McCauley, ANC links to morality debate

Cape Town - The debate about a moral code for South Africa which was initiated by President Jacob Zuma will probably be driven by an interfaith group with strong ties to the ANC, but in which none of the country's foremost religious forums are represented.

In church circles this development has been labelled a serious danger to relations between church and state.

Die Burger heard from a reliable source on Wednesday that the National Interfaith Leadership Council (NILC), which was convened last year by pastor Ray McCauley of the Rhema church, may be asked to co-ordinate Zuma's proposed discussions on morality.

The NILC was established in July last year as an organisation consisting of over 20 senior leaders from various religious groups, but upon closer inspection it appears as if none of the foremost religious forums - such as the South African Council of Churches (SACC), the Muslim Judicial Council (MJC) or the Jewish Board of Deputies - were approached to join the NILC.

A reliable source who spoke on condition of anonymity told Die Burger that the NILC is essentially a virtual organisation which pretends to be a body which speaks on behalf of all religious orientations.

"But this is not the case. Some of the biggest churches - for instance the Zion Christian Church (ZCC) in Polokwane - are not part of the NILC."

Last year, after it became known that the NILC had met with Zuma, the SACC said in a statement that they had not been approached about the assembly of the NILC.

"It would appear as if the NILC is duplicating the work of the National Religious Leaders' Forum (NRLF)."

Strong affiliation

Die Burger was told by a reliable source that the NILC was established precisely because the SACC did not agree to requests by the ANC to become an alliance partner of the governing party.

Furthermore, it seems the NILC does have a strong affiliation with the ANC.

The Mail & Guardian earlier reported that the ANC chief whip, Mathole Motshekga, and two other ANC MPs - Ebrahim Rasool, former premier of the Western Cape, and pastor Ntabiseng Khunou, an ANC MP from the Free State - are members of the NILC. Khunou is also the organisation's official spokesperson.

Earlier this month the NILC stood up for Zuma when it became known that he has an illegitimate child. The organisation asked in a statement that South Africans "forgive" Zuma and "move on".

Die Burger has also established that the NILC's media releases are issued by Motshekga's office.

Meanwhile, the interfaith organisations who spoke to Die Burger said they welcome the debate on morality, on condition that it isn't politically motivated.

Motshekga said it is not for him to say who should lead the debate about a moral code. "It's the president's decision."

When asked whether he feels the NILC should lead the debate, he answered: "Since the NILC is a civil organisation, I can't see why it shouldn't be involved."

The Presidency could not be reach for comment.


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