Methodist, Anglican leaders call on South Africans to take responsibility for social change

Presiding Bishop of the Methodist Church of Southern Africa Zipho Siwa, left, and Archbishop of Cape Town Thabo Makgoba.

The leaders of two mainline church denominations in South Africa this week both spoke out strongly against evils in South African society which they say demands action from citizens.

In an article headlined “We can’t sit by and do nothing” Methodist Church of Southern Africa presiding bishop Zipho Siwa says the cancer of violence “is attacking the very soul of our humanity” leaving us so jaded that the high incidence of brutal rapes and killings in South Africa no longer shock us.

“We can no longer afford to sit back and simply depend on a dysfunctional criminal justice system to bring us occasional relief. The solution to this subculture of violence and criminality needs to come from all of us, firstly, as individuals, as well as a collective. The responsibility for subverting the culture of violence is every citizen’s duty,” he writes.

Siwa acknowledges there are various historical and social factors driving violence and crime in South Africa. However he points out that more than half the population lives below the international poverty datum line; about 26% of the population is unemployed; and over 30% of the youth between the ages of 15 and 24 are not part of the educational system, employment or training opportunities offered. “This a volatile ticking bomb in the making,” he says.

The growing gap between the haves and desperate have-nots is leading to growing suspicion and antagonism, and the insatiable greed and corruption of political leaders has ushered in a rapacious mentality of grabbing advantage by any means, including rape, pillage and killing, he says.

Calling for an end to lethargy and inaction and for a sustained, collaborative, multipronged approach to the culture of violence, he says: “Each of us needs to take personal responsibility for the violence we allow in our midst, because we are all complicit in the disintegration of our social and moral fabric.

“We need to provoke a movement of collective outrage over all forms of violence. As alluded to by Walter Brueggemann, ‘We need to tell each other the truth because all the weapons in the world will not save us from our self-inflicted lies and inaction.’

“A new culture is possible and the time to act together is now.”

Meanwhile on Tuesday, the leader of the Anglican Church in SA, Archbishop of Cape Town Thabo Makgoba, said in a radio discussion that it was “time for South Africans to take their own destiny into their hands, and to rely less on political formations. Because they’re not leading us into . . . economic emancipation. They’re about power, they’re about resourcing themselves and their nearest and dearest, and for me the poorest of the poor . . . continue to be poor.”

During a discussion on the Power98 radio programme Power Talk he said the ANC’s time may be coming to an end, reports the Anglican Communion News Service.

“Perhaps as South Africans we need to say yes, the glorious movement has done its part. If the glorious movement survives its December elective conference with whomever they elect, would the glorious party survive 2019? And maybe we need to move beyond the glorious movements and look at the glorious people of South Africa,” he said to Power Talk host Iman Rappetti

Later in the programme, Makgoba said: “I always wrestle with . . . the question of when do we call for a withdrawal of moral support for a democratically elected government and I think that’s a deep struggle.”

The discussion was held to mark what would have been the 100th birthday of former ANC President OR (Oliver) Tambo, who died in 1993, a year before the first post-Apartheid elections.

Makgoba said that South Africans should not abandon the values of what he described as “the father of our country,” adding: “The values of OR as an Anglican Christian who nearly became a priest – his values were probably shaped by that passage in John 10: ‘He came so that we may have life and have it abundantly.’”

After referencing scriptures that mention the thief who comes to steal and rob, he said: “If I see, as a priest in South Africa, that South Africans are not flourishing because there are thieves and robbers who are jumping over the fence to steal the fat of the land, should I just stay in my chapel…?”

The ANC will elect a successor to President Jacob Zuma next month when it meets for its 54th National Conference. It will also elect members of its national executive committee and other major party officials ahead of a general election in 2019.


  1. Hlengani Chauke

    South Africa is crying out for servant leaders and followers. Church leaders show us the way. Initiate a non partisan mass based social/reformation movement. Blessings

  2. Patricia van Niekerk

    This is Biblical that we are the “Salt of the earth” but Christians need to pray for guidance & act , because “faith without works is dead”. Protest against violence is a peaceful way eg. writing letters to the press, walking with a petition through the different cities’streets to present to the Mayor , but first praying to ask the Lord for wisdom.

  3. We need the Church’s Damascus Moment. The church must raise up against the ills they observe in the current ANC led government. The church played a critical role as part of civil society to defeat the diabolical evil system of apartheid. Your role remains crucial. Perhaps, we need Christian parties to enter the political space. Guided by His Word, these parties will be hugely supported. Think about it Bishop Makgoba!!