Afrikaans churches withdraw from meeting with ANC

Johannesburg - A group of leading Afrikaans churches withdrew from a planned meeting with the ANC because they say the “moral collapse” of the government has made a meaningful dialogue impossible, Netwerk24 reported on Wednesday.

The NG Kerk, the Dutch Reformed Church and the Reformed Churches in South Africa wrote a strongly-worded letter to the ANC’s secretary general Gwede Mantashe, and other party leaders, in which they slammed the “personal enrichment of President Jacob Zuma”.

Organisations such as Agri SA and the Solidarity Movement also signalled they would be stepping out of the dialogue with the governing party, set for June 9.

The Inter-church Council (ICC), the umbrella body representing all three churches, said in the letter the decisive factor in their decision to withdraw was Police Minister Nathi Nhleko's report on the upgrades at Zuma’s Nkandla’s residence.

Nhleko told reporters last Thursday that Zuma was not required to pay back any money spent on a new cattle and goat kraal, a chicken coop, a cattle culvert, swimming pool, dubbed a "fire pool", visitors' centre and amphitheatre, saying they were all strategic assets, News24 reported.

Public Protector Thuli Madonsela has since said that the matter may go to court.

The ICC said in its letter: “The ANC’s lack of moral leadership in this matter complicates the upcoming talks because the ICC could only address certain moral points with you. Mutual recognition of basic moral tenets we believe is essential for any future talks between the ANC, churches and civic organisations.”

The ICC cited as examples of the morality crisis:
-    Xenophobic statements against minority groups such as those made by Zuma about Jan van Riebeeck;
-    Statements from ANC leaders undermining certain constitutional institutions such as the Public Protector;
-    Contempt of court rulings that bring the independent functioning of the judiciary into disrepute

Mantashe said on Tuesday night he could not comment “on a letter he had not read”. He did not like that he had to find out about the letter through the media.

“This is wrong,” he said.

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