Monday 3 June 2024

An Archbishop's Reflections from Six Eastern Cape Dioceses

I've been in and out of the Eastern Cape in recent weeks – soon after returning from the meeting of the world's Anglican Primates in Rome, then the SACC's National Day of Prayer for the elections, held in Johannesburg, I was in Gqeberha at the Nelson Mandela University for a public lecture we sponsor, then in Makhanda for the celebrations of DSG's 150th anniversary.

After returning to Cape Town for office commitments – and another lecture at the University of the Western Cape – it was back to my old stomping ground in Komani (which used to be Queenstown, and where I was based as suffragan in the Diocese of Grahamstown) for the election of a new Bishop of Khahlamba. In one of a series of successful elections in dioceses recently, the assembly elected the Very Revd Siyabonga Sibeko as their next bishop, in the sixth ballot on the first day.

Back to Cape Town, then last Friday it was off to the Dioceses of Mzimvubu, Mthatha and Mbhashe for the weekend, and today I return home after briefly calling on Canon Ntshingwa, who is not well at all, in the Diocese of Grahamstown.

I have enjoyed the countryside, where we've travelled on both good and bad roads, passing through both decaying and thriving rural communities and towns.

In Kokstad on Saturday, the bishops consecrated the new Bishop of Mzimvubu, the Right Revd Phumzile Cetywayo, in the incomplete cathedral structure. The original “eco-cathedral” was burned down but there is still a bare altar and evidence of the fire. It was cold, and the tent-covered structure within the cathedral was far less glamorous than our vestments and altar elements! But the service and the music was godly and brought all of us “nearer” to God. The meal afterwards was particularly special, although of as a pescatarian, I could eat only the veggies and samp.

At 14:30 we took the N2 and detoured to Tabankulu, a town I have been yearning to visit. When in the 1990s I was counselling mine workers suffering from crushed spines in rockfalls, many were from Mozambique and Lesotho but a lot of the injured came from here, giving me a deep spiritual need to see the area. We drove towards its mountainous background until we reached the town and stopped at the local Anglican Church.

We then had the option of returning to the N2, or going via Flagstaff, another special place where my mother-in-law was born. But on the advice of the lady petrol attendant, we went back to the N2. As we arrived in Mthatha, it was drizzling. We slept there and the rain poured gently through the night.

On Sunday, the final results of the country's national and provincial elections were coming through, with the country again becoming abuzz with noise and energy. Our governing party for the last 30 years has the most votes, but not enough to give them a majority in the national parliament. The same day, Orlando Pirates, my favourite soccer team, won 2-1 over Sundowns to clinch the Nedbank Cup! But nobody won these elections with that kind of margin. Three colleagues and friends wrote to remind me that a while ago I called for a government of national unity. With no party having a majority, something like that seems necessary. What might it look like?

In Mthatha, I presided over a Canon 14:4 consultation with various diocesan officials, an open and democratic process before we extend, or not, the tenure of their incumbent bishop. It is not an election but it involves listening, engagement and looking at the needs of a diocese and its people. At 14:00, St Bede’s Hall at the Diocesan Centre was packed. It turned out to be a great worship occasion and after the consultations I retired to my room and enjoyed the gentle rain outside. I wondered whether there was anything from the consecration on Saturday, the Canon 14:4 process, and the handing over of toilet facilities to a school in Mbashe Diocese that was to come, that could inform political parties as they consult on the formation of a new government.

This morning, we were due in Mbhashe Diocese, at a school in Centane to donate toilet facilities. The donation is possible from a collaboration of the Makgoba Trust, the Sibanye-Stillwater mining company's foundation and the Diocese's of social responsibility outreach. This will conclude my three-week long journeys to the six dioceses in the Eastern Cape.

This afternoon, before I board the plane back to Cape Town, I will meet via Zoom the praesidium of the SACC (in my capacity as president of the council). I made my call for a government of national unity at a time when it looked as though President Ramaphosa might lose support over the scandal around money stored at his Phala Phala game farm. Now, what can we add as the ecumenical family to the discussion of how the country should be governed? Just a few weeks ago, on eNCA, I said former President Zuma must retire, but now his party is a key element in the political arena. I also asked whether Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu's warning that the country might turn against the ANC would come true. Is this where we are?

We must pray that in the coming days, all will make their decisions on the basis of what will promote stability, peace, development, equality, security and the common good.

God bless.

††Thabo Cape Town

Wednesday 29 May 2024

Prayer for South Africa's 2024 National and Provincial Elections

Archbishop Thabo Makgoba prayed the following prayer at the Western Cape offices of the Independent Electoral Commission in his capacity as chair of the Electoral Code of Conduct Observer Commission (ECCOC):

We pray to the Creator of us all:

Creator God, all power belongs to you,
Yet you grant us free will and share with us the ordering of your world,
Bless us today as we exercise the right which you have given us
and for which many have fought and died.

Help us to perform this solemn civic duty with the reverence it deserves,
And to use wisely this gift of freedom of choice.

Grant us tolerance and respect for one another,
and peace through the day.
Guide all those who will administer the elections,
Bless them with wisdom, tact and efficiency.

We pray that all who vote will accept the outcome
And that candidates and parties will be magnanimous in victory
and gracious in defeat.

May all who are elected serve our nation faithfully and diligently
for the good of all its citizens,
and the upholding of our Constitution.

We ask these things in the name of He who is Creator, Redeemer, and Sustainer of Life 


Thursday 23 May 2024

Ad Laos - To the People of God – May 2024

As published in Good Hope, the newsletter of the Diocese of Cape Town:

As Bishop Joshua wrote last month, Diocesan Synod is around the corner, and we ask for your prayers as the clergy and lay representatives of all the parishes in the Diocese gather from the 13th to 15th of June.

Synod is a time for clergy, laity and bishops to come together and take counsel on the needs of God’s church. We look at theological, pastoral and spiritual matters that should help us govern the church together for the next three years. We change our laws (the Canons) and pass resolutions to enable church order as well as to make our Diocese safe and inclusive. 

Wednesday 22 May 2024

Introductory remarks at the UWC-Archbishop Thabo Makgoba Development Trust 2024 Lecture

Archbishop Thabo Makgoba Development Trust
Annual Lecture on “Integrity and Leadership”
Introductory Comments
Archbishop Thabo Makgoba

21st May 2024

Programme Director,

Prof Panther,

the Vice Chancellor, Prof Tyrone,

Distinguished panelists,

Ladies and gentlemen:

The UWC-Archbishop Thabo Makgoba Development Trust Lecture for 2024 occurs during flu season, so we have a lot of apologies. I have also just shaken off a week-long bout of flu. Our daughter, Paballo, who works in the Trust's resource management and mobilisation section was to be here to ensure her dad is well, but opted for virtual attendance. However, the church's Provincial Executive Officer is here as my chaplain.

Monday 22 April 2024

Address at the signing by political parties of South Africa's Electoral Code of Conduct

Remarks by Archbishop Thabo Makgoba on behalf of the Electoral Code of Conduct Observer Commission at Dulcie September Hall, Cape Town, on April 18, 2024:

Colleagues and Friends, 

It is no exaggeration to say that we in civil society must prepare ourselves for our biggest task as election observers and peace-makers since the elections which liberated our country. 

That is because the parties which have dominated politics for the past 30 years are facing the most heavily-contested elections since 1994. Incumbents will have to fight harder than ever before, possibly bringing out hidden sides of their parties we have not seen before, thus giving rise to the dirtiest elections we have seen so far.

Secondly, technical difficulties in the complexity of voting might generate frustrations, leading to cries and actions born of desperation. We could see Election Day and the days that follow turn ugly, with accusations of “institutional exclusion” flying about and followers of smaller parties crying foul. 

For the first time, our constitutional democracy runs the risk of the Independent Electoral Commission and the election process being robbed of their well-earned integrity. 

Against the backdrop of the things we must protect, there is a need in our society in the coming days to exercise tolerance, to strengthen our corporate integrity, and to focus our attention on and embrace the bigger picture. 

All of us must avoid trying to make short-term, expedient gains at the cost of long-term political security. 

Also, a culture of caring and capacitating the poor and giving agency to the marginalised is key. 

These concerns must be the cornerstones of any scenario in which parties have to form coalitions after the elections. 

The uprooting of poverty, the good of all the country's people and good and honest governance must underpin all coalitions.

May wisdom guide us and give us justice as we enter this election season.

Let us pray:

Lord God, as this critical day in the life of our democracy dawns,

We again give thanks for the sacrifices of those who over many generations fought for the right of all to vote,

We pray that all will perform this solemn civic duty with the dignity that honours the sacrifices of those who have gone before us, 

We pray that you will guide and protect all those responsible for ensuring free, fair and peaceful elections,

We pray that political leaders and representatives will act responsibly and with due reverence for the process,

We pray that those who come to vote will choose wisely in accordance with their aspirations and their consciences,

We pray for tolerance and respect among all,

And that once they have voted, all will accept the outcome of the elections and work together for the good of all South Africans and our environment.

Now may the peace of God which passes all understanding be and remain with us all, now and always.  Amen 

Ad Laos - To the People of God - April 2024

 As published in Good Hope, the newsletter of the Diocese of Cape Town:

During Eastertide this year, in the weeks leading up to Pentecost, we have embarked on the Diocesan Mission Season announced by Bishop Joshua in last month’s Good Hope. During this process, we are looking at the Anglican Communion's Five Marks of Mission in order to move us to a more mission-focussed Diocese in the wake of Covid-19.

The Five Marks of Mission:
The mission of the Church is the mission of Christ
    • To proclaim the Good News of the Kingdom,
    • To teach, baptise and nurture new believers,
    • To respond to human need by loving service,
    • To transform unjust structures of society, to challenge violence of every kind and pursue peace and reconciliation, and
    • To strive to safeguard the integrity of creation, and sustain and renew the life of the earth.

We are  being asked in this season: when did we last invite another to church for a discipleship occasion; and when have we given testimony of the workings of the Holy Spirit, Jesus, in our lives? At a Mass for the 175th anniversary of Bishops Diocesan College recently, I spoke about spiritual renewal, emphasising that connecting the concept of the Kingdom of God to the regeneration of the Spirit was important to Jesus, because it described the essentially spiritual character of that kingdom, and the way in which our experience of it impacts our lives. 

This must lead us to ask: where and how do we see the Spirit moving in our personal lives and places? For myself, I felt it and touched it in an informal settlement recently, when I went with Bishop Josh and others on a Walk of Witness to provide a ministry of support to people who had lost their homes and their possessions in a devastating fire. Those of you who responded so generously, both with your monetary donations and your prayers, touched me deeply. Thank you. Enkosi. Baie dankie. Do please continue to give to the Provincial Disaster Fund so that we can make a difference to those who have lost everything. (ACSA-Provincial Trusts Board, Standard Bank, Account no: 070562423 / Universal code: 051001) 

Thinking of those and others who suffer in their daily lives, I dedicated honorary degrees which I recently received from Rhodes and the University of the Free State to those excluded and on margins of society. I also gave thanks to all of you and to God for having given me a voice as your Archbishop, enabling me to speak out and recommit our church to working for peace and justice. (You can find the texts of the addresses I delivered on this blog. 

When you read this, it will be less than six weeks before our national and provincial elections. Please study the manifestos of the political parties, then go and vote. Then ensure that you hold to account those you have voted for, especially in ensuring a change in our socio-economic architecture—what I describe as the New Struggle for a new society, a society in which there is equity and equality of opportunity, the kind of society in which the promises of the Constitution are fulfilled. We cannot go on like we are at the moment, with people aggrieved and struggling to meet their everyday needs—we need real socio-economic change and for all to benefit, not only those with power.

I write this as our roads are shut and those wonderful athletes run through our city, enjoying our good roads and the beautiful weather, hoping to finish, to earn a medal and celebrate their achievement. Like those runners, no one can just compete, we all have to practise. So I commend to you the Mission Season Bible studies as an opportunity for us to sharpen our relationship with Christ Jesus, as well as our resolve to seek his justice and peace in God’s world. 

Let me conclude by saying thank you to Dean Michael for his leadership and pastoral care within our diocese and cathedral. As St Paul would say about runners, well done, good and faithful servant, you have run and finished the race. Thank you for your leadership, friendship and ministry. We hope that the race is not ended for you and your beloved spouse, Dr Bennett, in public ministry.

God bless.

††Thabo Cape Town