Stop criticising judiciary — ACDP
The Church in Cape Town this week took a major step forward towards re-engaging the political space it last held during the 1980s when churches played a crucial role in leading civil society as part of the UDF.
More than 100 pastors from around Cape Town met at Orion Church in Mitchell’s Plain on Tuesday, April 19. Chaired by Barry Isaacs of the Consultation of Christian Churches, they were meeting to develop a response to a number of People’s Assemblies held around the country on Saturday, April 16. The people’s assemblies were organised by a wide grouping of civil society organisations, including SACLI on behalf of the churches, for the purpose of deciding what to do around the crisis of the President.
There was passionate discussion with a number of pastors commenting that they had been taught to stay away from the public square and politics after they were saved, but that this had meant things had become rotten from a lack of salt. Many shared the opinion that the state of the nation meant this needed to change.
After discussion the group decided to develop action in a number of areas: 1) prayer for the nation; 2) write a pastoral letter to the President; 3) seek a meeting with the president; 4) take part in the civil society March on Freedom day (Wednedsay, April 27); 5) release a press statement; and 6) develop long term strategies for Christian citizens to engage with the democratic system.
More details about the event on the 27th will be released over the weekend. For more details contact Barry Isaacs on (082) 6839347.
Meanwhile in Port Elizabeth, where the Nelson Mandela Bay Leadership Group (a group of senior church leaders) recently endorsed a civil society mass action campaign for President Zuma’s ousting, church members are being asked to join the discussion. In a letter to church leaders sent after a public pastors’ meeting at St Stephen’s Church, New Brighton, on Friday (April 15), the NMBL asks them to encourage their members “to get involved in this narrative”, to show them an open letter from the PE church leaders to the President requesting him to “do the difficult but honourable thing and step aside as our country’s president”, and to ask them to participate in an opinion survey over the state of the nation.
In further developments related to the presidency crisis, Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa released a statement disputing the accuracy of media reports that he had told a church congregation that the church should pray for the government but stay out of politics.
The statement said Ramaphosa “appreciates and remembers…the outstanding role the churches played during the struggle against apartheid mobilising the international community against what the broader church termed a heresy.”The statement adds: “Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa welcomes the robust manner in which the churches and all other religious formations have engaged the government on critical issues facing our country.
“Deputy President is of the conviction that working together with the churches and indeed other religious formations we can help create a better life for all our people and move our country forward.”
In parliament this week African Christian Democratic Party (ACDP) MP Steve Swart took President Zuma to task for allegedly criticising the judiciary by telling traditional leaders not to trust the courts of law.
Undermines judiciary and Constitution
“This unwarranted criticism, if it is true, is scandalous and undermines both the independence of the judiciary and the Constitution itself,” said ACDP MP, Steve Schwartz in a speech on the Budget Vote on the office of the Chief Justice and Judicial Administration.
Swart also criticised ANC Secretary General Gwede Mantashe for making “a thinly veiled threat” against the Chief Justice Mogoeng Mogoeng for what he said in a lecture on ethical leadership.
Mantashe reportedly said: “There have now been a series of lectures given by the ConCourt. It’s something that is strange and we are monitoring it very closely because if it happens that the institutions will become populist instead of doing what is expected of them to do, we will always be critical of that kind of behaviour.”
Swart asked whether the ANC is trying to intimidate the Chief Justice and the Judiciary as it did with the Public Protector.
Concluding his speech he said: “Chairperson, British Prime Minister Harold Macmillan delivered his famous ‘Winds of Change’ speech in this parliament in 1960. In it he referred to the tide of national consciousness that was rising throughout Africa. Macmillan said his judgement of right and wrong was rooted in Christianity and the rule of law as the basis of a free society. He urged the National Party government to ‘do what is right’ and mend its ways. Regrettably, the government did not heed his wise words, and continued with its cruel policy of Apartheid – a crime against humanity.
“Chairperson, those same winds of change are sweeping through South Africa today. There are growing calls for the ANC to return to the solid Christian values on which it was founded. While we support calls for President to stand down or be recalled, the malaise in the party is far deeper.
“I would urge the Honourable members of the majority party to heed those winds of change that are blowing through South Africa. President Zuma has been weighed in the scales and found wanting. What is your response going to be?
“The writing is on the wall. You are in the valley of decision. There is a small window of opportunity – to put the best interests of the nation first – to do what is right and honourable – for the good of the nation and its citizens.
“I thank you.”