[ACNS] The Archbishop of Cape Town, Thabo Makgoba, has called for South Africans to stop chanting “this must fall” and “that must fall” and instead work together to “create a deafening chorus of what must rise.”
Archbishop Makgoba, the primate of the Anglican Church of Southern Africa, made his remarks at the opening of a new Socio-Economic Future of South Africa (SEFSA) initiative which is being led by religious, civil society, business and community-based organisations.
“I don’t need to preach to you that South Africa is in a state of crisis or epidemic distrust, perhaps one more serious than any we have faced since those dark days of the early 1990s when we risked being torn apart by violence,” Archbishop Makgoba said. “This too is a crisis that threatens to tear our social fabric apart and to send us into a downward spiral from which we will struggle to escape.”
He described some “elements” of the current crisis as the “stubbornly high” rate of unemployment, the “stubbornly low” rate of economic growth, poor education and nationwide student unrest.
He said that “the failure to deliver basic services is setting off thousands of social uprisings in communities across the country. These are so widespread that they are no longer news – we hear about the blockading of roads and the burning of tyres in radio traffic reports rather than in news bulletins.”
He continued: “Our nation is experiencing an unprecedented and historic crisis of distrust. Industry doesn’t trust government. Labour doesn’t trust government. Civil society doesn’t trust government. Traditional leaders and religious leaders don't trust government. International banks and markets don’t trust government.
“And in response, government says, it doesn’t trust anyone either. In fact, I believe the most endangered species in South Africa is not what you think it is. It is trust. . .
“Suffice it to say that we have lost the sense of success and promise for the future that we shared during the early years of our democracy.
“That is not to say that our achievements in the last 20 years have been insignificant. We sometimes lose sight of just how far we have actually come from the dispensations based on dispossession, slavery and social injustice that were the stark reality for most South Africans.
“We have hundreds and thousands of new houses and many new clinics. In areas where we have replaced mud schools, the new schools are first class. We have water, sanitation and electricity where we never had it before.
“I know some of our infrastructural development is cosmetic, and also that unscrupulous contractors sometimes build houses that crack and fall down, but we really showed the world what we are capable of when we hosted the 2010 World Cup: the new stadiums, the upgraded airports and the improved roads and . . . our police and security abilities. . .
“However, it is those very achievements which tell us we can do better than we are doing now. So although the social compact which inspired our liberation and the early achievements of our democracy is fractured, we can, if we act together, realise SEFSA’s objectives.”
Those include, he said, rebuilding hope and confidence among South Africans, recovering a vision and creating a growing economy, and a renewal of “the soul of our nation” to “build a united, prosperous and healed South Africa.”
He said that South Africa had “become a society in which ‘me’ has replaced ‘we’ – one in which we place our personal and family interests ahead of the interests of all of us.” And that SEFSA wanted instead “to build a courageous society in which we tap into the good in each South African instead of preying on their fears and promoting hate.
“SEFSA then is not so much a movement as a broad national platform for ongoing consultation and consensus-building, aimed at finding agreement on what our challenges are and mobilising the means to address them.
“It is not a political campaign – we have democratic institutions to deal with voter disgruntlement. It is a civil society-driven initiative guided by social, economic, spiritual and cultural imperatives.
“The faith leaders who form part of this initiative are saying that we as a nation have lost our moral compass, partly because we in the faith community have been too quiet for too long. We are asking and I am asking, what has led us to this epidemic level of distrust, this crossroads?
“South Africans have been tranquillized by un-kept promises. They have been lied to and sedated into thinking that the promised answers are around the corner. For decades, the promises of equality haven't been kept. The promise of equality of opportunity has failed to be delivered or achieved. We can't just feel and preach. We want more than just talk – we want action.
“For me as a Christian, observing Lent and approaching Easter, the SEFSA process reflects the workings of the movement of the Holy Spirit, transforming people, offering them new alternatives and encouraging them to be bold.
“This initiative offers the faith community an opportunity to express our support for those in government who are fighting to eradicate corruption. Perhaps it offers us all an opportunity to create support mechanisms for honest public servants. It offers us a chance to appeal to the humanity of both students who threaten violence and destruction, and those in authority who are tempted to demonise them. It gives us the space to say to the country: Stop! Vuka! Let’s think calmly and rationally and look for a way out of this crisis.”
SEFSA has set itself a five-year mission and aims to “set the country ablaze with debates over constructive, courageous, solution-based action” through provincial and regional consultative forums.
“Let’s get down to the urgent task of rebuilding our country, recovering our vision and renewing our society,” Archbishop Makgoba said. “God bless you, your family and God bless South Africa.”
- Click here to read Archbishop Thabo Makgoba's full speech.