Zuma affair on table at pastors’ meeting in PE, consultation forum in Soweto
Calls by church leaders for President Jacob Zuma to stand down continued to grow over the past week despite appeals by some for the president to be shown Christian forgiveness following his televised apology to the nation for “frustration and confusion” over the Nkandla matter.
In a meeting with senior leaders of the African National Congress (ANC) last Friday (April 8) the South African Council of Churches (SACC) and National Religious Leaders Council (NRLC) asked the party to compel Zuma to resign following the Constitutional Court’s adverse finding against him over Nkandla. Yesterday (Thursday, April 14) the SACC in Limpopo was scheduled to hold a prayer meeting at the Anglican Cathedral Church in Polokwane to pray for Zuma to resign, reports Capricorn Reviews.
In Port Elizabeth the Nelson Mandela Bay Leadership Group (NMBLG) which represents most churches in the city has invited all city pastors to a meeting hosted by the SACC at St Stephens Anglican Parish in New Brighton at 10am today (Friday, April 15) to discuss:
1. What is the current state of our nation?
2. Leadership & character: What do we expect from those that lead us?
3. How do we stand with regards the call for President Zuma to step aside as President of SA?
4. The way forward, specifically engaging congregants on the above.
The PE meeting follows a call by a civil society mass action campaign called “The South Africa We Demand” for South Africans to organise discussions on Saturday, April 16, around securing Zuma’s resignation, what is wrong in SA, and how to remedy the wrongs. The NMBLG has endorsed the mass action campaign which was launched on the steps of the Constitutional Court last week. The campaign is supported by prominent national church leaders, political leaders and business leaders and entails mass action during April, climaxing on Freedom Day (April 27, 2016).
“The South Africa We Demand” campaign plan to converge at the Regina Mundi Church in Rockville, Soweto, to convene a national consultation forum on Saturday, April 16 to hear the views of ordinary people.
Church told to keep out of politics
Meanwhile the Deputy President, Cyril Ramaphosa, speaking at a service at the “Church of the First Born” told congregants that church leaders should not interfere in politics, reports the SABC. He reportedly thanked the church for deciding not to criticise the government but to pray for it.
“Your job is to pray so that God can bless the government and leaders who are in government. Your job is not to pray that the leaders in government must go to hell. Your job is to pray that they must correct their ways and mistakes and go to heaven,” said Ramaphosa.
The ANC Women’s League, ANC Youth League and ANC Veterans League in Gauteng on Wednesday (April 13) called on South Africans to forgive the president. Others who have called for Zuma’s TV apology to be accepted include the the Ex-Political Prisoners’ Association (EPPA), chaplains who addressed the Chris Hani memorial event in Boksburg on April 10 and the Chaplain of the Free State.
“The role of the church is nothing else but to preach reconciliation, forgiveness and to build the nation, as they have done during the anti-apartheid struggle,” EPPA Deputy National Secretary Mpo Masemola told News24 on Friday.
“President Zuma said to them, ‘sorry I am wrong’. But the very same church leaders refuse to accept his apology. It becomes suspicious then. If they refuse to accept his apology, what are they representing?” said Masemola.
However SACC general secretary, Bishop Malusi Mpumlwana, said the faith-based community could not sit and do nothing when the country was imploding, and had to ask Zuma to think about the implications of his continued stay in the high office.
“We requested the ANC leadership to assist Zuma to resign. We also requested a one-on-one meeting with the president. We would like the president to think about his continued stay in the office,” Mpumlwana said during a media briefing in Johannesburg after the SACC and SARLC met with ANC leaders last Friday. Zuma and Ramaphosa did not meet the church leaders because they were both performing official duties.
Bishop Ziphozihle Siwa, Presiding Bishop of the Methodist Church of SA, said: “Zuma did not apologise for Nkandla. He only apologised for frustration and confusion. We cannot accept his apology because we are not confused.”
He said under Zuma’s leadership there was loss in confidence and that Zuma was losing the moral integrity to lead.
While the ANC — at least publicly — is generally standing behind Zuma and rejecting calls for his resignation, the Gauteng leadership stepped out of party line by releasing a statement this week urging Zuma to “reflect deeply and do the right thing to resolve the unprecedented crisis that the ANC faces”.
Advocates for Transformation (AFT), a non political professional association, released a statement yesterday that adds weight to calls for Zuma to resign.
President failed to observe oath of office
Quoting from last month’s Constitutional Court judgment, AFT said given the finding that the president “failed to uphold, defend and respect the Constitution as the supreme law of the land” and in view of the fact that in May 2014, the president took an oath to “obey, uphold protect and maintain the Constitution of the Republic of SA”, there can be no doubt that he has failed to implement and observe his oath of office.
The AFT said it was “gravely concerned by utterances made by the ruling party and members of the executive to the effect that the Constitutional Court made no finding that the president violated the Constitution and his oath of office (or that the National Assembly violated the Constitution by failing in its constitutional duty to hold the executive to account). We point out that even a cursory reading of the judgment will show that these contentions are wrong in fact and in law”.
The association added: “Similarly, the contention that because the president may not have acted intentionally in violating the Constitution, that diminishes the seriousness and impact of the violations, a view which flies directly against the clear wording used in the judgment to the effect that his “innocent” state of mind would not “detract from the illegality of his conduct”.
The president’s apology for the “frustration and confusion” that his conduct caused may have been heartfelt but it does not detract from the finding of the Constitutional Court nor does it amount to an apology for the violations identified by the Constitutional Court.
“This lack of remorse is only surpassed by the refusal of the Speaker of Parliament to apologise at all for the violations committed by the majority of the members of Parliament,” the AFT said.
The association called on the National Assembly and the executive “to demonstrate their commitment to the letter and the spirit of the Constitution by acting upon the findings made and orders given in the judgment.”
“The AFT wishes to caution public officials to refrain from deliberately misinterpreting the clear words of the court. To do so amounts to the criminal offence of contempt of court for which the perpetrators can be committed to prison, more so when it is committed opportunistically and in the full knowledge of the fact that Judges are not in a position to defend themselves or their decision in the media and the public domain.
Platform for public to report corruption
In another development this week, the The South African Council of Churches (SACC) announced that it has set up an “unburdening panel” for the ordinary citizen to come forward and share their experience of corruption or distrust in the government.
Yesterday the council launched its “The South Africa we pray for” campaign announced last year, which aims to, among other things, anchor the country’s democracy, reports Eye Witness News.
The council says the recent revelations around the Gupta family and allegations of state capture are climatic symptoms of what is occurring at all public institutions.
The panel is led by churches and includes former Independent Electoral Commission chairperson Dr Brigalia Bam and ex-Constitutional Court justice Yvonne Mokgoro.
SACC’s Bishop Mpumlwana said South Africans should have avenues beyond the African National Congress to express their experience of corruption.