A Joint Statement on the South African May 7 elections by Church Leaders of the Nelson Mandela Bay Metro
Acts 18:9-10: “ Do not be afraid, but speak, and do not keep silent; for I am with you, and no one will attack you to hurt you; for I have many people in this city.”….
Matthew 28:18-20: “And Jesus came and spoke to them, saying, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” Amen.
As those who are called to speak for God on behalf of our people, mandated by Him to make disciples of all nations under His authority, we must humbly state that we, in complete dependence on Him, have to speak out for those who cannot and who are being oppressed by the abuse of power.
We do note with appreciation and thanks to God who led the late Dr Nelson Mandela Aa, Dalibunga! together with other stalwarts of our political freedom to honestly usher the new dispensation with all honesty, integrity and selflessness, and achieve so much in the past 20 years to address the needs of our people. While acknowledging these achievements, that good done has been overwhelmed by the tsunami of systemic corruption and maladministration which is robbing our people of their future and their dignity through the loss of huge financial resources unaccounted for in the last twenty years of our democracy.
Government is not meeting the expectations of our people and the role of the church has become more important than ever.
A Renewal of Purpose and Commitment to fulfil our role in our Metro
Since we have attempted to engage the Municipal authorities and the President of the land in the past to no avail, we continue to observe a growing discontent among our communities about the state of our country. We are in a new struggle; just as in the past we engaged apartheid, it is a struggle against the abuse of power by those who have been elected to lead. More specifically, it is a struggle against corruption, maladministration and incompetence that contributes to lack of service delivery, education, health and unemployment.
The time has come to expose individuals who masquerade as leaders but lack the will to make an effort to improve the quality of life of ordinary people. The ongoing cycle of poverty and deprivation in our society must be broken and the church intend playing its role in this regard.
The ills that infect our society are not unique to specific communities or to this Metro, but is endemic throughout South Africa. Indeed, it is systemic and pervades our national socio- political system and our political culture.
In order to understand and root out the causes we, as the church, will have to consistently interrogate the nature of our socio-political system. In particular, we intend focusing our attention on who holds power, where and how much it is concentrated and how it is used in our society.
We believe that the church has a role and responsibility to be guard ordinary people against abuse of power and to be an active force in the pursuit of a more just and inclusive society.
In this regard we are concerned about the following:
The political sphere has become disproportionally powerful relative to other spheres of society. Government, political parties, politicians and senior officials have appropriated power to themselves in a manner that cannot be justified in a democracy.
Excessive power in the hands of the powerful elite rendered them untouchable and unaccountable.
The concentration and monopoly of power is unhealthy and dangerous for our society. We are in favour of a more pluralist system with more diverse stakeholders and an effective check and balances.
The monopoly of the polity is accompanied by the marginalization of other spheres of society. We regret the relative silence of civil society, business and other important role players who are not taking co-responsibility for the common good. It is most unfortunate that there is a tendency in our society to accept domination / subordination and or to adopt a comfortably-withdrawn position that gives government and politicians carte blanche.
We, herewith give notice of our intent to, not only become more assertive as the church but to encourage other sectors of society to take up their right-full place. We are not interested in a power struggle with political leaders but we cannot give politicians the freedom that they have had in recent years. We are determined to retrieve lost power and to use it to the benefit of our society as a whole.
We are also concerned that power is concentrated and centralized at the higher levels of the system with the effect that local communities are disempowered.
Power, resources and talent is drawn from local communities to the centre presumably to serve society at large but this investment in the centre does not result in the desired distributive effect. Once the local leaders reach the centre of political power they are drawn into a dynamic of self-serving and narrowly-defined politics; they become preoccupied with the party or the faction that they belong to and mostly seem to be more concerned about themselves and the perks and privileges that go with their positions.
The desired role of servant leadership does not seem to follow. Local communities suffer as a consequence; ordinary people are trapped in a vicious cycle of deprivation, poverty and exclusion. They feel helpless and voiceless. We cannot stand by without taking action.
We intend regaining our role as the voice of the excluded and disillusioned. We will challenge the inappropriate and ineffective centralization of power and we commit to working towards the empowerment of local communities and to building our nation.
We view with considerable disquiet the tendency of the municipality to allow apparently viable claims (particularly against employees and others who are able to wield political influence) to prescribe (lapse), with the consequence that they become unenforceable, to the potential detriment of ratepayers and the community.
In addition, we will insist that watch-dog agencies be freed from political interference and manipulation and that they be given opportunity to perform their mandate. We insist that their findings be made public and that it lead to real consequences.
In view of the nature of the challenges that our society faces solutions do not lie in isolated and ad hoc interventions. Systemic action is required.
We intend becoming more assertive as a stakeholder in this city and we believe that systemic, coherent and well-informed action by all non-political agencies of society will be in the interest of all. Thus, we will seek and promote constructive partnerships towards joint action for a better society.
We are in engaged with every denomination in the Metro and our intention is to mobilize the church into a force that could make a real difference in the quality of life of people. Our action will be organized within the Ward system and we will work with communities and their leaders to identify the real issues and to enable appropriate action.
As the church we will not be hijacked by any political party. We will not support any action leading to the loss of life or destruction of property. We support the idea that our people have the power to change their situation through the ballot box. The balance of power given by the majority needs to move leaders towards serving the people instead of ruling the people. We will discourage our people from supporting a corrupt system.
We as a church will keep governance of our city accountable to the Integrated Development Plan, the Budget and measure the deliverables accordingly. Our key objective is accountability.
We have already started our action by enhancing our knowledge and those of our communities with good quality information to improve insight, awareness and the quality of the collective conscience of our communities to become more resilient, pro-active and self-reliant. We will actively work towards strategies and plans to promote socio-economic development at a community level throughout our Metro.
We will be scheduling meetings in the Metro:
24-28 March 2014: Meetings with Pastors
14-17 April 2014: Meetings with Politicians
The statement has been issued by:
Bishop Lunga ka Siboto: Presiding Bishop of the Ethiopian Episcopal Church
Bishop Bethlehem Nopece: Bishop of the Diocese of Port Elizabeth of the Anglican Church of Southern Africa
Bishop Musi Losaba: Bishop of the Grahamstown District of the Methodist Church of South Africa
Pastor Neville Goldman: Senior Pastor Ebenezer Centre, National Leader of the Apostolic Team Assemblies of God Association South Africa
Reverend Danie Mouton: Executive Director: DRC Eastern Cape
Pastor Patrick Douglas-Henry: Regional Leader of AFM Church in Eastern Cape
Archdeacon Zwelidumile Tom: Secretary of Metro Council of Churches & Convenor of NMBCCC
Pastor Mvusi Gwam: Chairperson of Transformation Christian Network
For more information contact:
Nelson Mandela Bay Church Leaders Task team chairperson Pastor Neville Goldman: Senior Pastor Ebenezer Centre, National Leader of the Apostolic Team Assemblies of God Association South Africa: 0836542034