Pastor and author Afrika Mhlophe who has been a main speaker at a number of Mighty Men Conferences reflects on a week in which Mighty Men Movement founder Angus Buchan has taken a battering in the media and apologised twice for something he said.
Angus Buchan stirred the hornets’ nest with his claim that the Jews and Afrikaners were the only two nations that have made a covenant with God. The Economic Freedom Front (EFF) were quick off the mark in capitalising on this mishap. Floyd Shivambu, tweeted Angus’ video message with the caption: “A racist Boer Pastor Angus Buchan says it’s only the Boers & Jews who have a covenant with God,& he’s convening a predominantly Boers meeting in Loftus Rugby Stadium in February 2020. You can wish whatever you want Afrika, but these people don’t want us.”
With the EFF religion was never the main focus — as it is not their priority, except if they can politicise it. In this case the party’s deputy commander in chief succeeded in othering South Africa’s whites and in projecting Angus as racist. This is despite the fact that Shivambu’s tweet — which went viral — was posted after Angus had tendered an apology.
To be honest, I am not clear of Angus’ intention in making the claim except to say that it has no theological credence. But, unfortunately, in the minds of many it would invoke the memory of the “Day of the Vow” when a few hundred Afrikaners made a public vow to God before their battle with 20 000 Zulu warriors. The day has historical significance to Afrikaners, albeit a history that carries a lot of pain for South Africa’s black majority.
Angus’ gesture, ahead of a planned Afrikaner-focused event at Loftus Rugby Stadium in February, was a public relations disaster with many accusing him of creating a religious and social hierarchy, with Afrikaners perched on top. He was seen to be pandering to Afrikaner sentiment at the expense of other racial groups and Christian unity. Others ratched things up a bit and accused him of being a rabid racist who finally revealed his true colours. This is despite the fact that the statement had the effect of subordinating Angus himself to Afrikaners.
The weeklong debacle revealed the perennial distrust among South Africans. And it is this distrust that the EFF is capitalising on. The party stands to benefit from fanning the flames of division and their message is particularly directed at the millennials. This group, also known as Gen Y, are people born from the early 80s to the early 2000s. It is their social conditions that make them susceptible to the EFF’s brand of politics.
Millennials are forced to bear the brunt of the global financial crisis. They face high levels of unemployment, lower average earnings, have difficulty in accessing higher education, etc.
A BBC online article tells us that “Generation Y is the first generation in recorded history which is projected to be worse off than those which came before.” This is despite vast acceleration in digital technology.
Access to technology is both a blessing and a curse. It allows this demographic cohort to communicate faster but also traps them into believing that perception means everything. Lauren Davis captures this well. She says: “It should come as no surprise that perception rules over our generation’s world. In fact, the only thing that Generation-Y obsesses over more than themselves are other people.”
The one thing Angus needs in order to deal with this social reality is deeper relationships with believers from other demographic groups. The depth of relationships affects the reach of his message and also how he’s is perceived, especially by those on the periphery. I know this because my perception of the Mighty Men was only improved after I got closer to Angus and others at the forefront of this movement.
I was therefore encouraged when I saw Angus flanked by senior black preachers when he tendered his second apology. For the rest of the Church we should aim to recover the lost focus to disciple our nation. Discipleship helps us to centre difficult conversations, not on race, but on the cross – where answers exist for everyone. Real discipleship – which includes preaching a holistic Gospel – is our only hope to heal our divided past and in mending the fractures that are so easily used by politicians.
Angus has played an important role in turning men back to God and their families. His heart has been to reach men of all races but although the demographics of Mighty Men Conferences have been changing for the better, black South Africans have not bought into the movement as fully as could be hoped. Hopefully, the recent, painful debacle, will have the redeeming outcome of connecting Angus with the black leaders who could partner with him in reaching men across every divide.