The Anglican church will ignore President Jacob Zuma’s call for clergy to stay out of politics, Archbishop of Cape Town Thabo Makgoba said in his Christmas sermon on Sunday.
The archbishop also raised the question of whether religious communities in South Africa should withdraw their moral support for the government.
“Can you believe it?” he asked a congregation attending midnight mass at St George’s Cathedral in Cape Town. “A president of a democratic South Africa telling the church to stay out of politics? You would be forgiven for thinking that you had climbed into a time machine and gone back 30 years into the past, when apartheid presidents said the same thing.
“I am very pleased that the bishops and their chapters in the three Western Cape dioceses – Cape Town, False Bay, and Saldanha Bay – have rejected President Zuma’s comments and have told him very firmly, ‘No Mr President, we will not refrain from engagement in the political terrain. Our people live there, work there, suffer, cry, and struggle there. We live there too and cannot and will not stop commenting or acting on what we see and what, in our opinion, is unjust, corrupt, and unacceptable to God’s high standards of sacrificial love’.
“We in the church live in and know communities which are afflicted by the darkness of pain, sorrow, and despair. Our communities yearn for hope and the courage of leaders to stand up and speak truth to power. We hear the cries from those on the edges of our society. Mr president, we will ignore your call, made from the palaces of power where you and your fellow leaders live in comfort. We will lament and ask God, ‘Where are you, God, when your people are marginalised and excluded?’ We will continue to wage the new struggle – the struggle for equality of opportunity, for equality of outcome, and to end economic inequities, especially those created by skewed access to resources, health, and education.
“As we look ahead to 2017, we see a ruling party at war with itself, crippled by division to the degree that some serving members of the Cabinet believe the president must step down. As a result we see a government becoming paralysed by an inability to achieve policy certainty and to chart a clear way ahead. People of faith need to begin asking: At what stage do we, as churches, as mosques, as synagogues, withdraw our moral support for a democratically-elected government?”
“It feels as if we are back to the national pain of 1963, living under a state of emergency, imposed on us by careless and corrupt leaders who have forgotten us, stripped us of our dignity. Many have tried to steal the means by which we might uplift ourselves through our own hard work.
“I have so far not joined the call for our president to resign, but said that he should step aside while his party leaders address their crisis. But our situation compels us to ask when do we name the gluttony, the inability to control the pursuit of excess? When do we name the fraudsters who are unable to control their insatiable appetite for obscene wealth accumulated at the expense of the poorest of the poor?”
However, Makgoba said South Africa’s democracy was vibrant. “South Africa is not broken. We have a sound Constitution and we have seen over this past year that we have resilient institutions. The courts, especially the Constitutional Court, civil society, the media, w