Gauteng churches to pray for peace in Sharpeville

2010-03-03 14:29

THE SA Council of Churches’ Gauteng branch will tomorrow pray for

peace in Sharpeville, the scene of recent violent protests over service


“Violence begets violence. We cannot use violent methods to express

our grievances,” the SACC said in a statement today.

“Protesting the state of service delivery is one thing, hurting

other people and destroying property is another,” said the SACC’s Gauteng

ecumenical secretary, the Reverend Gift Moerane.

The prayer service would be held at the Ebenezer Christian Centre

in Sharpeville, next to the old police station.

“We invite all members of the community, churches and community

leaders, including politicians to join us,” said Moerane.

Violent protests erupted in Sharpeville last week on Tuesday.

Protesters set alight a councillor’s house and car, and barricaded

roads with, among other things, burning tyres.

They stoned a bus picking up passengers in the area, injuring one

of them.

The SACC Gauteng condemned “the criminals hiding behind” the

protests in the Vaal Trangle townships.

“We acknowledge that residents have every democratic right to stage

protests when they feel aggrieved, but call on the protesters and leaders to

guard against agents provocateurs within their ranks,” said Moerane.

“Since the outbreak of the protests, police recorded an increase in

criminal offences such as rape, house robbery, burglary, destruction of property

and looting of shops.

“We consider these to be grossly irresponsible criminal acts.

“We urge all leaders of and participants in the marches to take a

stand against the violation of human rights and human dignity,” he said.

Moerane said the SACC Gauteng had established a working committee

to find ways of restoring peace in Sharpeville.

The committee consisted of Sharpeville and Sebokeng clergy, and

would possibly include clergy in Evaton and Boipatong.

Its focus was preparing for the 50th commemoration of the

Sharpeville massacre.

On March 21 1960 police opened fire on thousands of marchers

campaigning in Sharpeville for the abolition of the pass laws, killing 69 –

among them women and children – and wounding 180.

The massacre is remembered on Human Rights Day.

Moerane said the committee would support efforts to resolve

conflicts and help intensify cooperation between the local municipality and

community leaders.

“The working committee will also focus on promoting a greater

understanding of the Church’s mechanisms for conflict prevention.”

He said the churches took residents’ grievances seriously.

“The protests send a strong message that for some, if not many

people, freedom and democracy have not brought them the much desired


While there had been impressive developments and changes in parts,

too often post-democracy efforts had faltered because of corruption and poor

service delivery, he added, calling on mayors in the area to urgently attend to

the grievances.

Moerane said the SACC Gauteng condemned the looting of foreigners’


“We urge all peace-loving residents to rally around the foreign

nationals, to protect them against criminals who prey on their


It called on the disgruntled community’s leaders to adopt “a humane

and strategic approach” when addressing community issues.

“In most cases the marches turned into criminal violence,

disrupting the education of our children. That is unacceptable and


Moerane voiced the council’s backing of a police call for the

restoration of the rule of law in the area.

“We call on all residents of Sharpeville, Sebokeng, Boipatong,

Evaton and Orange Farm to follow this call urgently.

“While we understand the frustrations, anger and disappointment at

the state of service delivery in many communities, hurting others will not help

in finding a solution.

“We plead with angry individuals and groups not to be carried

forward by blind rage, but to use their discernment and compassion at all

times,” he said.

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