South Africa's Tutu fetes 80th birthday amid controversy

Fri Oct 7, 2011 10:42am EDT
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By Peroshni Govender

JOHANNESBURG (Reuters) - South African peace icon Archbishop Desmond Tutu celebrated his 80th birthday Friday in the church where he preached against apartheid, just a few days after saying the former liberation movement now in government was in some ways even worse.

Tutu, who won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1984 for speaking out against white minority rule, has remained one of the world's most celebrated figures and is widely seen as South Africa's moral compass.

Rock stars, politicians and parishioners packed St Georges Cathedral in Cape Town for a service to celebrate the man who sits on a panel of global statesmen.

A day earlier, the diminutive Tutu filled separate birthday ceremonies with his enormous laughter and took to the stage with an African dance troupe.

"There is only one rock star in this room, and it's Archbishop Desmond Tutu," said U2 front man Bono, one of the celebrities joining the cleric for the three-day celebrations.

While birthday wishes have been streaming in, the festivities have been marred by a row with the ANC over its failure to grant the Dalai Lama a visa to attend the celebrations on Tutu's invitation.

Tutu regularly criticizes the African National Congress, in power since the end of apartheid in 1994, but his outburst this week was one of the harshest ever and prompted widespread concern in the ruling party.

He said the ANC's failure to allow fellow Nobel Laureate, the Dalai Lama, into the country amounted to pandering to major trade partner China and accused the party of conduct worse than that of South Africa's former white-minority rulers.   Continued...

<p>Archbishop Desmond Tutu (2nd R) dances with members of the Soweto Gospel Choir during the launch of his autobiography in Cape Town, October 6, 2011. REUTERS/Mark Wessels</p>