South Africa, get your house in order now, say church leaders

2020-02-03 19:14
The inside of a South African Catholic Church is photographed. (Duncan Alfreds, News24, file)

The inside of a South African Catholic Church is photographed. (Duncan Alfreds, News24, file)

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South Africa urgently needs to get its house in order, senior church leaders say.

Last week, leaders from different denominations met at Khanya House, the head office of the Southern African Catholic Bishops' Conference (SACBC) in Pretoria, to reflect on the challenges South Africa faced at the beginning of 2020.

"Against the background of alarming reports presented to the Zondo commission on state capture; the plundering of public resources to benefit a few connected individuals or their companies; the mismanagement in state-owned enterprises (SOEs); the lack of economic growth and employment opportunities and the increase in social hardship, South Africa urgently needs to get its house in order," read a statement from Bishop Sithembele Sipuka, SACBC president.

The clergy found the "deep crisis and deficit of trust between citizens and political parties, and between some political leaders, and citizens in South Africa" as the main challenge.

"Democracy is not only about regular elections but the fair chance for all to influence policy choices, to have a real impact on shaping the priorities that affect our daily lives (and not only for those with power or special connections)," read the statement.

It referred to the 2003 report by the cabinet-appointed Electoral Task Team, headed by Dr Frederik Van Zyl Slabbert, which recommended reforms to ensure fairness, inclusivity, simplicity and accountability.

The conference identified specifically accountability as a weakness.

"The lower turnout by voters in the 2019 election (65%) – with many young people not even registering to vote – sets a wrong trend since it reflects weaker democratic participation. Comprehensive voter education should be fostered by church and faith communities to strengthen responsible citizenship and political leadership," read the statement.

'Respect for different opinions'

The conference said the separation of party interests and government office-bearers should be protected, and office-bearers should serve the public interests of all.

"The public political discourses in Parliament (national and provincial) and in town council meetings should reflect respect for different opinions and everybody should be treated with equal dignity," read the statement.

"The high levels of violence and intolerance in our society is a matter of serious concern that should be addressed by ethical and responsible leaders in all sectors of our society.

"It is also disturbing that we hear in the daily news how some officials are strategising to weaken the efforts of the Presidency to restore discipline and trust in governance, to restore a competent and responsible state."

The conference said as church and faith leaders they want to become part of responsible debate and dialogue on how to restore trust in the political process, which effects every South African.

"Without political stability we cannot build a caring and life-giving society that is in the interest of every citizen."

"We support the call of President Cyril Ramaphosa to protect and care for our children and vulnerable citizens in our society. We are mindful that this requires real commitment to renew fundamental values of equal dignity, mutual care and respect for one another - and that every citizen should take responsibility for the well-being of others."

Read more on:    sacbc  |  pretoria  |  religion  |  state capture
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