Bishop Ziphozihle D Siwa
6 June 2017
Kopanong Conference Centre
Greetings, Welcome and Acknowledgements
Members of the National Executive Committee of the SACC, National Church Leaders, delegates to the Triennial Conference 2017, distinguished guests former Presidents and General Secretaries of the SACC, people of God here present, I greet you warmly in the of God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit – Good morning.
On behalf of the SACC Executive, I extend a warm word of welcome and appreciation to you for making the time to attend this 2017 Conference of the SACC. What a special privilege and honor it is for me to stand here and give a short reflection o at the February 2014 SACC Triennial. We are here to give account on the mandate you gave us and to plead for your indulgence and forgiveness where we have erred. We did our best in seeking to be obedient to the call to serve the Ecumenical movement at leadership level since 2014. We express our gratitude for the privilege of serving you and urge those to whom we will be handing over the baton to be encouraged because it is God who calls and equips.
I acknowledge the profoundly immense contribution of all those who were pathfinders and led this council before us. Indeed, we stand today on the shoulders of giants. They showed us how to deal with difficult situations especially during the dark days of Apartheid and subsequent years of reconstruction. Of crucial importance is the work of the former General Secretaries who initiated the Save the SACC campaign in 2012, which followed on the 2010 Conference resolution to rebuild the SACC. The former General Secretaries deserve special appreciation because without them there would be no SACC today. South Africa is blessed with an abundance of good and generous people. The SACC has received many generous donations and contributions in It was and encouraging to in cash and in kind to help re- build an Ecumenical movement that exists for common Christian witness in the world. With so much generosity and goodwill, the possibilities are endless.
The journey thus far
We have been expressly privileged to have the services of Bishop Malusi Mpumlwana as the General Secretary. He reminds me often that we asked him to act for one month and the month has now become 3 years. His ongoing contributions to the life of the council areas invaluable as all the reports will indicate. We salute you, Sir. The General Secretary works with a dedicated team most of whom most are not really in the employ of the SACC. I could not have asked for a better team with which to work. Such dedication and sincere commitment to service is something that this country needs at every level of governance.
It is worth noting that the last Triennial Conference met on 25-26 February 2014, under the theme: God of Life; Renew, Restore and Transform us for the service of Your Kingdom. At that Conference the following concerns were raised and deliberated upon:
Safety of children in the light of increasing number of reported incidents of rape, sexual abuse and murders of so many innocents.
- Alarm at the growing number of dangerous religious practices, rituals, and killings
- The context in which we do mission and ministry which had and continues to be a moral challenge
- Deep concern over the widening gap between the rich and the poor in South Africa. Noting that the inequalities in society are bound to lead to social instability.
- The violent nature of protests
- The escalating rate of unemployment and the struggles that the young people face.
- The situation in Palestine/Israel and a call for just peace as we reiterated our solidarity and support for all those who work for towards this goal.
All these were articulated in 2014. What has changed and what have we done to help rid our society of the mentioned ills. You will observe that all the above issues have found their into this year’s Agenda. It is my hope and prayer that the Conference 2017 deliverables will not be mere statements but rather with concrete action plans and resolutions.
Welcome to the 2017 Conference of the SACC!
Prof Njabulo Ndebele delivering the Steve Biko Memorial Lecture in 2000, titled his address ‘Iph’ indlela?’ (Where is the way?). Our Conference meets at a time of trying to find the way through confusion. We have signposts and guides. I salute the team that assisted us in putting together the “THE SOUTH AFRICA WE PRAY FOR” programme which was launched on 16 December 2015. It was opportune and timely after the country was launched into uncertainty, doubt, and anxiety subsequent to the unexpected removal of Mr. Nhlahla Nene as Finance Minister and the resultant reaction of the markets. After a long journey of research and hard work God helped us to have that tool ready for launch at that particular time. The churches gathered and made the commitment to pray and work for:
- Healing and Reconciliation
- Restoration of the Fabric of Family Life
- End of Poverty and Inequality
- Economic Transformation
- Anchoring Democracy
We need to see this work translated into transforming actions throughout the length and breadth of South Africa.
The scourge of violence; rape and femicide; murder and abduction of children:
We meet at the end of Child Protection Week and at the beginning of Youth month. What has been dominating the news in the past few months are reports on the scourge of violence, rape, and murder of children and women. A recent article by Prof Tinyiko Maluleke is helpful in guiding our actions towards ending this blight on our nation. He warns us that even the language we use is not helpful. For instance, we call it “the recent spate of brutal killings of women and children.” Is it recent? Have we forgotten? He continues; “Why is an evil practice with deep economic, political, historical, and cultural roots being described as if it came out of the blue? It is evil. It is criminal. It is deep seated and is a national crisis which deserves to be treated as such by all of society.” Yes Prof Maluleke, I agree that the ‘recent- spate- narrative’ trivializes the crisis and allows even known perpetrators to hide and pose as activists. Action is needed now! The law enforcement authorities should be pulling all stops in eradicating this and Government should avail adequate resources to assist the nation to rise together to bring an end to this pandemic. There should be a resounding NOT in our name shouted echoed from every corner of society, and the Church must be found among those at the fore-front of this war. There is no room for any hidden complicity whether it is by omission or commission.
At noon today, we will pause to pray against the wanton killings of lesbians, people living with albinism and women. What is the current church rhetoric on these issues? Gods heart bleeds.
We live at a time when people of South Africa need hope. The dark clouds hovering over this nation made manifest in gross organized corruption; violence; intolerance; high unemployment and loss of hope especially among the children and youth, must not be allowed to distract us and make us lose sight of all the possibilities that do exist. What we see, hear and experience sounds a clarion call for us to stand together across any thinkable boundaries and as, Jim Wallis calls it, unite in serving the common good. The post-Apartheid South African dream and promise cannot and must not be betrayed. Remember that it is the promise of a just, reconciled, sustainable and equitable society; free of racial, tribal, ethnic, xenophobic and gender prejudices; free of corruption and deprivation; and with enough food and shelter for every citizen; and for each child born to grow to her/his God-given potential. That is the South Africa we committed to pray for. Rampant corruption is threatening to throttle the dream.
The Damning and Demoralizing Reports in the Public Domain
- Unburdening Panel Report – we are on the brink of Mafia State. This is beyond corruption but organized chaos.
- Betrayal of Promise Report – Silent Coup”- How the Nation is being stolen
- Public Protector – Pointing to state of capture
- Media Reports – Huge scale looting
There is large scale looting of state resources and widespread evidence of organized crime. There must be serious consequences meted against anyone found guilty of such. There will be no economic transformation as long as national resources are diverted towards padding the pockets of a few individuals.
I quote extensively from the Pastoral Letter from the Church Leaders that gives a summary of the Unburdening Panel Report to the church public:
It seems sufficiently clear to us that the government of the day has lost the moral radar that should inform the public service of batho pele, in “a people first” governmental culture. Its operations seem to be driven by an outside interest, strategically located at the top of the Executive. in order to periodically raid the various attractive units of the State, of which our legitimate government should be steward. This is an accountability, as well as a moral matter of the integrity and legitimacy of government.
Section 41 of the Constitution in Chapter 3 on the Principles of Co-Operative Government and Intergovernmental Relations. Three Subsections of Section 41 (1) says that all organs of State must:
(b) Secure the well-being of the people of the Republic
(c) Provide effective, transparent, accountable and coherent government for the Republic as a whole;
(d) Be loyal to the Constitution, the Republic, and its people.”
The above in the light of what has been revealed by the reports point to questions of moral and constitutional legitimacy of the Government. How has the Parliament and the Executive conducted themselves? What do we do? This Conference must craft clear action plans for the sake of this nation. “Iph’ indlela? (Where is the way?).
Lessons from Nehemiah
When Nehemiah received the report and the news of the people back home; that they were in great trouble and disgrace (Nehemiah 1:30), he sat down and wept, mourned, fasted and prayed (Nehemiah 1: 4.). We can safely say that he applied the “See, Judge, Act” methodology. He received the news, spent time in prayer, and when he arrived in Jerusalem took people around inspecting the extent of the damage and disgrace. He then, said “You see the trouble we are in… Come, let us rebuild…, and we will no longer be in disgrace. (Nehemiah 2:17 -18.)”
The Unburdening Panel Report says: Ours at this point is to facilitate the availability of what we have seen, for as Stanley Henkeman of the Institute for Justice and Reconciliation said, You cannot unsee what you have seen. We invite all to see what we have seen, in the knowledge that it can never again be unseen. The creation of an environment to heal the nation is urgent. The nation is hurting.
This is profoundly deep and does not only point to the present Government. The book by Hennie van Vuuren, Apartheid, Guns, and Money calls for investigations to see more. But that is a separate project which is also urgent, but must not derail the nation in stopping the current, ongoing damage.
It is becoming clearer that the growing gap between the rich and the poor is dangerous and unsustainable. The plundering of resources for the benefit of a few is damaging to the planet and the plight of the vulnerable. The continued erosion of social justice and trampling down of human dignity will hurt all of us and the whole of creation. There may be differences in our interpretation of radical economic transformation and there may be some among us who fight for narrow personal interests, but in order for the 1994 promise to be realized this transformation is necessary. (Betrayal of Promise document page 6).”
Unemployment rate announced by Statistician General as standing at 27.7% is a ticking time bomb. What do we do?
Dialogue on Values
The Graca Machel Trust reminds us of the pledges that various Church Leaders made at the time Madiba was in hospital and after his subsequent passing, to work continuously towards a value based society. In conversation with the Mandela Foundation and some Religious Leaders, it is envisaged that this year we hold a Religious Leaders Dialogue later in July 2017, during the Mandela month and we partner with the Mandela Foundation and include all people of faith. A resolution will be brought before us to embrace this initiative. The consciences and consciousness of communities need continuous work as we point them towards the ‘moral universe.’ We have to reclaim and lift high the value of contentment in all that we say and do. Content people will not only be takers but givers; they will not want everything for themselves and the expense of others.
We cannot afford to be hopeless because that is a dangerous state to be in. I’m however not suggesting that we peddle false hope or bury our heads in the sand in the ardent belief that prevailing crises will just disappear. That is folly of the highest order. Jurgen Moltmann, meditating on hope writes:
Eschatology was long called the doctrine of last things… These end events were to break into this world from somewhere beyond history and put an end to the history in which all things here live and move. But the relegating of these events to the ‘last day’ robbed them of their directive, uplifting and critical significance for all the days which are spent here, this side of the end, in history… In actual fact, however, eschatology means the doctrine of the Christian hope, which embraces both the object hoped for and also the hope inspired by it. From first to last, and not merely in the epilogue, Christianity is eschatology, is hope, forward looking and forward moving and therefore also revolutionizing and transforming the present.
With so much potential to tap into, we can turn the tide but the time to act is now.
In conclusion, the words of the Prophet Ezekiel’s warning in Ezekiel 33:6
But if the watchman sees the sword coming and does not sound the trumpet to warn the people and the sword comes and takes someone’s life, that person’s life will be taken because of their sin, but I will hold the watchman accountable for their blood.
Does the Church see the sword coming? Does the Church see the danger? Is there distress? Then the invitation is to sound the trumpet and make the invitation ‘Come, let us rebuild… and we will no longer be in disgrace.’
Yes God wants it and we are the agents! God has raised the church for such a time as this.