[ACNS, by Gavin Drake] The Archbishop of Cape Town, Thabo Makgoba, has said that the people of South Africa are being failed by the country’s two-decade-old democracy. “After 22 years of democracy, too many people still experience living and working conditions that deliver neither human dignity nor economic justice,” he said. “We are challenged by a high rate of poverty, inequality of opportunity and unemployment. This is why we need good research and comprehensive policy initiatives like the National Development Plan, and the Church must lend its support to all who strive to bring about the ‘abundant life’ that Jesus promised to every child of God.”
Archbishop Thabo made his comments in a sermon at the Cathedral of St Andrew and St Michael in Bloemfontein in a service marking its 150th anniversary. “The congregations which have gathered in this place for faithful worship for 15 decades have seen war and civil strife, promoted peace and reconciliation, and observed and participated in history in the making. . .” he said. “Here God has, again and again, met people and sent them out to proclaim his truth, with clarity and courage, through difficult and challenging times. And God knows that we have difficult and challenging times in South Africa today.”
He criticised the South African government which, he said, “appears set on spending huge amounts of money on a nuclear procurement programme which threatens to become an albatross of debt around the necks not only of our children but our grandchildren and great-grandchildren too. Moreover, they are doing this at a time when renewable energy is becoming ever cheaper and easier to produce.”
And he also criticised the government’s plans to leave the International Criminal Court. The ICC, he said, is “a pioneering initiative in international justice which leading figures in fighting for our democracy played an instrumental role in setting up. The framework under which the court was established, and its prosecutors, are not beyond criticism, but it seems strange to suggest that because the justice it dispenses is not perfect, there should be no justice at all.”
He said that rather than leaving the court, the government should “act with the confidence and determination of its predecessors, and boldly engage the international community with a view to improving the court.”
He said that South Africa needed “drastic action”, and added: “After prayer and careful discernment, I want to make an urgent call in response to the immediate governance challenge we face right now, and that is this: On the train that is South African democracy in motion, we can no longer be passengers. We can no longer trust the driver to do the right thing. We instead need to engage the driver robustly – to the point of halting the train so we can determine the direction forward together. If we don’t do that, we’re likely to be lead into a big dark hole.”
He called on South African Anglicans to join him in an hour of silent prayer to “draw on God’s power to help us strive so that in our own contexts, and in all our dealings with others, human dignity is upheld, justice ensured, equality advanced, and moral courage promoted.
“As South Africans, let us rekindle the vision of a free, fair, just South Africa which inspired the peaceful transition to democracy and let us all work and pray to bring it about.”
Archbishop Thabo led a prayer vigil on the steps of St George's Cathedral in Cape Town last week, concluding the silent vigil with this prayer: A lament for our beloved country.
Let us pray:
Lord, where are you in these trying and challenging times and amidst these great developments in our country?
Shakespeare said: “Misery acquaints a man with strange bedfellows.”
Lord, we are living through a time of acute misery, amidst an unprecedented political crisis.
Lord, we know though that South Africa is not broken;
Because notwithstanding this orchestrated attack on the foundations of our country, we remain a constitutional democracy;
Our judicial system remains intact and plays a critical role in protecting these foundations.
We are thankful for this, Lord, and we are determined to work to maintain this.
Today, we gathered in silence at the footsteps of your Cathedral, asking you Lord to speak to us and help us discern your will for us.
While we cannot change the past, we must change the future. As South Africans, we must hold ourselves up to a higher standard.
We are your children and the children of giants such as Nelson Mandela.
We long for a just, equal, fair and a moral and values-based state, which we know is possible to achieve in Africa.
Lord, we cannot afford the luxury of corruption, quarrelling and never-ending internal strife. We know there is too much at stake for us to allow that to happen!
We know Lord your that you have destined us to be a great society, an infinitely capable society, a hard-working society, a society which has the right to expect something from life.
We refuse to be a society in which, no matter how hard we work, the fruits of our labour are often corruptly stolen from us.
On this All Souls Day, what we see, what we feel, what we know, is that there is a New Struggle that every group in South Africa is beginning to embrace, a New Struggle to end inequality, a New Struggle to end the inequality of opportunity.
So above all, we express our renewed faith in you, God, in our society and in the outstanding, industrious, hard-working and decent people who call themselves South Africans.
We express our faith that this society will have a bright future, because it is we who will ensure that future, and we commit ourselves to pray and to work for such a future.
Our destiny is not a matter of chance, God, it is a matter of choice, your choice, our choice.
God bless you and God bless South Africa.