Senior church leaders from a broad spectrum of South Africa’s churches today called on Christians to join the Unite Against Corruption march being organised by civil society groups for 30 September.
The leaders – including those from some of the largest Christian denominations – say their plea for members to join the march constitutes their first step in becoming more involved and vocal about justice for the poor in South Africa, and in ensuring that the country remains a viable state.
The Unite Against Corruption march will simultaneously take place at the Union Buildings in Pretoria and Parliament in Cape Town. A list of the leaders’ names can be found at the bottom of this statement.
Rev Moss Ntlha, one of the leaders and General Secretary of The Evangelical Alliance of South Africa, today said the march represents the people of South Africa taking responsibility for themselves and for what is going on in the country.
Not the first time
This is not the first time that senior clergy have taken issue with current affairs in South Africa. Twice in 2012 similarly constituted groups of leaders wrote strongly worded letters addressing the state of the nation. This transpired at the time of the ANC’s centenary celebrations and after the Marikana massacre. The letters called for integrity in politics, social justice and an end to corruption.
“Twenty-five years ago we mobilised across the board to take responsibility for our country,” Ntlha explained.
“Nowadays people have simply abandoned hope as they feel powerless to change anything. We believe ordinary citizens need to take responsibility again to make sure that corruption ends in every sphere of society. This includes churches, civil society, business and government and homes where men abuse their power against women and children. This is a comprehensive call.
“Every person who marches is doing an act of repentance, and is calling others to repent.”
The most trusted institution
According to the Reconciliation Barometer, published annually by the Institute for Justice and Reconciliation, South Africans last year indicated their highest confidence levels in religious institutions and the Public Protector, and the lowest in political parties and the police.
On top of this, national research has shown that 81% of the population specifically regard the church as the most trusted institution, while at least 80% of the population claims to be Christian.
“We see this march as a time for Christians to take responsibility through confession, prayer, self-reflection; to turn towards justice and away from practicing corruption.”
Ntlha says the leaders are not pointing fingers. They are in fact taking responsibility for South Africans’ corporate corruption as citizens of a 21 year old democracy who claim to be 80% Christian.
“We acknowledge that many of our members are corrupt. So we can’t judge anybody. We have to engage in a self-critical way. That is why, for us, the march signals a call to repentance.
“But secondly, if the church does not use the trust levels that it has to call for a different way of being South African, of respect for the constitution and basic responsibility, we may lose the opportunity to stop the country’s downward slide. And from that we may never recover.”
Faith and action
The church leaders called all Christians in South Africa to participate through demonstrations and prayer everywhere in the country on the day of the march, and leading up to that day.
“Beyond the march we would like to see the emergence of a responsible South Africa and we believe the march signals the start of that possibility. We dream of a South Africa where citizens are not only accountable, but hold others accountable, whether they are in business or in government. “We realise this will be work in progress.”
The leaders who have issued this call include:
• Archbishop Thabo Makgoba, Anglican Church of Southern Africa
• Bishop Zipho Siwa, Presiding Bishop of the Methodist Church of Southern Africa
and President of the South African Council of Churches (SACC)
• Past Xola Skosana, Western Cape Religious Leaders Forum
• Rev Moss Ntlha, General Secretary of The Evangelical Alliance of South Africa
• Past Ray McCauley, Rhema Ministries, President of International Federation of
Christian Churches and Co-chair of the National Religious Leaders’ Forum
• Dr Frank Chikane, International President of the Apostolic Faith Mission
International and Senior Vice President of SACC
• Dr Mary Anne Plaatjies van Huffel, Moderator of Uniting Reformed Church of SA
• Pro. Nelus Niemandt, Moderator of the Dutch Reformed Church
• Bishop Ndanganeni Phaswana, Evangelical Lutheran Church of Southern Africa
• Archbishop Mshengu Tshabalala, Ikhaya le Zione
• Bishop Lunga ka Siboto, Ethiopian Episcopal Church
• Rev Angelo Scheepers, General Secretary of the Baptist Union
• Dr Michael Cassidy, Founder of Africa Enterprise and the National Initiative for
• Rev Edwin Arrison, General Secretary of Kairos Southern Africa
• Rev Prof. Peter Storey, former President of the SACC & Methodist Church
• Rev Andre Bartlett, Chairperson of Gauteng Council of Churches