ANC chaplain-general an old hand at mixing pulpit and politics

2012-12-19 00:00

HE blames the “curse of corruption” on the ANC’s decision to favour “quantity rather than quality” when recruiting members.

But with 15 years’ experience as chaplain-general to the ANC, the Reverend Dr Vukile Mehana insists one should not confuse the behaviour of individuals with that of a “moral organisation” like the ANC as a whole.

This 59-year-old Methodist minister, who took centre stage after the announcement of the top six to lead delegates in prayer, has an interesting job.

He’s not only the dial-a-prayer man of God who has to pray at everything from a Progressive Business Forum dinner to the Mangaung big tent events, he also has provided the kind of “robust pastoral care” the founders of the ANC had in mind when they created the position he now holds.

Mehana, who grew up in Langa, Cape Town, and studied theology at Rhodes University in Grahamstown, has switched effortlessly between his cassock and standard ANC garb this week.

He is frank and clear about his role in the organisation: to help uphold spirituality in the movement and to give voice to faith-based organisations within the ANC.

He is not a “moral guardian”, he says with a playful smile on his face. He provides, along with a team of chaplains under him in the provinces, a service to the party leadership and members.

Back in 2007, the last time the ANC met like this, he gave words of encouragement to former president Thabo Mbeki to soften the blow he was dealt in Polokwane.

He was preparing to do the same thing for this year’s losers when interviewed by Mangaung24 hours before the ANC’s top six were announced.

In delivering yesterday’s prayer, Mehana invoked “the God of [former ANC president John Langalibelele] Dube”, then listed the party presidents who followed him.

When Mehana spoke about “the God of Zuma”, delegates roared their approval.

Mehana also decried splits within the party and — remaining true to his commitment to comforting the unhappy cadres — thanked God for those leaders who had lost out on top six positions. He concluded with “Viva God, viva!”

Perhaps the proximity between pulpit and political power makes some nervous, but Mehana pointed out that the ANC has always had church representatives in its highest structures.

The ANC considers itself a broad church, and Mehana’s views on salvation will come as a comfort to those whose belief systems aren’t based on Christian doctrines.

Losers shouldn’t fear, whatever their faith: “Salvation is pronounced in Christianity by the works, the death and the resurrection of Jesus Christ. That is what Christians say.

“Other faiths have their way of expressing that faith.”

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