Anglican leaders in Cape Town have joined a coalition of civil society and faith-based communities in calling for South African politicians to “vote their conscience” when the country's parliament debates a motion of no-confidence in President Jacob Zuma this week.
The ruling African National Congress has instructed its members of parliament to vote against the opposition motion but a handful have given notice that they plan to defy the party. The possibility of others joining them was strengthened on Monday when the Speaker announced that she would allow a secret ballot when Parliament votes on the motion. The vote is scheduled for tomorrow (Tuesday).
The Right Revd Garth Counsell, Bishop of Table Bay (Cape Town), represented Archbishop Thabo Makgoba at a march on Monday led by the #UniteBehind coalition of faith communities and civil society organisations.
In a message sent to the marchers, and addressed to members of Parliament, Archbishop Thabo
said: “It is more important to follow your conscience than to follow the dictates of your party, your colleagues or your friends.
“Jesus did not get stuck in intellectual arguments with people,” he added. “He did not go for the intellect, he went for the conscience. He spoke to that part of a person that knows the difference between right and wrong instinctively. His message to us is that it takes a great deal of bravery to stand up to our enemies, but just as much to stand up to our friends.”
During the march, an estimated crowd of 13,000 processed from the outskirts of the city to Parliament. #UniteBehind is a new coalition] independent of political parties, which aims to attract young and working people in a campaign to restore good governance in South Africa.
Archbishop Thabo is a strong critic of the leadership of President Zuma. Preaching at Easter this year – after the president had fired the country's finance minister and deputy finance minister - the archbishop said that “personal interests, corruption, private gain, entitlement, a vicious contempt for the poor and the common good, a culture of blatant lies and cronyism—and possibly worse—dominate our public landscape.”
Soon afterwards, the South African Council of Churches issued a report saying that a “power elite” had formed around President Zuma which was “systematically siphoning the assets of the State.”