Democratic Alliance (DA) leader Helen Zille is to meet Archbishop Desmond Tutu to discuss his stated intention not to vote in next year’s elections.

Writing in her weekly newsletter on the DA website, Zille said Tutu had agreed to meet her to discuss the comments he made to the Sunday Times last week.

“I aim to convince him that if he wants South Africa to be a thriving constitutional democracy, and if he wants to see a revival of the Rainbow Nation [a term he coined], then he must do two things.

“He must not only reject the African National Congress [ANC] in the 2009 election, but he must also familiarise himself with the DA’s policies and then make an informed choice on how to vote,” she said.

The tumultuous political events of the past few weeks had been good for South Africa, she said.

These included former defence minister Mosiuoa Lekota’s criticism of the ANC and the suggestion that he would lead a breakaway party, and the apparent subsiding of the racial mudslinging that had dominated the political discourse for so long.

“A new debate is emerging over values, policies and principles. That a politician of Lekota’s stature has openly expressed views about the ANC that the DA has long espoused, is an encouraging sign that our democracy is maturing.

“But every silver lining has a cloud,” Zille said.

This was Tutu’s interview with the Sunday Times, in which he said if an election were held the next day, he would be “sufficiently unhappy [with the ANC] not to vote”.