While the series of strikes, stone-throwing and general chaos continues in South African townships, farms and mines, the people are looking for direction. Standing at the valley of indecision are the hordes of the poor, homeless, unemployed, youth, masses, middle class and investors alike.
In Matthew 9: 36, Jesus saw the crowd lost and without a shepherd. Our country is hurting and our people hurt. Hurting people hurt others. Apartheid, crime and the unfair systems of this world have left the people hurting.
In the midst of the turmoil and uncertainty going around the country, it seems the current political leaders do not have the capacity to exhort and bring hope, but only to incite and inspire anxiety. Much like a fly could never carry the ointment to a wound, but only bring with it infection.
What we need are the kind of leaders in our country who will remove the opportunistic flies that feed off people’s hurt and frustrations.
In the 70s and 80s, leaders such as Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Dr Alan Boesak, Reverend Beyers Naude and others would visit the townships in the midst of burning tyres and teargas, and would appeal to the people to calm down and return to their homes. These leaders had a kind of deep love for the country and the people they were made leaders of.
The current cycle of strikes have a political motivation. Political leaders are feeding off the fear and frustration of the people. They are taking the negative energy from the people and using it to accomplish their own objectives.
A case in point: over the last two years the TR-section in Khayelitsha was ravaged by strikes and violence, manifesting in stone-throwing and busses and cars being set aflame. The strikers or community it was alleged were upset at the lack of service delivery and were thus taking to the streets to display their dissatisfaction. In one bizarre instance, I drove through this area and saw a shipping container dumped in the middle of the road. A few days later the people had dug a wide groove across the tarred road. These containers weigh tons and need a truck and crane to lift or move them. Construction workers need an industrial grinder and jack hammer to dig through the tarmac. But this community moved this container and dug through the road with their bare hands and maybe a few measly shovels. This was a display of raw power and some serious frustration.
Good leader would challenge community
A good leader would challenge the same community to pick up its own rubbish from its streets, keep a community garden or walk their children to school — these children are hit daily by runaway traffic. Leaders should channel negative energy into constructive means.
The strikes also have a psychological basis. The current spate of violence is a result of years of frustration and is a way for a shepherdless people to vent out. The country needs facilities and initiatives to help people deal with the genuine hurt in their hearts. Here the Church in partnership with organs of the state can play a role.
The strikes also have a spiritual root. Black people need to be told that the reason for their misfortune is because they have sinned against the Father through their ancestral and idol worship, dabbling with the occult and other ‘African’ customs. If they would turn from these ways the Father would restore them and bring completeness again. Mass action cannot bring this restoration.
The blacks also need to be told that the real struggle is not against whites, but against the devil and sin which has caused a hole in the hedge and allowed all sorts of atrocities to come on black people.
A few months ago we heard reports of the strikers at Marikana consulting a sangoma to give them muti to make them invincible to police bullets. The muti didn’t work and the result was a tragic incident replayed through the media. The Church (and black preachers) needs to tell the people that if they touch the occult, evil will come to them.
On November 17, 2012, I attended a funeral at Eluhewini village outside the town of Engcobo, in the Eastern Cape. The officiating minister, from a church in the area, told a story about a family that tried to transport a corpse from the city to a funeral in the village. Along the way the vehicle shut down and they couldn’t find any fault with it. Eventually someone instructed them to take the coffin out of the vehicle and place it alongside the road and to speak to the dead body asking for blessings and safe passage. The pastor than recounted with excitement how the engine immediately started up; and how it is important for a Christian to keep a relationship with their ancestors who have passed on.
Real church must stand up and speak truth
The pastor is a liar and he is deceiving many and leading them to the slaughter. The Bible strictly tells us not to consult the dead (Deuteronomy 18: 10-12). The real Church must stand up and speak the truth, even if no one wants to hear it and even if it means facing persecution.
Oom Bey (Beyers Naude) was confronted with a choice when his own church gave him an ultimatum. He was to choose between the church and its policies of segregation or to choose his newfound path of racial conciliation. During his farewell sermon, in 1963, to his congregants at the Dutch Reformed Church in Johannesburg, he preached on the theme, “We must show greater loyalty to God than to man.” He then removed his robe and stepped off the pulpit.
The country needs men and women who, like Oom Bey, will choose God, righteousness, justice and truth; even if it means being expelled from their political parties, unions, fraternals, associations or families. The country needs leaders who, like Oom Bey, are willing to take of their robe of status and affiliation and choose to live for something better – a country healed and united under God.