation to Al, as far as I know - the CEO and founder of Discovery. There's Stephen Koseff, my old china from Benoni, who's not been getting such good publicity of late. I think I saw an article by Rob Rose in one of those financial publications, suggesting that others are suggesting that Koseff and his generation should move on. But Koseff nonetheless remains the CEO of the Investec Group, even though he doesn't always return my calls.

Then there's Sizwe Nxasana, CEO of FirstRand Limited, one of the big four banks in South Africa with a market capitalisation of R157 billion. 

Professor Michael Porter "is indisputably the foremost authority on modern competitive strategy." The notes continue: "Generally recognised as the father of modern strategy, Porter has been identified in a variety of rankings and surveys as the world's most influential thinker on management and strategic competitiveness. He is the Bishop William Lawrence University Professor, based at HarvardBusiness School."

He has no connection, however, with the former Porterhouse steakhouse in Hillbrow, where I used to hang in my teens. No matter.  

Next up, ladies and gentlemen, is Pravin Gordhan, one of the great unsung spin doctors of all time, who took over as Finance Minister ofSouth Africa in May 2009 having previously served as Commissioner and Deputy Commissioner of the South African Revenue Services (SARS) for a total of 11 years. Blah-blah.

There's no mention of his role in Operation Vula or his friendship with President Jacob Zuma ... but hey, so it goes.

Sir Terry Leahy is the former chief exec of Tesco and "is credited with transforming the supermarket industry in Britain and growing Tesco into one of the largest supermarket chains in the country."  "His passion for retail," we are told, "was first stirred while stacking shelves during school holidays as a young adult."

Well, I never stacked shelves but I did pick grape fruit and irrigate cotton on a kibbutz for a long time - and it stirred in me the desire to have as little to do with manual labour as possible for the rest of my life.

Now we're starting to cook, because next up is Garry Kasparov. What can I say? What can anyone say? Kasparov is a chess grandmaster, writer, political activist, and a legend in the international sports arena for his 20-year reign as the world's number one chess player. 

Richard "Noddy" Gnodde is co-chief executive officer of Goldman Sachs International and co-head of the global Investment Banking Division. "Under his lead, Goldman Sachs took the lead adviser role on the £17 billion bid by Lakshmi Mittal, of Mittal Steel, for Arcelor." Whatever gets you through the night.

And now, friends, the first pièce de résistance: until yesterday, the mighty moral, ethical and giggling presence of the Archbishop emeritus was going to grace the proceedings ... We'll get back to this in a jiffy.

And the second pièce de résistance: Tony Blair. Blair, you might recall, served as prime minister of Great Britain and Northern Ireland from May 1997 to June 2007.

I personally would never have bought a second-hand car from the fellow, just I wouldn't buy one from that Obama guy and his ball-breaker of a wife, Michelle (though Obama did give Bob Dylan the presidential Medal of Freedom, so he can't be all bad.)

But then I have excellent taste in people. However, there were millions of people - including my own sister and brother-in-law - who were taken in by Blair the charmer until a few years ago, just as millions are taken in by Obama and his advertising agency copy ... 

Anyway, you know what Two-three did?

Yesterday - i.e. during the period in which miners were mown down at Marikana, about which Two-three said jack-diddley - Two-three said he had been forced to wrestle with his conscience.

You get the picture, yeah? Just as Jacob (soon to be Israel) grappled at Beth-El with the strange dude who came down a ladder from the sky, so did our Arch fight with his conscience. I hope his conscience didn't touch him on the thigh the way the angel did to Jacob - we must talk some other time, when you have a moment, about the homoeroticism of the famous biblical scene ...

The problem? The cause of Tutu's deep angst? Tutu didn't see his way clear to appearing at the same summit as Blair because of Blair's decision to back the United States war in Iraq (2003, if I remember correctly).

"The archbishop has spent considerable time over the past few days wrestling with his conscience and taking counsel from trusted advisers with respect to his attendance at the event," the archbishop's office wrote to the event organisers yesterday, reported the MailnGroundhog.

A few points.

Two-three and his folk have known for months that the arch was going to "appear" with Blair. Why tell the event organisers yesterday only? Some oke (Victor Dlamini?) apparently tweeted yesterday that Tutu has the timing of a ballerina and the cunning of a general. Right on, my brother.

In other words, Toot didn't just suddenly yesterday lose the bout with the angel. He timed this to perfection, so as to micturate to maximum effect on Discovery's jamboree. I think that's pretty mean.

Talking of which, what did Yoske Pandera (Jesus Christ) allegedly say? Borrowing just a tad from Rabbi Hillel (but we won't fight about the plagiarism just now), he said: "'Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.' This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.' All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments." (Matthew 22: 37-9.)

In other words, you've got to talk to your enemies; you have to treat them as you would treat yourself; no profit in just shunning them; didn't Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela point that out?

Point three. What about plain bloody courtesy? I don't, as you've gathered, hold a candle for Blair or for Discovery or for bunches of capitalists sitting around giving each other hand jobs. But what about plain bloody courtesy? Somebody went to a great deal of trouble to put the show together.

Little story. Somewhat to my embarrassment, my late mother, although she'd been an agnostic and follower of Spinoza all her life, decided to work for the Union of Jewish Women, essentially a non-Zionist Jewish charity. She was in her 60s and 70s, basically bored at home, hanging with my father.

She became chairman of the Western Cape branch for something like 17 years, if I have it right. In that capacity, she often invited Leah Tutu, the arch's wife, to address various meetings or to see various projects. Ms Tutu was never - never - less than an hour late.

"It's so discourteous," my mother, who had never been late in her life, would say with a slightly puzzled look on her face, "I just don't understand it. Why would anyone be so discourteous?"

Just a story; use it, don't use it ...

Point four. Yeah, I know the invasion of Iraq involved a great deal of lying by everyone - and so on and so forth. It was on the basis of unproven allegations of the existence in Iraq of weapons of mass destruction, and there weren't any.

But you know what? I have never lost a night's sleep about the demise of Saddam Hussein and his family, just as I haven't lost much sleep about the disappearance of the Ghaddafi family. And if Obama or anyone else wants to make a little excursion into Iran to hoist I'm-a-dinner-jacket, the president, from a lamp pole - or into Syria to do the same with the al-Assad dynasty - he can count me in.

Point five; I nearly forgot: Blair and Two-three were never actually going to have to share the podium, at any point. 

Now, apparently, a group of Durban-based organisations want to arrest Blair on charges of war crimes when he arrives in South Africa. So says one Mustafa Darsot, a member of the South African Muslim Network executive committee.

That mad Marxist, Patrick Bond, has also been sounding off - saying that Blair "should be prosecuted for a ‘crime of aggression'." What? According to the MnG, "Bond said South Africans who viewed Blair as a war criminal could attempt a citizen's arrest."

Myself, I'm thinking of getting together a guerilla theatre group called Vaginal Mêlée (as opposed to Pussy Riot) to go and take on the lefties. But I don't have much time to get the group together.

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