Monday 27 October 2014

South Africa's New Struggle - Beyers Naude Memorial Lecture

A keynote address by the Most Revd Dr Thabo Makgoba, Anglican Archbishop of Cape Town, as part of the Beyers Naude Memorial Lecture Series at the Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University:

Vice-Chancellor, staff, students, members of the Kagiso Trust, members of the university community and of the wider Nelson Mandela Bay community: Good evening!

I am thrilled and honoured to be among you to give a lecture named for Beyers Naude, or “Oom Bey” as we knew him in the church community, in the framework of your current university theme of “promoting critical consciousness”. I have entitled my lecture tonight “South Africa's New Struggle,” and it is the example and inspiration of Beyers Naude which has emboldened me to address you on this topic.

Why do I say that? Let me start by telling you a little bit about Beyers Naude. Oom Bey was born into a staunchly Afrikaner Nationalist household. In fact his name spoke to the strength of this heritage. He wrote in his autobiography, “My Land van Hoop” (My Land of Hope), of how, if his parents had followed Afrikaner tradition, they would have named him after his maternal grandfather. But he was born soon after many Nationalists rebelled against the government at the outbreak of World War I in 1914 when the new Union government ordered them to fight against the Germans in what is now Namibia. One of those who died during that rebellion was General Christiaan Frederick Beyers, a famous Boer fighter and a former comrade-in-arms of Oom Bey's father. As a result, instead of being named after his grandfather, Beyers was named Christiaan Frederick Beyers Naude. His father later became a founding member and the first president of the Afrikaner Broederbond, and Beyers wrote of his enormous pride in becoming a member of that secret society in 1940 after he followed his father into the ministry of the white Dutch Reformed Church.

When the Sharpeville Massacre happened in 1960, Beyers was thus deeply immersed in the Afrikaner Nationalist community. But Sharpeville unleashed a series of developments in the churches which led to them repudiating apartheid and eventually to him resigning both from the Broederbond and his ministry, forcing him to step down from high office in his church. In a famous sermon preached to his congregation of AasvoĆ«lkop near Johannesburg in 1963, he used as his text the passage from the Acts of the Apostles (5:29), in which Peter and the apostles told the authorities at the temple in Jerusalem: “We must obey God rather than any human authority.” Beyers, faced with an ultimatum to decide between the Christian Institute — an anti-apartheid group which he had formed — and his position in the Dutch Reformed Church, told his congregation that his choice was between obedience to his faith and obeying church authority. If he unconditionally obeyed the church, he said, “I would save face but I would lose my soul.”

Beyers went on to face 20 years of harassment and attack by apartheid and its supporters. After the killing of Steve Biko in 1977, Beyers, a number of his co-workers and the Christian Institute itself were banned on Black Wednesday, October 19. But perhaps most important, he was cast out of his community, ostracised and vilified by his own people. The reason that I emphasise this is that although Beyers would have been the first to say that he escaped the intensity of the persecution visited upon black activists and fighters against apartheid, he experienced a unique kind of suffering — that of the rejection of the people among whom he had grown up and was living. He was not living in a community which was suffering together and therefore of like mind in deciding to act together. He had to turn around and confront his own people for the suffering they were causing others. So the quality in Beyers Naude that I want to highlight as exemplary tonight is his courage in speaking out against wrong when it was being perpetrated by people from within his own community.

In South Africa, we have made enormous strides in the last 20 years. We have a wonderful Constitution which not only protects our rights but says we are entitled to expect everything else which we count as achievements since our political liberation: the provision of housing, sanitation, water and electricity. We have hundreds and thousands of new houses and many new clinics. We really showed the world what we are capable of when we hosted the 2010 World Cup: the new stadiums, the upgraded airports and the improved roads. In areas where we have replaced mud schools, the new schools are first class.

Yet we all know that we are not where we should be, and that we face huge and growing obstacles to getting there. Our nation is surviving, but not thriving. Despite having perhaps the best constitution in Africa, the principles of democracy are being challenged every day. Despite two decades of progress, we have to acknowledge that there is widespread consensus that for the most part, our country is still not healthy, inequality is everywhere and there is an almost toxic pollution of public confidence and trust. The levels of inequality in our society are shocking. There are huge differences between the development of the wealthy parts of our cities and that nearly everywhere else. We live with massive disparities of income, largely based on race but increasingly based on whether you have made it into the middle class. Black economic empowerment in many instances is contributing to inequality rather than closing the gap between rich and poor. We are failing in our efforts to eliminate the desperate conditions in which many of our people live, creating potential for an explosion of anger if we do not move fast. The Department of Human Settlements reported last year that we still have a backlog of about 2.1-million houses. Even if people have houses, about 2.5 million of them don't have proper toilets. My children are embarrassed because I call myself the “toilet archbishop”, so determined am I to campaign for adequate sanitation for our people.

How did we get here? And where do we go from here?

First, let us acknowledge that the Church has failed to act with the courage that Beyers Naude showed, and to speak out when we have seen our political leaders failing. We have tried to work within our democracy by engaging with its institutions and following paths laid down for consultation and dialogue. That has been the right thing to do — but not at the cost of losing our prophetic voice. Beyers Naude, despite joining the first ANC delegation to meet the apartheid government in 1990, was clear that the churches needed to keep our prophetic voice. He said in 1996:

“People tend to say that now that we have a new government, now that we have a new Constitution, now that we have solved our political problems, for the time being, there is no prophetic role for the Church at the moment. I think [Beyers went on to say, that] such a perception is a very serious mistake.”

We have committed the mistake that Beyers warned us against. We have too often silenced ourselves by practising quiet diplomacy with those in authority, flattered by access to power and ready too quickly to acquiesce when we hear how difficult their task is. In the apartheid era, courage enabled students to ignore bullets and guns and to risk their lives to work for the ideal caring, compassionate society we dreamed of. But courage is fast dissipating in our society, fear seems to be enveloping all of us and if courageous voices don't speak out, there is no one to provide our ruling elite with a moral compass.

When our political leaders realised that they could not meet their well-intentioned promises, when they realized the assumptions which they had used to formulate a national vision had changed, they failed to be transparent and honest and to tell us that. Instead of treating us as adults, they began throwing blame around, pointing fingers and perpetuating fear. Fear has become the dominant emotional driver on many of our country's stages. Fear keeps us focussed on the past and worried about the future. Fear stifles our thinking and actions. Fear creates indecisiveness that results in stagnation. Every day we see talented people, leaders in all walks of life who procrastinate indefinitely rather than risk failure. Lost opportunities cause erosion of confidence, and the downward spiral begins.

We have to bring to an end the failure of white South Africans to speak their minds, because when they keep silent for fear of being branded racists, they fail to contribute to solving our problems. We have to bring to an end the failure of black South Africans to speak their minds, because when they keep quiet for fear that white racists will exploit differences between blacks, they too fail to help solve our problems. Our future lies in our ability to rise above all of this. Haven't we languished down in the trough of despair and fear for too long already? It's been said: “Only when we are no longer afraid do we begin to live.”7

The most egregious threat to our democracy today is the insidious cancer of corruption. An alarming number of people are venturing down a path that promises short-term financial gain, embracing opportunities to enrich themselves and their families at the expense of their community and our nation. I cannot say it any more simply than that corruption is anti-democracy.

The late Neville Alexander put it this way in a book published last year, where he said that “our real concerns are the palpable signs of social breakdown all around us: the ever more blatant examples of greed and corruption involving public figures, who are expected to be the role models for youth…. the smug dishonesty, indiscipline and slothfulness of those who are paid to render services; the lack of respect for life- preserving rules.” He added, “in short, the mayhem and apparently suicidal chaos that ordinary people experience in their daily lives.”

Let's get some myths about corruption out of the way.

My Roman Catholic counterpart in Cape Town, Archbishop Stephen Brislin, has pointed out that corruption is not something new in South Africa; it is not something that has emerged only after our liberation. In a contribution to a booklet called Interfaith Reflections on the Fight Against Corruption, he notes that, and I quote, “the colonial past and our apartheid past were both highly corrupt systems.” He also points out that corruption is not only an issue affecting governments and politics. He writes: “[T]his is clearly untrue, as corruption can and does affect every level of society — business, corporations, NGOs and indeed churches themselves.” So, while all of must be concerned about corruption, no institution can be holier-than-thou about it.

Next, I am really puzzled by what President Zuma and his lawyers are reported to have argued in representations to the National Prosecuting Authority some years ago. According to City Press, which has seen an NPA analysis dealing with Mr Zuma's reasoning as to why he should not be charged:

“One of the reasons President... Zuma believed criminal charges against him relating to the arms deal should be dropped was because corruption is only a crime in a 'Western paradigm'. And even if it was a crime, [Mr] Zuma’s lawyers apparently argued, it was a crime where there are ‘no victims’.”

If this is the case, we have to ask what values — whether they be cultural, constitutional or faith-based values — the President and his lawyers used to come to that conclusion. Contrast what is reported to be their thinking with the following statement identifying who suffers from corruption:

“[Corruption] means that the state pays a higher price than it should, which takes money away from education or health care for the poor. Or it means the state accepts a poorer quality hospital or road or housing unit, which endangers the welfare of the population and particularly the poorest citizens who so often rely on that hospital or house. It is as simple as that.”

That statement was made by Mr Zuma's Minister of Economic Development, Mr Ebrahim Patel, in a contribution to the same booklet I referred to a few moments ago. The title of Mr Patel's article is: “Fighting Corruption is a Fight For Social Justice.” I couldn't have put it better myself.

And what can they be talking about if they are saying corruption is a Western paradigm? Presumably, this means that cracking down on corruption is somehow a Western phenomenon which is not appropriate in Africa. Actually, I think it's the other way around. Corruption is a two-way street, a two-way transaction. For corruption to happen, you have to have a corrupter, someone willing to pay the bribe, and what I will call a “corruptee”, someone willing to take a bribe. For Africans, over the 50 or 60 years since liberation, the Western paradigm — if indeed there can be said to be one — is one in which Westerners have been the corrupters, and African elites the corruptees.

Let's turn away from talk of Western paradigms, and look for an African paradigm. We need go no further than a declaration adopted by Africa's heads of state and government at a summit in Maputo in 2003. Its title is AFRICAN UNION CONVENTION ON PREVENTING AND COMBATING CORRUPTION.

In the Preamble to the Convention, the African leaders of government say, and again I quote, that they are “concerned about the negative effects of corruption and impunity on the political, economic, social and cultural stability of African States and its devastating effects on the economic and social development of the African peoples.” Clearly, they agree with Minister Patel. (As an aside, might I ask our President: Does he?)

In Article Three of the Convention, signatory states say they will abide by the following principles: 
  • “Respect for democratic principles and institutions, popular participation, the rule of law and good governance.
  •  “Respect for human and peoples’ rights in accordance with the African Charter on Human and People's Rights and other relevant human rights instruments.  
  • “Transparency and accountability in the management of public affairs.
  • “Promotion of social justice to ensure balanced socio-economic development,” and finally:
  • “Condemnation and rejection of acts of corruption, related offences and impunity.”

The Convention goes on to describe in detail the acts of corruption to which it applies, which I won't read here, but in case you are interested I will append the text to the copy of this speech on my blog, as well as a link to the Convention.

Corruption is paralysing progress across South Africa today. We all know about the high-profile cases which dominate the headlines, whether they concern Nkandla or provincial departments here in the Eastern Cape. But for every one of those cases, there are many more — I am sure it is thousands across the country — which go unreported. The moral compasses guiding our leaders and public servants are misaligned.

Corruption contaminates, pollutes and degrades our Constitution. In behavioural terms, if you are pro-democracy, you must also be anti-corruption. If you behave corruptly or make a corrupt decision, you are opening the door to losing the fight for democracy. I was once told by an elder that we each have two wolves in our lives, representing our conscience. We have one wolf on our left shoulder and one on our right. Each of them whispers into an ear. And the wolf that we feed is the one that survives.

I believe in the separation of Church and State. But we have forgotten the bond between our religion and democracy. We in the churches have been surprised by suggestions from politicians in recent years that we should refrain from commenting on political issues. Leaders of the liberation movements had no problem when the Church was involved in politics in the apartheid era. But now that those leaders are in power, some of them are using the same language as the leaders of the apartheid government. I believe that Church and State have a dual responsibility in which we must each play our role, and religion plays a pivotal role in stabilizing and strengthening our democracy.

Why and how critical is religion is to the functioning of democracy? The reason democracy works is not because the government is designed to oversee everything everyone does, or ensure that every need is met. Democracy works because most people most of the time choose voluntarily to obey the law and therefore to work within structures and parameters designed to ensure that we find consensus and agreed mechanisms for making decisions. In my life I have been blessed to travel across Africa and also visit many democracies around the world, and I have made one key observation: those who attend church, synagogue, mosque, temple regularly, and are taught by religious leaders whom they respect and who teach values-based decision making, overwhelming voluntarily follow a deeply personal set of values and also all of their countries' constitutions, rules and laws.

They operate on a very simple principle: decisions based on sound values are good decisions, and good decisions have good consequences. Decisions based on bad or non-existent values are bad decisions and produce bad consequences. Or to put it very simply: people know that even if the police don't catch them, God will catch them. So their fundamental values become: be honest in everything you do; respect other people's property; celebrate the differences in people; and never take something from someone else that is not yours or that you have not earned. It's what I might call values-based religion. Without values-based religion as a foundation, no society can work. Democracy will not work. If CEOs don't follow values-based honesty, business will fail to achieve its critical role in society. The government can try to police everyone, but it's hard and there is no way to police honesty.

Too many organizations are trying to push religion out of the country's focus and public eye. Faith bodies are the very institutions that protect our civil rights. If religion loses its authority over the lives of South Africans, what will happen to our democracy? Where are the institutions that will teach the next generation that they must voluntarily obey the law because it's always the right time to do what's right? If you take away religion, you cannot hire enough police!

We can do better in South Africa. We must do better. And we will do better if we ask ourselves, our family, our neighbours and our country: What are our values? Why are they neglected in public life? We need to rediscover the core values of our struggle and then we must live by those values. Our political leaders must start to focus on making value-based decisions.

But it's not only up to the politicians and the faith community: the whole of society, not least those of you in the educational and academic community, must play our part in bringing about what I have previously called a “Renaissance of Trust and Responsibility”. The former Truth and Reconciliation commissioner Alex Boraine suggests that civil society played a key role under apartheid, and that under what he refers to as a “failing state”, civil society remains equally important. In assessing what has gone wrong with South Africa's transformation process, Renier Koegelenberg, the Stellenbosch expert on religion and community development, argues similarly that the responsibility lies with all of us — government, business, trade unions, citizens and civil society — and the sooner the governing elite realizes this, the better the prognosis for South Africa.

In fact, the government’s own “National Development Plan 2030” acknowledges the importance of all South Africans working together, stating that “South Africa needs leaders that work together. To successfully implement the NDP, the ountry needs partnerships across society working towards a common purpose.”

As we enter the third decade of our democracy, we must reflect on what we can learn from our country's “great struggle” of the last century and ask: Are we not again confronting the reality that we can achieve equality only if we embark on a second “great struggle”, the “New Struggle” of my lecture title?

In some ways, we stand where we stood 20, 30 and 40 years ago. Many of us seem to operate in separate spheres, held apart from one another in the silos in which lived and worked before 1994. Or where we have tried to break out of the old patterns, we have made wrong decisions, or failed to take decisions at all, and hence the pervasive inequality persists. Despite the changes, despite the talk, despite the policies we advocate, disadvantaged South Africans and Southern Africans are still suffering from inequality.

Our families and children still experience inequality in education; our communities are victimised by the inequality in health care; women are increasingly abused because of the inequalities which plague their lives; every day we read about pervasive inequality in service delivery; and there is inequality in addressing the unemployed and underemployed.

But in my opinion, the greatest, most serious inequality is the inequality of opportunity. And it is here that we can see the interrelationship between all of the other inequalities. Access to opportunities is an important predictor of future outcomes. Access to quality basic services such as education, health care, essential service delivery infrastructure (like water, sanitation and electricity) and early childhood development provides an individual, irrespective of background, the opportunity to advance and reach his or her unique human potential.

What did Madiba spend his entire life fighting for? Fundamentally, one word: equality. Isn't it time that we again rise up together as a nation, as a community of communities, to ask, “Is this the best we can do?” and then to reply, resoundingly: “NO”.

We can do better. We will do better. We must do better to give our children a chance. So, where, why and how does the New Struggle begin?

It starts by agreeing that that it begins with the rational and emotional acceptance that after 20 years of democracy, we need to regain our moral compass. We need, as I said when I led a march on Parliament earlier this year, to turn ourselves inside out and expose our sense of moral consciousness to the sun. The sun, the light, is God's disinfectant and will help us cleanse ourselves. It will help us become morally disinfected so that we can recapture the dream we had when Nelson Mandela was inaugurated 20 years ago.

The New Struggle requires that you, who in my mind and heart represent millions of honest, hard-working, South Africans, must come together to realise the potential of this blessed country. It takes integrity to acknowledge we can do better, but it takes courage actually to do better. It takes courage to follow the example of Beyers Naude, and to say to our comrades in our first Great Struggle: your faulty moral compasses are leading us astray.

The power of a country lies in the capacity which relationships generate. Positive or negative national energy is determined by the quality of relationships and the respect in which those relationships are held. Those who relate through coercion, or in disregard of others, create negative energy. Those who are open to others, and who see others in their fullness, create positive energy. Positive energy will frame the answer to the question, “What kind of nation do we want to be?"

The New Struggle is about one word with two letters: “WE".

What do I mean by that? Let's start by asking ourselves: do we live in a “me” country or a “we” country? For most of us the answer is that we unfortunately live in a “me” society. Over the past two decades, we have lost many of our traditional values, and our culture now tends to organise itself around and reward the “me". In our consumer culture, “we” isn't popular. We are slipping away from the values of ubuntu.

In a “me” society, we ask: what are “my” and my family's and friends' needs and aspirations, not what are “our” needs and aspirations as a society. To take an example from this Province: If the astounding allegation is indeed true, that the topmost leaders of a city — leaders from a party once led by Nelson Mandela — diverted money meant for arrangements for his funeral to their friends and for their own personal gain, does that reflect a “we” society or a “me” society?

A “me” country is an “I-centered” country, characterised by cultures that are high on fear and low on trust.  People don’t feel or believe they can speak honestly and contribute ideas and opinions freely. Organizations, ministries, departments preach team-work but many “team members” and “team leaders” operate as lone wolves. As a result, we suffer from the high cost of low trust.

In “me"-based societies, leaders, elected officials, those who operate at provincial, city or township level feel they have to protect their territory. As a result, these “leaders” are perceived as ineffectual or autocratic and self-protection is the dominant feeling. Anxiety, frustration and resentment are the common emotions found in “me"-centred societies like ours.

For South Africa to flourish, we need to move from “me” to “we”, asking not what I can do, but what we can do, together, to meet not my needs or those of my immediate circle, but our needs, and to work for the common good. “We"-focussed societies bring out the best in their citizens. “We"-centred leaders are characterised by caring, courage and vision. Environments that foster “we"-centred behaviours encourage diversity of thought and expression of feeling. They encourage risk-taking and tolerate “failure.” “We” cultures support sharing. They are dedicated to fairness and the achievement of the full potential within everyone. They open opportunity,

And, I might add, a “we” society does not stop at the borders of our country. We are a global community and can't separate ourselves from the world's ills while we focus on ours. So we might say that the recent war in Gaza, as well as the conflict in what is called the “Holy Basin” of Jerusalem, benefits the “me” in that situation and not the people as a whole. That part of the world too needs what I am calling for in South Africa — a renaissance of courage and trust.

As religious leaders, as believers, as business leaders, as union leaders, as public servants, as civil society leaders, as government leaders, as neighbours, as a democratic, constitutional, values-based society, we have to work to replace “me” with “we” in our thinking for South Africa and our world to prosper and triumph. We must decide that “we” can do better. We need a national dialogue to recover and reach consensus on our values and we need to hold our leaders — all our leaders, in whatever sphere — to them. We need to teach those values to our children or inequality will continue to be pervasive in our society.

For South Africa to grow and fulfil her potential, for all of us to grow and fulfil our potential:-

“We” must replace “me”;
"We” must rise up and say, “We” can do better!
"We” must step up and say, “We” must do better!
"We” must lead and show, “We” will do better!"


Article 4 of the AU corruption Convention:
Scope of Application

1.  This Convention is applicable to the following acts of corruption and related offences:

(a) the solicitation or acceptance, directly or indirectly, by a public official or any other person, of any goods of monetary value, or other benefit, such as a gift, favour, promise or advantage for himself or herself or for another person or entity, in exchange for any act or omission in the performance of his or her public functions;

(b) the offering or granting, directly or indirectly, to a public official or any other person, of any goods of monetary value, or other benefit, such as a gift, favour, promise or advantage for himself or herself or for another person or entity, in exchange for any act or omission in the performance of his or her public functions;

(c) any act or omission in the discharge of his or her duties by a public official or any other person for the purpose of illicitly obtaining benefits for himself or herself or for a third party;

(d)  the diversion by a public official or any other person, for purposes unrelated to those for which they were intended, for his or her own benefit or that of a third party, of any property belonging to the State or its agencies, to an independent agency, or to an individual, that such official has received by virtue of his or her position 

(e) the offering or giving, promising, solicitation or acceptance, directly or indirectly, of any undue advantage to or by any person who directs or works for, in any capacity, a private sector entity, for himself or herself or for anyone else, for him or her to act, or refrain from acting, in breach of his or her duties;

(f) the offering, giving, solicitation or acceptance directly or indirectly, or promising of any undue advantage to or by any person who asserts or confirms that he or she is able to exert any improper influence over the decision making of any person performing functions in the public or private sector in consideration thereof, whether the undue advantage is for himself or herself or for anyone else, as well as the request, receipt or the acceptance of the offer or the promise of such an advantage, in consideration of that influence, whether or not the influence is exerted or whether or not the supposed influence leads to the intended result;

(g) illicit enrichment;

(h) the use or concealment of proceeds derived from any of the acts referred to in this Article; and

(i) participation as a principal, co-principal, agent, instigator, accomplice or accessory after the fact, or on any other manner in the commission or attempted commission of, in any collaboration or conspiracy to commit, any of the acts referred to in this article.

Wednesday 15 October 2014

Address to the Annual Prizegiving of Herschel School

Address to the Annual Prizegiving of Herschel Girls School, Cape Town, October 15, 2014:

Good evening, girls!  Good evening, parents! And good evening to the whole school community: girls, parents, teachers, headmaster, other members of staff, and members of Council.  Thank you Mr West and Council for inviting me to speak tonight, it is an honour indeed.

It's such a joy to be here again for a formal school occasion. Congratulations to you all for your achievements in the past year, individually and collectively: to the prize-winners of course, to the soon-to-be matriculants whose time here is coming to an end, but also to every single one of you.  For each one of you is a winner, because each one of you is equally part of this community of achievement, of this body that is Herschel School. And you remember how St. Paul describes a body in his First Letter to the Corinthians? He says "the body does not consist of one member but of many" and that every single member belongs to the body, and that, to quote him again, “God arranged the members in the body, each one of them, as he chose.”

In similar vein, your achievements are not only yours' but they are the achievements of everyone who has supported you over the past year. So, in recognition of that, why don't you the girls, applaud them? First, let's applaud your teachers and the staff and governing body of the school who support them. And now, let's applaud your parents, your grandparents, other members of your family and the cloud of witnesses – your great-grandparents and ancestors – who are looking down on us today!

In the past year, we have seen women and girls in the news in a range of ways that I can't remember seeing before. We have seen stories of pain and despair which are testimony to the ways in which our society continues to disrespect and abuse women, but we have also seen stories of strength and moral courage in which they have demonstrated their resilience and their capacity to triumph over adversity. Let's look at just three examples.

The first is the story of Reeva Steenkamp and our response to her killing. Now I know that Judge Masipa's finding means that we cannot say with a certainty that is beyond reasonable doubt that Reeva's death was a manifestation of how women are abused in South Africa. We need to respect the finding of an experienced judge, who listened to all the evidence, that Oscar Pistorius's explanation of what happened that night might reasonably possibly have been true. But at the very least, we can say that the case, and the arguments around what happened, have put the issue of domestic abuse front and centre on the country's agenda. And that is a good thing, because if you speak to clergy in our communities – who by the nature of our ministry are privileged to hear people's confidences – they will tell you that domestic abuse, and especially the abuse of women and children by men, is one of the greatest of the hidden evils of our society, and that it happens in both poor and wealthy communities.

The second example is the abduction, six months ago last night, of more than 200 girls from the town of Chibok in north-eastern Nigeria by members of the Boko Haram group. That event may seem far removed from South Africa, and in many ways it is, but the growth of movements of extremist thugs – I won't dignify them by calling them religious because the ideas they propagate are a perversion of religion....  the phenomenon of extremist thuggery is something that as global citizens we must oppose everywhere. And the phenomenon is not confined to Nigeria or West Africa; it is emerging among disparate, uncoordinated groups in East Africa, North Africa and the Middle East as well, and it poses a challenge which we dare not underestimate.

Those of you who are history students will know that this year marks the centenary of the outbreak of World War One. Margaret MacMillan, a Canadian who is the warden of St Antony’s College, Oxford, says that one of the reasons we stumbled into that war, and that so many people died in it, was that our forebears miscalculated the significance of changes in the nature of warfare. Applying those lessons to our situation today, she gives us this sobering warning:

“A comparable mistake in our own time is the assumption that because of our advanced technology, we can deliver quick, focused and overpowering military actions… drones and cruise missiles… carpet bombing and armoured divisions – resulting in conflicts that will be short and limited in their impact, and victories that will be decisive.” 

But she notes that far from seeing easy victories, we are seeing wars with no clear outcomes involving what she calls “a shifting coalition of local warlords, religious warriors and other interested parties” across countries and continents.

The third example to which I want to refer tonight is – you will be thankful to hear – an inspiring one and that is the story of Thuli Madonsela. Isn't it wonderful to listen to her on television laying down the law, not loudly and bombastically as men often do, but in soft, gentle tones?  They say that President Theodore Roosevelt of America, a man's man if ever there was one, used to say that a leader should "speak softly and carry a big stick," and even our beloved Madiba was won’t to instinctively respond to certain situations by reaching for his big stick. But I think we can coin a new phrase about Thuli and say: "She speaks softly and carries the Constitution."

It has struck me recently that one of the major obstacles to solving our problems in South Africa is that we have become a “me” society instead of a “we” society. We ask too often, what are “my” needs and aspirations, not what are “our” needs and aspirations. For South Africa to flourish, we need to move from “me” to “we”, asking not what I can do, but what we can do, together, to meet not my needs, but our needs, and to work for the common good.

How do we, then, as the body of Herschel, demonstrate our refusal to succumb to fear or to become inured to suffering? How do we use our collective capacity for good, our privileges, our inherent love and goodness, to challenge violence, whether domestic, individualised or collective, and corruption? How do we use our innovation, creativity, and even our essay-writing skills, to highlight the problems of our day? How do we demonstrate the values of Herschel?  Let me briefly suggest a few places we might start.

Let us commit to addressing the cancer of domestic abuse within our society, helping those who suffer to overcome the paralysis induced by shame and often by their continued love for the perpetrator, and to act to protect themselves.

Let us continue to express our outrage at the holding hostage of the Chibok girls, and let's commit to remove the conditions in our country and beyond which are conducive to the growth of extremism. If we do business with Nigeria or other countries in Africa, let us not collude with the misallocation of resources in those countries.

In South Africa, let us acknowledge that our failure to end the desperate conditions in which many of our people live can create the conditions for an explosion, and let us join efforts started by those including Prof George Ellis and former mayor Gordon Oliver to face up to the crisis. The Department of Human Settlements reported last year that we still have a backlog of about 2.1-million houses. Even if people have houses, about 2.5 million of them don't have proper toilets. My daughter gets embarrassed when I call myself the "toilet archbishop", but I am compelled to campaign on this issue: a report from the Water Research Commission says only one in three households in Khayelitsha have yard and in-house water and sanitation facilities. About seven in 10 depend largely on communal taps or "stand pipes" for water and have inadequate or no access to sanitation. In parts of the Free State, the Northern Cape and even here in the Western Cape, many people still have to use buckets to remove human waste from their homes.

Let us also join Thuli Madonsela in fighting corruption, rigorously evaluating the energy deal with Russia lest we slap our children and grandchildren with huge bills to pay in their adulthood.

Let us also work for ecological justice, starting with recycling our domestic waste at home.

Let me end on a note of celebration of you and your achievements, and on a note of challenge very specific to Herschel. We have a wonderful school. The quality of your education is attested to by tonight's prizes and your impressive history of outstanding matric results. On behalf of the Diocese and my own behalf, congratulations!

But, as Jesus says in St. Luke's Gospel: "From everyone to whom much has been given, much will be required." At the Western Province Prep School's Centenary Celebration earlier this year, I challenged them to adopt an equity policy and to establish bursaries to attract more black students and more black teachers. Tonight I want to take this opportunity to make the same call on you.

You are a first-class, Christian, value-based school of excellence. I appeal to you to extend the fine work you already do so that it reaches even further into our communities, giving the opportunities we enjoy to even more students, whether from privileged backgrounds or not. Join our church and our Anglican Board of Education in addressing South Africa's educational challenges. Join us in repudiating cynicism, fear and the feeling of being overwhelmed by our country's problems, and help us in our determination to bring about change.

I ask of you, to go into your resources, dig deep into these, and establish an endowment for recruiting more black teachers and bursaries for more black learners. Mr West and Council, that is my plea and more specific a challenge to the school community

Thank you, congratulations again, and God bless you!

+Thabo Makgoba

Tuesday 14 October 2014

Prayer for those bereaved by the tragedy in Lagos

All Anglicans, Christians, people of faith and of none, are asked to use this prayer until the bodies of all those who died in Lagos have been repatriated for burial at home:

Lord God, creator of all life,

We come before you filled with hope but distressed by the plight of the traumatised families of those who died in the church guesthouse in Lagos.

We offer our intercession and supplications for a swift end to diplomatic difficulties; for completion of the unduly prolonged process of identifying and repatriating bodies.

We ceaselessly intercede for the bereaved, and assure them that even at this time of trauma, as Jesus says:  “Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted”.  

Lord, we are created in your image, may your dignity and the dignity of the dead be respected in this process.

Finally, Lord, we ask that each South African and all your people pray for an end to this agony for the families, and to commit to call for its end.

For Jesus Christ's sake,


Tuesday 7 October 2014

To the Laos – To the People of God, October 2014

Dear People of God

I have just come out of my writing sabbatical, which I greatly valued, and hope to share its fruits with you all through a publication in the coming months. I returned from sabbatical into Synod of Bishops – which issued a statement on its concerns – and the annual meeting of Provincial  Standing  Committee (PSC), in which we discussed and passed a number of useful resolutions. Among the presentations and group discussion was the issue of the biblical and theological underpinnings of sustainability, and we also set up a small committee to explore the feasibility of buying land and building our own ACSA conference centre.

PSC affirmed the principles for establishing a new award in the Province, the Archbishop's Award to recognize all who serve humanity and creation along the Mican principles of peace with justice, and who seek reconciliation. There were also reports and resolutions on such matters as the environment, with a report on “eco-parishes”, the phenomenon of young people leaving our church, and the problems we are having with South Africa's Home Affairs department. You can find reports on these on the Provincial website. Next year, our church will host a meeting of the Communion's "Eco-Bishops' Initiative", which will gather bishops from around the world to discuss the environment.

This was a robust and less rushed meeting of PSC, which is the highest deliberative body of our Province between Provincial Synods, and the quality of our discussion and debate was outstanding. I hope the church will be enriched by its outcomes and that our canons will also be revised appropriately to express the growth and development shown at Synod.

We bade farewell to Bishop David Bannerman of the Highveld, who retires at the end of this year, to Bishop Nathaniel Nakwatumbah of Namibia, who is retiring next year, and to Prof Barney Pityana, who will retire from the College of the Transfiguration before the next meeting of PSC. We also welcomed warmly Dr Vicentia Kgabe as Prof Pityana's successor.

Two outside speakers, South Africa's Home Affairs Minister, Malusi Gigaba, and scenario planner Clem Sunter addressed PSC. They both called on the church to learn to “do church” in a democracy and to learn to identify the “flags” signalling issues which may be challenging the us and calling for action at this time.

After PSC, a group of bishops travelled to Maputo for the consecration of Bishop Carlos Matsinhe of Lebombo. It was a great day of celebration and worship – the first consecration in the diocese in almost 34 years. The service, in a packed basketball stadium, took about five hours and was lively and enjoyable. President Armando Guebuza addressed the congregation, as did Bishop Dinis Sengulane.

At the Synod of Bishops, we had agreed that about eight of us should join Bishop Adam Taaso of Lesotho for an ecumenical service for lawyers committed to peace, organised in response to the recent alleged coup attempt and political conflict in that country. So after Maputo I spent an evening in Johannesburg, then proceeded to Maseru. I paid a courtesy call on King Letsie III and met with Bishop Taaso and a few other people to gain a clearer perspective on the issues. At the service the next day, the Cathedral was packed with people, including His Majesty the King, Queen 'Masenate Mohato Seeiso, members of the Senate and various political leaders.

I preached on the topic of peace with justice, and argued that truth, respect, reconciliation and forgiveness are non-negotiable elements for peace. I urged all to play their part in ensuring peace with justice and pursuing all that makes for lasting peace. I prayed and spoke of the need to engage in dialogue and to learn from the example of Moshoeshoe I, who built the Basotho nation. I also affirmed the role of South Africa's Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa and the Southern African Development Community (SADC) team appointed to facilitate a settlement, and prayed that their efforts would yield what the Basotho longed for. However, I said it was up to each and every Mosotho to work for what makes for peace. The King also addressed the nation, urging peace, and we all lit peace candles and prayed for peace, rain and the flourishing of all.

Thanks be to God that the next day, the SADC team seemed to have made headway and it was announced that there was an agreement to reopen Parliament – which has been suspended since June – and to hold early elections next year. We need to give thanks for an early resolution to the crisis, but we must now pray for peaceful and credible elections.

In South Africa, we deeply regret the government's refusal to allow the Dalai Lama into the country to join the Nobel Laureates' conference, forcing the organisers to cancel the conference and causing embarrassment to our country.

Further afield, we urge politicians to resolve the diplomatic tensions over the collapse in Lagos of the Synagogue Church of All Nations guesthouse to carry out to conclusion the identification of the possibly decomposing bodies of those who died. We continue to pray for their families even as we urge the closure of this horrible and sad chapter. On the world stage, even where there is peace it seems to be fragile, and we need to intensify our efforts to ensure peace with justice.

By the time you read this, I will have visited the Parish of St Francis in Simonstown, in the Diocese of False Bay, which this year celebrates 200 years of Anglican ministry in the town. We congratulate the parish on two centuries of faithful worship and service. May it grow in strength as it continues to witness to Christ in our time.

Please pray for the wider Church, especially where it is already divided or is in the process of being divided. Pray for sanity and God's intervention, especially in the situation where a former priest of this Province in False Bay wants to form his own denomination and thus lacerate and confuse the body of Christ.

May the church heal its divisions and live out the vision of Christ, that we be one as he and the Father are one. As Psalm 133 says:

"Behold, how good and pleasant it is when God's people live together in unity!"

God bless you

+Thabo Cape Town

Sunday 5 October 2014

Bio-diversity -- And 200 Years of Ministry in Simonstown

Homily at the Patronal Festival And Bicentennial Celebrations at St Francis Of Assisi, Simonstown, 5 October 2014:

Theme: Bio-Diversity

Genesis 1:24-31; Psalm 150 (Sung); Rev 5: 1-14; Gospel: St Luke: 12:42-48
I greet you all in the name of God who is Creator, Sustainer and Redeemer. Amen.
Let me start first by congratulating you for attaining a great milestone in the history of our Province: 200 years of faithful service, worship and witness in this place. We give thanks to God and I think we need to applaud this milestone. I acknowledge the presence of my predecessor, Archbishop Njongo, as I give thanks to the parish and Father Bob for inviting me to come and share this day with you today. I miss Fr Bob because whilst he was chaplain at Herschel, my daughter used to invite me to his sermons. She would say, “Dad, you always preach, come and listen to my chaplain preach at school”. So I would attend these inspiring and profound sermons by Bob.
Yours is a story of faithfulness and courage, and God’s faithfulness and care for you as a parish and people. I might be “preaching to the choir” but as you all know, patronal festivals or feasts of title are “nostalgic” occasions. You recall things gone past, how you are faring now and postulate the end with joy or fear – or you don’t even want to think about what the end will be like. These raise deep theological questions of how to live with the knowledge of God’s revelation, his incarnation in the here and now and what your or our end will be and how we should live whilst we are on “borrowed” time in this life. How should we respond to God’s revelation in creation? Could there be another way of looking at this?
The anthem sung by the choir just before the gradual hymn was particularly moving and made me reflect more deeply on the things I feel nostalgic about. And the elements brought to the front as symbols of bio-diversity were also helpful in reminding me of your patron saint, Francis. Francis and bio-diversity and care for the “outliers” or marginalised are synonymous. As you seek to imitate Christ and live up to the example of your patron saint, Francis, and in your frailty or strength or in whatever state you find yourself, how should you respond to God’s revelation in creation?
I have been asked to reflect on bio-diversity, as your patronal festival falls within the season of creation. Bio-diversity boils down to relationships. Two weeks ago, at Provincial Standing Committee, we were reminded of the reality of climate change as part of our relationship with the environment. Some may dispute this reality. But as one who calls Makgobaskloof home, I do notice the changes that make it far different from the way it was when I grew up there. The Letaba River is sometimes is too low or too full, the Ga Makgoba settlement is too dry and barren and full of resettled people.
At PSC, we were reminded of frightening and sobering statistics showing that 60% of the ecosystem on which we depend for life is now degraded beyond the point of repair: our water supplies and air are polluted and unsafe, and our bird life, animals, fish and forests are suffering. We see rising food prices and we are told that Southern Africa is warming at twice the global average. We may doubt the details of these statistics but we can’t ignore the warnings because we don’t agree scientifically.
One of the Anglican Communion marks of mission urges us to “strive to safeguard the integrity of creation and sustain and renew the life of the earth.” How do we do that, in the face of what I have painted?
To my children’s consternation, I have become known as “the toilet archbishop” because of my constant call that the poorest of the poor should be provided with proper water and sanitation. The cost to the fiscus of not doing so is much more than that of doing so, because of the consequences that ripple through to the health and other budgets. Hence I want to call on you, over and above what you do for social outreach, to join me in highlighting the plight of those without proper water and sanitation. Share your skills and research in devising solutions to this basic need. Order your intercessions to pray for an end to the plight of those who live without proper sanitation. Become known as the “the toilet parish” because of your concern and determination to resolve water and sanitation challenges in our country. Your patron saint would probably have identified with this call, this cause, and not with large houses, many garages and big and many cars.
How should we respond to the word read, proclaimed, prayed and said, to the sacrament shared, and to God‘s faithfulness to this parish over the last 200 years? The Psalmist in Psalm 150 sung and the heavenly host in the passage from Revelation read today urge us to respond by praise and worship, “Worthy is the Lamb”. You have done that well this morning. But how do we exude this life of worship and praise both inside this parochial space and outside, where we live and move and encounter our diverse contexts?
As John Suggit, who is seated in the pews this morning, is sometime quoted as saying, let’s get our theology correct. We can’t end the Genesis passage read by Sir Rupert Bromley with subduing and dominating the earth (Genesis 1:24-31). We need also to care for it. We can’t worry about the soul only in the company of the heavenly host in the vision read from Revelation and not worry about our body and mind and those of our neighbours (in the broadest sense ). We can’t afford the dualism that is sometimes preached and that has become prevalent and encourages escapism. Our lives, like that of St Francis, are lives full of hope. Hope, as John Suggit and Denise Ackermann describe it, is ”getting our hands dirty and effecting the change we desire because we believe God is with us and is already changing our lot”. Again Suggit is quoted as saying to his homiletics students (I hope it is correct!) that if you can’t say it in three sentences, don’t bother to say it. So to comply with this expectation, all I have said boils to two key theological aspirations: What is liberation (redemption) and how should we live in the here-and-now as people nurtured by the word of God?
We do these amongst other virtues by renewing our relationship with one another as neighbours and as God‘s children; we care for one another; we listen, hear and live the word of God in the world and with all God’s creation as the psalmist did, in praise and honour to God who cares for all of us, like God does even for the sparrow.
We are so grateful to God for this, our Church’s oldest parish. It has felt special for me to take part in this service. May you grow as a parish and continue in God’s strength. May each one of you continue to live in hope. Be like your patron saint, Francis – be hope-filled as you prosper in the things of God. Amen.
+Thabo Makgoba