15 July 2021
From the desk of the General Secretary, Bishop Malusi Mpumlwana
Today we stand in the midst of debris and brokenness. Over 70 lives have been senselessly lost to this mayhem. This morning our church leaders joined the Soweto Ministers Fraternal to pray at the looted Ndofaya Meadowlands Mall where 10 people perished in the looting stampede. We extend condolences to the families of all those who have died and pray for a speedy recovery to the injured.
This whole commotion happens in the thick of the third wave of COVID-19. As a result, more lives will likely join the current frightful toll of over 65,000 lost to the pandemic. As we have said before, we shudder to think of the toll of death that might result from the currently unprotected hordes of people, where the wrath of COVID-19 can kill both the economy and large numbers of people, leaving untold misery in many families.
Indeed we stand in the midst of debris and brokenness. The debris of ruined commercial enterprises as big malls are hollowed, and goods transporter trucks lie as waste on the roadside; we stand in the midst of the brokenness of hope for many small businesses, as in the case of the shops of Alexandra and Soweto, such as Lucky Lekgwati’s restaurant. This is the brokenness of hope for families that put their
life savings into their small businesses. We sit today with despair, as many communities in the affected areas may be without access to basic supplies for the days and weeks ahead.
Thousands of jobs may never be recovered and dependent livelihoods lost. The looting and destruction of warehouses, the undermining of the N3 trade route may lead to the reduced use of the great port of Ethekwini, further affecting the economy of the province. These are some possible economic impacts, but this may also have an impact on health care services as health centres are at risk of supply cuts. We thank God that the Afrox oxygen supply centre has not been affected.
We recognise the reality of poverty that encourages hungry people to not resist the opportunity to go and grab what they think will help them in the short term. But the extreme poverty of our people served as the dry wood ready to burn when the match is struck. Of greater concern is evidence of incendiary WhatsApp voice notes that instruct and direct for acts of violence and mayhem. These point to an attempt to foment insurrection and the breakdown of institutional systems. Looting for food is one thing, unacceptable as it is; but targeting and burning up supply places and production centres communicate something beyond the explanation of opportunism in a state of poverty.
We call on the people that perpetrate these things to stop; just stop it! South African people will not tolerate it and will not accept such destruction by faceless people for an unknown agenda. We are a constitutional democracy with structured ways to address any concerns that anyone may have in society.
Much of the infrastructure will be restored in time. We are grateful that much damage has taken place in limited parts of the two provinces of KwaZulu-Natal and Gauteng. It is important to point out that not all KZN is looting, and not all Gauteng is looting.
And it is commendable that the bulk of the country has in fact, not been gripped by this unseemly frenzy. But the impact of what has happened on the psyche and the moral fibre of our society is incalculable. This will require a restoration drive that our
communities will now need to embark upon.
Many people of reason have been saying, “this is not us, this is not South African”! The reality is that this is us, this is the South Africa we have right now. But it can be changed if we put our minds to it and infuse positive public values and cultural accountability.
The restoration campaign has already begun, with the laudable heroism of emerging community leaders who mobilise against looting, and for the protection of their community infrastructure. Community volunteers are coming up for mop-up operations which are themselves a healing exercise. On a more deliberate basis, we need leaders of all faiths everywhere, civic and community leaders, traditional leaders in rural communities, and business and trade unions in the workplace, all of us to pull together and chart a path of restoration. The soul of the South African society will be built from the ashes of shame that we are witnessing. As Prophet Ezekiel promises, “on the day that I cleanse you from all your iniquities, I will also enable you to dwell in the cities, and the ruins shall be rebuilt.” (Ezekiel 36:33)
The SACC proposes a restoration drive that may include:
This bible verse is overused, but today it cannot be more necessary to apply:
“If my people who are called by my name humble themselves, pray, seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land.” (2 Chronicles, 7:14)
We can do this, and the preamble to our constitution instructs:
We, the people of South Africa, Recognise the injustices of our past; Honour those who suffered for justice and freedom in our land; Respect those who have worked to build and develop our country; and Believe that South Africa belongs to all who live in it, united in our diversity. We, therefore, through our freely elected representatives, adopt this Constitution as the supreme law of the Republic so as to – Heal the divisions of the past and establish a society based on democratic values, social justice and fundamental human rights; Lay the foundations for a democratic and open society in which government is based on the will of the people and every citizen is equally protected by law; Improve the quality of life of all citizens and free the potential of each person; Build a united and democratic South Africa able to take its rightful place as a sovereign state in the family of nations. May God protect our people!
We can do this! In the name of the resurrected Christ, we make this call!
SACC Communications Consultant
South African Council of Churches
Tel: 084 074 1285 | Email: firstname.lastname@example.org