Archbishop Makgoba: Criticises political leaders who use the ‘vocabulary of violence’

2008-11-09 00:00

Anglican Archbishop Thabo Makgoba has criticised political leaders across the spectrum for calling their opponents “snakes”, “dogs” and “counter-revolutionaries” and for using “militaristic metaphors” and “the vocabulary of violence”.

Delivering the Harold Wolpe Memorial Lecture in Cape Town on Friday night, Makgoba also said that all South Africans have a responsibility to exercise their right to vote in next year’s elections.

“But political parties have to earn our vote,” he added. “If politicians behave badly, they should expect supporters to withdraw their backing.” He said critics of Archbishop Desmond Tutu, who has raised doubts about voting in the current political climate should, instead of attacking him, “reflect on the challenges posed by his comments”.

Makgoba said South African politicians love to commend ubuntu. But, he added: “I wish they would practise it in their conduct of political debate … Is it in accordance with the values of ubuntu to call opponents ‘dogs’, or to brand former President Thabo Mbeki as a ‘dead snake’, and leaders of the new party as ‘dangerous snakes’? Surely not! Ubuntu says politicians should criticise policies, not other politicians. Ubuntu says that personal attacks devalue and demean the attacker.”

Addressing the issue of violence, Makgoba said: “Anyone who threatens, or intimidates, or stands by while their supporters do so, is not worthy to be a leader. Anyone who incites violence, or advocates harm to their political opponents, or allows others to do so, is a disgrace to democracy …

“Given our past, there can be no excuse for militaristic metaphors or the vocabulary of violence.

Nor was Terror Lekota wise in recently highlighting the possibility of violence, even if against his supporters. Such warnings can too easily become self-fulfiling prophecies.”

Discussing the principle of churches standing in “critical solidarity” with the government, Makgoba said he is prepared to be in solidarity with those who promoted “sanctity of life, the integrity of the created world [and] the dignity of difference”.

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