The South African Council of Churches (SACC) congratulates the newly
elected African National Congress (ANC) officials, led by President
Cyril Ramaphosa, following a gruelling contest and a nail biting wait
for the results. The SACC is however disappointed, at how the 54th ANC
National Conference has very much excluded women from among the
officials. Whereas the last team had two women, instead of this
improving it has in fact reduced to one, thereby regressing from its
commitment to the gender parity principle. This sets a very bad example
indeed! Nevertheless, we wish the new leadership well in their arduous
task of restoring the identification of the ANC with the values of
integrity and trustworthiness.
The SACC takes an interest in who become the leaders of the party
that governs the country because of decisive impact on whether the
country advances or declines. To assist the new leadership towards
positive outcomes, the SACC promises to engage with them on the critical
areas that need to be addressed to restore public trust. We note that
three of the newly elected officials, including the President, are from
the previous team, making for a sense of continuity with institutional
memory. We trust that that institutional memory will make for ease of
continuing on some of the critical issues that have previously been
brought before the ANC leadership by the religious leaders.
In that regard the SACC hopes for clear and meaningful signals from
the ANC, of their commitment to put the people of South Africa first;
and the nightmarish experience of self-serving leaders milking the
State, will be dealt with and exorcised from all levels of government.
Any perceived failure of the new ANC leadership to give an early
indication, with courage and conviction, of its ability to restore
public confidence and generate a new public optimism, will result in the
unfortunate squander of its opportunities. You have to pronounce and
act to turn the country around, and join the conversation and campaign
to move the country towards a South Africa that Tambo and Mandela can
celebrate in the centenary mark of their lives. This is a kairos moment
in history, failure to recognise it and its unique demands, will define
one way or the other, the place of the ANC and this leadership in the
future of South Africa.
We look to a leadership that will, with a fresh mandate, uphold the
sacred values that inspired many who gave up their lives for justice,
some of whom never lived to see the fruits of their sacrifices in the
hope that future generations would enjoy the fullness of freedom.
We pray that the confidence of the ANC conference in the new
leadership will bind them together to actively break with any and all
the misdeeds of the past, individually and collectively. We hope that
they will together with the rest of the National Executive Committee,
seek to recover the glorious heritage of the ANC of Luthuli, Tambo and
Mandela – and restore the faith and trust that 11 million South Africans
bestowed upon them to lead in government.
More importantly though, we would like to remind the new leadership
that the South African citizenry are the true custodians of our
country’s democracy and with them the SACC, together with a broad base
of civil society, will actively work to recover the promise of the
post-apartheid South Africa that lies in the hands of each and every one
of us. It is the promise of a just, reconciled, peaceful, equitable and
sustainable society; free of corruption and deprivation; and free of
racism; tribalism, xenophobia and gender prejudices.
If the immediate past few years have taught us anything, it is that
we can no longer, and should never again entrust the public values and
standards of life in our society to the whims of what becomes
self-serving politicians. As citizens we lost sight of our role to hold
politicians firmly to account, because we failed to craft mechanisms to
benchmark and demand of them the highest levels of integrity, and thus
find ourselves where we are today, living with the pervasive odour of
corruption. Given the possible capture of the ANC itself, the
unquestionable evidence of the capture of some key organs of State, and
the inability to trust the bona fides of ANC leadership and what they
truly represent and whom they serve, society can no longer give any
political party a blank cheque. Indeed, we must ensure that never again
shall the country surrender public values to the whims of politicians –
regardless of party or the leadership thereof.
It is for this reason that the National Convention of South Africa,
an initiative led by the churches and directed by an oversight plenary
of civil society organisations, will push forward with collaborating and
inviting South Africans to contribute to setting acceptable standards
of practically and meaningfully addressing the unfinished measures of
our transformation unto total liberation.
To Mr Ramaphosa and the new party leadership, the SACC calls on you to, without delay, indicate:
a) How you are to deal with the cancer of corruption and State
Capture that has exasperated South African citizens; and how you will
promote a government with the transparency and accountability of a
servant ANC in government, in accordance with the prescripts of Section
41 of the Constitution.
b) Whether you will be willing to professionalize rather than
politicize the civil service, and also consider freeing up resources by
reducing the weight of the Executive, that currently absorbs more than
70 MPs into a large cabinet, with all that goes with that.
c) What you will do to stimulate the economy and reverse the country
from the junk precipice, so that living conditions can improve;
addressing poverty in general, and the gross youth exclusion from the
d) How you are to raise the place, quality and significance of
education as a social good and an antidote for poverty and inequality,
and for social and economic decay.
e) How you are to heal the social and economic divisions of our society on race, and wealth.
We trust that the January 8 message will give answers to these
issues, and that decisive action will be the mark of this leadership.
South Africans will be watching every step of how the leadership shapes
up in regard to the pressing issues of constitutional governance, the
economy, and quality of life. South Africans have started their own
measures of restoring their dreams, through diverse efforts to recover
the promise of a decent South Africa. The National Convention of South
Africa initiated by the SACC, to Reimagine, Redesign and Reorganise
for a different experience of life for all, is one example of these
efforts. But with your resolve to join in the healing of our country, we
have hope yet!
The Book of Job reminds us that God “makes nations great, and
destroys them; he enlarges nations, and disperses them”. (Job 12:23) And
so with St Peter we say:
“Be shepherds of God’s flock that is under your care, watching over
them—not because you must, but because you are willing, as God wants you
to be; not pursuing dishonest gain, but eager to serve; not lording it
over those entrusted to you, but being examples to the flock.” (1 Peter
We congratulate you and say, may you open your hearts to receive the blessings that await you the other side of doing right!
Bishop Mpumlwana is General Secretary of the South African Council of Churches