SOUTH AFRICA IN A
STATE OF TURBULENCE –
SACC CALLS FOR RADICAL HONESTY IN ADDRESSING NATIONAL ISSUES
As a nation, we are in the midst of what would appear to be an extended stretch of turbulence that is shaking the foundations of our beliefs and that is tearing at the fabric of our society. We find ourselves in a moment in time where great reflection is required and ample doses of radical honesty must be served to us all, as we revisit who we have become as a people, in order to reconcile ourselves with who we thought we were.
If we are radically honest with ourselves, we will admit that the state of our faith is in opposition to Proverbs 3: 5-6: “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, and he will make straight your paths.” Can we honestly say that all of our churches are on a straight path that leads to God? Can we honestly say we are acknowledging Him in all our ways, when issues of abuse in the church abound?
If we are radically honest with ourselves, we will admit that our women and children are not safe today, with the levels of violence and sexual abuse against them at alarming levels. We are beating, raping, mutilating and killing women and children. Women are underrepresented in positions of leadership and authority in all sectors, even though women outnumber men in our country. Our children are not children – they are growing up with the weight of our actions and decisions as adults as their reality, and they are losing out on important developmental steps as a result.
If we are radically honest with ourselves, we will admit that the state of our economy is rotting with the cancer of corruption. Corruption has become endemic both in the public and the private sector. It calls for a public campaign on public values. The economic gap that excludes the vast majority gets wider; we have passed the point of the tightening our belts, as far too many no longer have belts to speak of. Unemployment has never been higher, and the prospects for our youth get slimmer with each act of comrade-ism and nepotism. We have become a nation that produces graduates and offers them hopelessness as a reward.
If we are radically honest with ourselves, we will admit that the governance of our country is divided along partisan lines, and where we should be making progress that benefits the majority, we are stuck in the muddy waters of infighting, theft and profiteering that is making a mockery of our constitution. At a national level, we welcome the Zondo Commission State Capture report, and the President’s recommendations which will work towards righting the wrongs that should never have been allowed to escalate to such levels. At a local government level, coalition governments have deteriorated into spaces of backstabbing, self-serving and the pursuit of personal enrichment agendas; where the spirit of ‘do unto others before they do unto you’ is rampant.
The SACC decries the political quagmire in which the nation is mired; wherein the game of politics has become a matter of own interests, be it a political party or the individual seeking public office. It is a situation that paraphrases the dictum of Samora Machel, “for the nation to live, the tribe must die”; and our politicians and their parties seem to say, “for my party to live, the nation must die!”. Political parties have no sacred space they hold dear for the nation but polarise on any and every issue. If there was a war against the country, they would each be arguing for a different defence approach with nothing in common! Attempts at municipal coalition governments are a dress rehearsal of the instability that will befall the nation if it comes to provincial and national government. Politics has failed to get us to the call of our Constitution, to “heal the divisions of the past”; to “improve the quality of life of all citizens and free the potential of each person”, and to “build a united and democratic South Africa”.
Yet for ordinary people, the wounds inflicted by our past remain beneath the surface and show up in the fracture of the social fabric and the desolation that characterises our human relations. The current reality of South Africa says it all: physical, emotional and spiritual hunger, manifest in poverty, domestic violence and the breakdown of family life, drug and alcohol abuse, hopelessness, religious gullibility, low self-esteem, mistrust and despair; social distress, crime and lawlessness; racism, xenophobia, ethnic cocoon-ism; and perpetual anger and general violence, are a running thread in society. The July 2021 unrest is testimony to a range of these manifestations of societal brokenness, compounded by misdirected politics. It is a political quagmire that is fed by the failure of genuine political intent for a common nationhood; the failure of the reconciliation agenda for a reconciled social and economic dispensation; the depth of the economy with obscene levels of inequality; and all this mounted on the crisis of public values and the cancer of corruption.
This is a serious challenge to the church and its good news imperative in the face of despair.
If we are radically honest with ourselves, we will admit that we cannot continue on this trajectory if we hope to emerge from this season of turbulence with any shred of self-respect and good-standing. It is with this in mind that the SACC Central Committee has made a series of public calls that must permeate across all sectors of society – including the Church.
The SACC calls for the rejuvenation of our faith that will rekindle the spirit of servanthood in the body of Christ. We have had great examples of servanthood in the lives and legacies of Archbishop Emeritus, Desmond Tutu, and Fr. Albert Nolan who spent their lives demonstrating the love of God in action through their work. The lives and witness of both have something important to say to the mission and ministry of the Church today. We must, therefore, act as God’s instruments, healing, restoring and transforming our world – fighting for the marginalised; speaking radical truth to ourselves and to people in power, in order to effect the changes that will provide a better lived experience for all.
The SACC commits to recover and heed the message of the recently departed Albert Nolan who said: “If the gospel for us in South Africa today is to have the shape of a prophetic message, it must proclaim news for our time, news about what God is doing and about to do (through our agency) in our country.” Therefore, the SACC commits to the rejuvenation of our faith tradition of engendering hope through the good news imperative that says “the time has come, the day is near”, promising active engagement that relieves the pain and distress. The SACC will drive this spirit of local church for public good, through the Local Ecumenical Action Networks (LEANs), enabling clusters of local congregations to collaborate in public ministries that address concerns in the areas where we live and worship, this as a demonstration of our Christian response to the issues of our societies.
The SACC calls for the redesign of the economic architecture of our country. Our national economic transformation agenda must be geared to address rampant unemployment, where with over ten million young people in the 15-24 years bracket, only 2,5 million of them are in employment. How can economic transformation at least half this number in the shortest space of time? What economic sectors have the greatest potential to draw into productive participation the largest number of excluded people in the shortest period?
Through its Economic Transformation initiative, the SACC has begun to investigate options for an economic architecture that best includes the Excluded Majority in the current urgent need for economic transformation for inclusive growth; to craft economic models with measures that can offer to aggressively include the excluded majority into the productive economy, especially the young people and women, both rural and urban; and identify a variety of options and the necessary trade-offs that may be required in this regard.
The SACC calls for the prioritisation of women and children’s safety as a national action point. We advocate for the rights of women and children to enjoy the freedom of movement without the fear of attack and assault. The heavens weep ceaselessly for the unceasing scourge of violence and sexual abuse of women and children, including the sexual abuse of toddlers and femicide. We advocate for the freedom of women and children to pursue their dreams, free from suppression and marginalisation.
We advocate for children’s constitutional rights to protection in their homes and in society; for access to quality healthcare and education; and for children to be children – without the need to assume adult activities as a means to their next meal. The SACC commits to the protection and safety of women and children through the work of its Gender, Justice and Youth Advancement programmes that address the gender imbalances and injustices in South Africa, and the desperate need for the holistic development of young people for a stable future.
The SACC Central Committee welcomes the Zondo Commission Report. We were among the first to be involved in the search for truth regarding what got known as State Capture, and we published our Unburdening Report in May 2017. We are encouraged by the reports of the billions of rands that are being recovered from that sad period of looting of the public purse in the face of so much poverty and want. We need to see successful prosecutions of people involved in order to close this chapter of our national life. Above all we need stronger public institutions with secure and ethical leadership.
The Zondo Commission is dealing with things that should not have happened. There is the uneasy sense that this report will yet be negatively politicised in the government environment, instead of addressing the weaknesses it has uncovered. The significant actions arising from the Zondo Commission report are also impacted by the soggy Phala Phala saga swirling around President Cyril Ramaphosa.
In June when the Phala Phala allegations surfaced, the SACC urged for “proper and independent investigations with transparency, attending to all the matters at hand, for all truth to fully surface”. To date the nation is none the wiser. There is no patent reason for this to take so long before we know if the President has a case to answer or not. SACC demands swift investigations and conclusion on this Phala Phala matter that raises an unseemly odour that can derail the best intentions of combatting crime and corruption.
The SACC calls for deliberate actions by government to restore faith in public institutions. This restoration of faith must begin in the work of the Presidency and permeate through all ministries, and into the national pillars of justice and across all State-Owned Enterprises (SOEs). The SACC believes that what is missing is a national commitment by all leaders to the needs of society which must sit ahead of all partisan responsibilities, even where there may be mutual disagreement on political doctrine. The SACC commits to rolling out its Nation Building programmes, that seek to identify a common set of values that would rebuild us as a nation.
The SACC calls for President Cyril Ramaphosa not to sign the Electoral Amendments Bill, as it has passed through Parliament. SACC believes that this Act will effectively disenfranchise many citizens whose votes will likely be dumped, beyond the number of votes required for the single seat of an independent candidate. We plead with the office of the President to demonstrate the revival of a level of leadership that places the people of South Africa at the forefront of all decision-making.
To this end, the SACC commits to standing in solidarity with civil society in lobbying for changes in our electoral system which will give people at the grassroots level more effective ways of holding their public representatives to account and to exercise their right to remove from power those who fail to deliver.
In conclusion, the SACC recommits itself to working as an instrument of God’s purpose in the world, echoing the proclamations of our forebears: God is not deaf! God is not blind! God hears and sees the sufferings of God’s people.And God will deliver freedom and justice to God’s people.
SACC Communications Consultant
South African Council of Churches
Tel: 084 074 1285 | Email: firstname.lastname@example.org