Tutu gets the boot
Board suspends executive director in drama over conflict of interest since her marriage to a professor
Reverend Canon Mpho Tutu has been suspended as the executive director of her parents’ legacy foundation, only weeks after tying the knot. The board of the Desmond & Leah Tutu Legacy Foundation met last week and unanimously, and quietly, decided to suspend Mpho Tutu. It had threatened to resign en masse if action was not taken to ameliorate the implications of Tutu’s marriage to a professor with links to her parents’ foundation.
The board cited finance and governance concerns arising from a possible conflict of interest with her partner, Professor Marceline van Furth, insiders say.
Van Furth is the Desmond Tutu Chair of Medicine at Vrije Universiteit in Netherlands.
It has been working with the Desmond & Leah Tutu Legacy Foundation on special projects.
Don MacRobert, a spokesperson for the foundation, said in a statement that, following a preliminary investigation, “the board of the foundation has asked Reverend Canon Mpho Tutu to step aside while a process is undertaken to tighten administrative procedures and practices, and mitigate [the] potential for perceived conflicts of interests between the foundation and its partners”.
“The outcomes of the process will determine the future,” it added.
Insiders told City Press the reverend was not believed to have misappropriated funds from the foundation.
However, her general conduct as the executive director of the foundation had concerned the board. A number of board members have resigned from the foundation following clashes with her.
Two insiders told City Press that board members had been up in arms in December. They said their unhappiness stemmed from the implications of the reverend and Van Furth’s marriage in December in Amsterdam.
Van Furth is believed to have played a key role in securing a €2 million (R35.8 million at the current exchange rate) donation to the foundation from a Dutch lottery three years ago.
City Press has seen a picture of Archbishop Desmond Tutu, his daughter and Van Furth taken in February 2013 when the Dutch Postcode Lottery donated the €2 million to the foundation. €1.5 million of that money was for a special project jointly designed by the Vrije Universiteit Medical Centre and the Desmond & Leah Tutu Legacy Foundation. The foundation was the lead partner. Insiders confirmed the board was concerned about possible conflicts of interest arising from the women’s union, but offered no examples of what form these might take.
“The board would have resigned en bloc had this [suspension] not happened,” said a source.
The board includes the Tutu family as well as nonfamily members.
The reverend explained last month that the lottery event had predated her falling in love with Van Furth by a few months.
Last month she told City Press that the necessary checks and balances were in place to guard against the potential for conflicts of interest. She said Van Furth was appointed to the Desmond Tutu Chair in 2009 by an external committee in terms of the university’s policies and processes.
“We met more than two years later, towards the end of 2011,” she said. Her comment to City Press this week was: “What began with issues within the family was placed before the board. The board initiated a process it must complete. “The family is working to resolve its issues.” The foundation did not respond to specific questions from City Press on what exactly had led to Tutu’s suspension.
Mpho’s parents are believed to have supported the board’s decision to suspend her.
WE WILL BRING THE FIGHT TO YOU After Cape Town approved two marches on the
day of the state of the nation address on Thursday, the police showed up in force and were determined to prevent any breakthrough to the parliamentary precinct. The police fired
stun grenades to disperse members of the Economic Freedom Fighters, which didn’t have
permission to demonstrate. The clashes reinforced the notion that we have descended into a police state, ruled by an iron fist and a zero-tolerance policy towards civil disobedience
SUSPENDED Reverend Canon Mpho Tutu