Egypt, caught in the grip of raging civil conflict that has already claimed nearly a thousand lives in just four days, yesterday shot down a suggestion that Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu intervene to stop the bloodshed, saying it doesn't need South Africa's "failed reconciliation process".
The proposal from former Western Cape premier and now South Africa's ambassador to the US, Ebrahim Rasool, got short shrift from the Egyptian foreign ministry, which expressed "surprise" at South Africa's offer to "assist Egypt by sharing experiences and lessons from our own political transition, from apartheid rule to a democratic dispensation".
The proposal was made on Friday, when Rasool and Ebrahim Moosa, professor of Islamic Studies at Duke University, wrote in the Washington Post that Tutu and other international figures with "moral authority" should intervene urgently in Egypt.
"Preventing Egypt from sliding into civil war is a global security issue, as young militants who a year ago trusted the ballot box could potentially turn into the next generation of extremists," the pair wrote.
"What's urgently needed is a multi-pronged strategy involving people of moral authority and leaders from countries trusted by the Muslim Brotherhood, the military and secular and liberal groups who can help Egypt walk back from the brink of anarchy and its growing loss of life."
The two said an internationally constituted group of eminent people should "jump-start such an effort by brokering conditions for talks between all Egyptian players."
Other suggested members of the group include former Malaysian prime minister Mahathir Mohamad, Tunisia's Renaissance Party leader Rachid Ghannouchi, former US national security adviser Jim Jones, former Irish president Mary Robinson, and veteran Algerian diplomat Lakhdar Brahimi.
But the Egyptian foreign ministry said it was surprised South Africa was "trying to export its failed reconciliation process that hasn't achieved real co-existence".
The statement accused South Africa of having some of the highest rates of crime, corruption, poverty, unemployment and poor health in the world.
Yesterday Tutu's office said he was praying for the people of Egypt.
"Archbishop Tutu has sent the proposal contained in the Washington Post to The Elders for their consideration," spokesman Roger Friedman told Weekend Argus.
Tutu is an honorary member of The Elders, an independent group of global leaders working for peace and human rights.
South Africa earlier issued a statement condemning the violence that has claimed some 800 lives in Egypt in recent days.
Asked yesterday to comment on the Egyptian response, Department of International Relations and Co-operation spokesman Clayson Monyela said they were not surprised.
"The people who made those statements speak on behalf of the people in charge now. But the reality is that what happened in Egypt was a coup d'etat, and we remain opposed to unconstitutional changes in government."
Rasool and Moosa had called for the South African government and a range of other governments trusted by all parties in the conflict in Egypt to be involved in the initiative.
"With the support of the AU, South Africa, Turkey and Qatar on the one hand, and the US, the EU and the Gulf Co-operation Council on the other, the group should immediately engage credible Egyptian leaders to facilitate breakthroughs, a task no one inside Egypt can accomplish now," the pair wrote.
Asked about Rasool's suggestion, Monyela said South Africa supported the efforts of the AU, which had established a high-level panel on Egypt, led by former Malian president Alpha Oumar Konare, which was facilitating discussion. The group met in Addis Ababa last week.