Religious leaders intervene for a ‘dignified’ Parliament

2015-01-28 08:47

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A meeting of religious leaders and political parties to seek an end to the upheaval in Parliament turned out to be a damp squib as the majority of parties snubbed the gathering.

Only four of the 12 opposition parties represented in Parliament attended the two-hour meeting, which was convened by the religious leaders to reconcile the warring politicians.

The ANC did not attend either, but City Press has learnt that it was not invited.

In attendance were: DA parliamentary leader Mmusi Maimane, IFP MPs Sibongile Nkomo and Mkhuleko Hlengwa, Reverend Kenneth Meshoe and Cheryllyn Dudley – who represented the African Christian Democratic Party – and the African Independent Congress’ Lulama Ntshayisa.

Co-chairperson of the national religious leaders council, Pastor Ray McCauley, Chief Rabbi Warren Goldstein and Pundit Ashwin Trikamjee of the Hindu faith represented the religious leaders.

The details of what was discussed in the meeting remain unclear, with both the religious leaders and political parties refusing to divulge the details.

McCauley said the discussions were “very sensitive”, hence the reluctance to discuss the details in the media.

“They have been very productive, very constructive,” he added.

He said there was willingness from the side of all the parties to come to a resolution.

“As religious leaders we have a responsibility to the country to help where we can, because the integrity of Parliament and our constitutional institutions are crucial for the future,” he added.

Goldstein said the talks were an ongoing process, and that the parties who attended yesterday were committed to it.

McCauley said the ANC did not attend because the meeting was meant for opposition parties and that they had met the ANC and the EFF before. In fact, they met President Jacob Zuma on Sunday night, he said, and had met Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa and speaker Baleka Mbete before that.

The religious leaders would like to see “a Parliament of dignity”, they said.

“We want to see a Parliament that brings glory to its people and to this nation both from a dignity point of view as well as a constitutional point of view,” said McCauley.

Maimane refused to comment and referred questions to the religious forum.

Two weeks ago, McCauley, in his role as the co-chairperson of the national religious leaders council, wrote to political party leaders whose parties are represented in Parliament to discuss the state of the institution and seek to bring about reconciliation between the warring parties.

He said the religious leaders had been watching the developments in Parliament and noted with concern that Parliament has deteriorated to a state of almost nonfunctioning.

“This is the institution that holds our country’s democracy together and we are very concerned that this institution will be rendered paralysed sooner or later,” said McCauley.

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