The SACC is saddened by the tragic mine accident that has had five
miners trapped underground, with three of the confirmed to have lost
their lives. Our condolences to the families, and we feel for the
families that wait anxiously for reports on the fate of those still
underground. It has been suggested that the rock falls were caused by
tremors. We look to the final report of the investigation that must
follow, whether indeed it is the result of a natural phenomenon or the
poor security provisions of the mining company.
Nature has struck disastrously in Sierra Leone, and the large numbers
of people who have died or rendered homeless is disheartening. We are
in communication with the All Africa Conference of Churches about what
the African churches can do together in response, especially in the
The June 2017 Triennial National Conference of the South African Council of Churches (SACC) called for the convening of a National Convention of South Africa
as a direct response to the national challenge posed by the evidence of
the capture of the Organs of State. The churches have concluded that,
while there may be focus on the specific leaders fingered in wrongdoing,
it is even more important to look beyond the present, and work on
public values and standards by which we can ensure that in future the
present experience is never to be repeated.
Therefore, the primary vision for the National Convention will be to
work on and offer the country a firm foundation of public values and
minimum standards — the basis for a common, reconciled understanding of
South African citizenship — that should inform the governmental
environment and services for the common good, regardless of who is in
government. This must also address the urgent question of economic
transformation for a futuristic, post apartheid social and economic
Before 1994 there were very few professional politicians in the days
of the struggle for justice and democracy, in the main we were all civil
society collaborators, and together we set the agenda for our
post-apartheid/democratic society. We made the mistake after 1994, of
leaving the matter of public values to the politicians. At the very
least, we believe, religious institutions together with civil society
must help inform Public Values and Standards for the sustenance of a
Today in South Africa we live in a politically highly charged
environment! There are worrisome trends that are beginning to define a
new normal of political violence, threats of violence and language that
may effectively incite to politically inspired violence. The number of
people that have perished in the Province of KwaZulu Natal alone is
alarming, with no one brought to book as a result. Are we going back to
the early 1990s of political violence? The SACC is seriously considering
to revisit the old Peace Accord that was our ministry at the transition
to democracy. The attitude of politicians to differing views is
menacing, to say the least. Mayor Trollip referred to his deputy’s
voting with the opposition as committing treason! Th act of treason is
met with death; what message is this likely to communicate in our highly
charged political environment? Likewise some ANC leaders refer to MPs
who voted for the recent No Confidence motion in the president as
Askaris who side with the enemy. Political opposition in a democracy are
not enemies, they are opponents.
Mr Zikalala, KZN ANC leader referred to Advocate Ngcukayithobi as an
enemy lawyer. It is that very attitude and mindset that led to the
brutal killing of Lawyer Griffiths Mxenge. Lawyers are professionals who
serve all clients as they come.
In the light of these experiences, the SACC needs to conduct a SEE,
in our SEE JUDGE ACT approach, to research the nature and extent of
intra-party violence, as we consider the necessity of reviving the old
Peace Accord, and maybe to include an aspect of a code on disruption of
meetings. This is likely to get worse especially in the ANC ahead of
December, and during the run up to 2019 elections.
With these experiences it is imperative at this time, for us to again
work with other faith traditions and with civil society organizations,
inclusively on a broad basis, united with the zeal to restore the
standards and values of national life and governance, against which
professional politicians and their parties will measure their offerings.
Indeed, the time to restore the sovereignty of the citizenry over its
servant – the government — cannot be delayed at all.
We need to develop and build a new consensus on our national values
to assist South Africans to arrive at a common basis for a shared,
reconciled citizenship. We need a commitment to the quest for building a
consensus on the minimum standards necessary as a strong foundation for
basic public values and standards, in the best interests of every South
The South African Constitution calls on us, and our faith traditions
enjoin us to build a society whose values and standards make for a just
and equitable society based on the foundation of the human dignity of
every citizen, and the best possibilities for the goodness of life
To this end, the SACC calls for the coming together of South Africans
to hammer out sustainable modalities in this direction. In so doing, we
need to deal with the challenge of poverty and inequality, and we need
to deal decisively with the culture of corruption, greed and inordinate
self-interest in the private sector and the lack of constitutional
accountability, and impunity in the public sector, while at the same
time coaxing diverse sections of the South African population to move
toward a common centre of South African social and economic mutuality.
The churches take the primary responsibility for this as both an
urgent act of contrition and pastoral concern. The Christian churches,
represented in the SACC, carry the burden of having the majority of
South Africans professing the Christian faith. But there also has to be a
collaboration and accountability with other faith traditions and
societal organizations, to ensure that never again shall the country
surrender its public values to the whims of self-serving politicians –
regardless of party or the leadership thereof.
The proposed National Convention must of necessity address not only
the public values and standards, but also hasten the establishment of a
reconciled social and economic dispensation for the realization of the
post apartheid promise of South Africa – a just, equitable, reconciled,
peaceful, and sustainable South Africa, free of racist, tribalist,
xenophobic and gender prejudices and violence; free of corruption and
deprivation, where every child born is free to develop to its God given
potential. This is in keeping with the pledge that the church leaders
made at the time that President Mandela was gravely ill in hospital,
which becomes even more momentous on this the eve of the centenary of
The National Convention will be convened by the SACC with the
National Church Leaders Forum and the Praesidium as the convening
structures of the SACC.
There will be two or three sessions of the Convention, with about six months in between.
Preceding the Convention sessions will be weeks and months of intense
technical work driven by a Steering Committee with thematic committees
and their focused subcommittees, served by persons invited to contribute
their experience and expertise.
The thematic committees will be broadly founded upon the SACC’s
campaign of The South Africa We Pray For, with the pillars of Healing
& Reconciliation; Family Fabric; Poverty & Inequality; Economic
Transformation; and Anchoring Democracy. However, these five pillars
have been reduced for focus, to three themes of the National Convention:
Healing and Reconciliation, Economic Transformation, and Anchoring
Democracy — with the latter addressing the reforms necessary to plug the
corruption holes, to professionalize the civil service, to ensure
effective oversight over the Executive in government, by both the
legislature and ordinary citizens in communities.
These themes of the work remain open, pending finalization with the
participation of the Steering Committee and the first Oversight Plenary
sitting. However, the SACC would wish to at least include the following
iii. The problem areas of justice and security, especially to prevent
the abuse of justice and security services. Discuss ways to ensure the
credibility, independence and competence of the criminal justice system
is restored and protected.
iii. The need to address the vexed question of land reform in all its aspects and ramifications.
iii. South Africa has seen the emergence of unacceptable gimmicks
practiced by presumed religious practitioners who take advantage of the
emotional and spiritual vulnerability especially of poor communities;
and some who make money from the sale of religious “spiritual benefits”,
as has been established by the recent investigation by CRL Rights
Commission. This relates also to the woundedness of our society where
the Christian faith among the poor in particular, is abused for corrupt
An interactive website will be developed, along with social media instruments for public engagement and inputs to the work.
There will be a broadly inclusive Oversight Plenary, to which the
Steering Committee will report to regularly, at set periods, for
deliberation, identification of gaps and feedback for further committee
work. The Oversight Plenary will include representatives of structures
of civil society that are seized with the urgency of the moment, such as
FutureSA and #Unitebehind Movement, religious leaders of diverse
traditions, representatives of extra-parliamentary organizations, labour
federations, organised business, and academics.
Proposed Timeline of the Convention Process
The Steering Committee with its Chairs of Workshops and Coordinators
of Subcommittees will be in place by the beginning of September, for
their first sitting to scope out the work.
Thereafter, the committee work begins in earnest and throughout
October and November, as the Steering Committee, its workshops and
subcommittees will continue to work, reporting at the month end point to
the Oversight Plenary.
At the end of November, we are proposing to have the First Session of
the National Convention. This is set for November 21 – 24. The second
session is projected around May/June 2018, hopefully with very concrete
proposals. If a third session of the Convention is necessary for
residual work, this may be around September/October 2018. This gives the
National Convention Process just about 12 months or so, to conclude.
Whereas the preparatory work is developed and guided by a smaller
representation of extra-parliamentary organizations of civil society,
the Convention Sessions will have invitations to a much broader body of
South Africans, including representatives of parliamentary political
parties, and value based organizations that may be committed to the call
for the promotion of a unifying South African system of public values
Financing the National Convention:
Our general financing for the convention, because this is a voluntary
initiative for all South Africans, will be a call on all South Africans
to contribute whatever they can through a crowd funding mechanism, so
that this is everybody’s project, and is people-driven. Beyond that, the
SACC will approach its traditional anti-apartheid church partners for
some seed support; those who helped the SACC support the liberation
movements in partnership with the World Council of Churches.
Today we say we must ensure that never again shall the country
surrender public values to the whims of politicians – regardless of
party or the leadership thereof.