SACC to lobby MPs

2017-07-02 06:00
Bishop Melusi Mpumlwana delivered a speech at Regina Mundi yesterday. Photo by: Jabu Kumalo

Bishop Melusi Mpumlwana delivered a speech at Regina Mundi yesterday. Photo by: Jabu Kumalo

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The SA Council of Churches (SACC) plans to send a delegation to Cape Town to try to convince MPs to remove President Jacob Zuma and dissolve Parliament.

The SACC – representing 36 churches and organisations – wrote a letter last Wednesday to Speaker Baleka Mbete asking for a meeting.

The church leaders say they want to appeal to her conscience, and that of other MPs, to “do the right thing” by voting to remove Zuma and dissolve the government, which they say has lost moral legitimacy.

This comes as Mbete contemplates her next move after being instructed by the Constitutional Court last week to make a rational decision on the request by opposition parties to allow MPs to cast secret ballots in the upcoming vote of no confidence against the president, citing intimidation of ANC MPs.

More than two weeks ago, the SACC made a call for snap elections and for government to be dissolved as allegations of state capture compound in the wake of the #GuptaLeaks.

SACC general secretary Malusi Mpumlwana said it was Parliament alone that could usher in a new government. He said the current government environment had become “too toxic”.

“Under any normal democracy that [the dissolution] would have happened by now. We want to meet with the leadership of Parliament and discuss the resolution we took, but mainly to appeal to their consciences. The resolution asks for the vote to dissolve Parliament and government,” he told City Press this week.

Mpumlwana said Parliament contributed to what ailed the country by defending Zuma instead of making him account for the Nkandla scandal. Had Parliament acted then, he said, the country would not now be in crisis.

“What needs to be clear is that we do understand that nobody out there can just call for snap elections and they happen. Secondly, Parliament doesn’t dissolve without its own vote, we know that,” he said. “The idea is to appeal to the conscience of Parliament to vote.”

“Sinful government”

It has also emerged that the organisation’s request for a private meeting with Zuma after the 2016 Constitutional Court Nkandla judgment that he violated his oath of office was never granted.

SACC president Ziphozihle Siwa wanted to counsel him and ultimately persuade him to consider stepping down, but Zuma’s office didn’t confirm the meeting. The next best option was to meet the ANC top six leaders and Zuma was again to be persuaded. But upon the arrival of the SACC delegation to the meeting, only three of the top six officials were present – secretary-general Gwede Mantashe, deputy secretary-general Jessie Duarte and treasurer general Zweli Mkhize. However, the room was packed with other ANC leaders, including national working committee members Lindiwe Sisulu and Jackson Mthembu.

Of the ill-fated private meeting with Zuma, Mpumlwana said: “If the president after the meeting woke up and thought about it and acknowledged that he had made a gross mistake, it was unintentional, he regrets it and as a result he decided to step down without a debate in the national executive committee, no vote of no confidence – imagine how much honour he would have gained? That’s what we tried to achieve by going to talk to him.”

He insisted that the SACC wanted to do everything it could to avoid embarrassment for Zuma.

“The only reason we went public was, when we went to meet the top six, we were very surprised. There was only three of them and the room was full of people we didn’t even know why they were there. They all had copies of our memo. What we thought was a private meeting was actually a public meeting.”

Explaining the call for Parliament to dissolve, Mpumlwana said Parliament was defiant, failed to express regret after the Nkandla judgment and no longer represented the people.

“It can’t just be like nothing happened, which is where we are ... Ideally, there should have been a vote of regret,” he said.

Mpumlwana said even though they may be ignored, the clergy was duty-bound to caution officials presiding over a “sinful government” because otherwise they would be “party to the sin”.

Regardless of the outcome of the vote of no confidence, Mpumlwana says the SACC plans to convene a national convention of values in November to which everyone is invited, including opposition parties and ANC stalwarts. The country, he said, needed “a new consensus on our national struggles and values”.

But at the convention there will be no room for anyone who doesn’t believe in economic transformation, for blacks in particular, who remain consumers and labourers in the economy. “There is hope that things will come around but we don’t hold our breath on that because all these politicians care about is themselves and their parties,” he said.

“The church has always formed an integral part of the fight against apartheid, so much so that the once glorious movement was formed in a church.”

Its first president, John Langalibalele Dube, was a minister ordained in the Congregational Church in 1899.

“We made the mistake in 1994 of leaving our fate entirely in the hands of politicians. We are saying our pastoral responsibility says no – we have to go back to a situation where we are encouraged to think about the future and let the politicians respond,” said Mpumlwana.

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