Thursday, 18 April 2019

Archbishop calls on South African politicians to “tone down” election rhetoric

Election observers from religious and civil society groups are calling on political parties in the Western Cape to “tone down their campaign rhetoric,” warning that “character assassination is as devastating as physical violence.”

In a statement released today by Archbishop Thabo Makgoba, who chairs the Electoral Code of Conduct Observer Commission (ECCOC), he said:

“A free and fair election is not determined only by what happens on Election Day, but by attitudes and activities in the run-up to the election.

“While campaigning is fundamental to any election, character assassination is as devastating as is physical violence. We call on political parties to tone down their campaign rhetoric to reflect values of respect and encourage an environment of decency and dignity.

“An election should not be about winning at all costs. That approach diminishes the electoral environment to a mere scramble for power which ignores decency and respect.

“After the election, we still  have to work together as South Africans to address the challenges of our society. We cannot afford for people to become cynical and demoralized as a result of negative campaigning.

“ECCOC has been established to monitor and encourage compliance with the Electoral Code of Conduct, which encourages an environment of free and fair participation in the electoral process by political parties, voters and citizens in general.

“It seeks to create an environment of co-operation and nation building in a highly emotive situation as political parties vie for the support of the voting public.”

Sunday, 14 April 2019

Displaced and living "like wild animals' – a neglected place where only the Church is visible

Delivering supplies

Archbishop Thabo travels to an isolated area in the Diocese of Niassa where there are no NGOs, no post-Cyclone Idai assistance and where the plea is for "comido" (food):

DAY THREE: At 6:40 am Bishop Vicente gathers eight of his clerics and church wardens to join us for Morning Prayer. We are later joined by two cathecists, and afterwards pay a courtesy call on the district governor, as has become the norm.

Then we drive to the marketplace to buy seed and rice, as we did last week in Sofala Province when I visited the Diocese of Lebombo. As in Sofala, I learnt that solidarity has to be accompanied with food. The marketplace is busy and when the vendor realizes we are buying in bulk and for what cause, he gives us a good discount.

The last 50 km of the 275 km of the drive to Morrumbala can't be called a road – we took almost half the amount of time we took on the previous 225 km. Morrumbala  is far from the convenience of NGOs and proves the notion that the Church is visible where no one else dares to be present. No one here has received the attenion given to districts which have received outside assistance from the NGOs – neither tents, food nor medication has been provided. Those displaced have built small huts with sticks and straw. “Comida” (food) is all they want, one says, “we are displaced and live here like wild animals with absolutely nothing.”

PHOTO ESSAY: The Church ministers where nobody else dares to be present>> 

Though this area is very isolated and has been struck by Cyclone Idai, coming from Makgoba's Kloof and Cape Town I could not miss being struck by the topography and beauty of this place. We are in the forest, amid thick, lush bush, ravines, hills and mountains – a rarity in the bulk of Mozambique so far.

We make our first stop at Aqua Kente, which hot sulfur springs at the foot of Maramba Mountain. We are met by the local ruler, Queen Rosa Mamwenda, who is a delight and loved by her people. It was refreshing for me that there is at least one reigning queen among all the male chiefs that we have met at each village so far.

We engage her and her subjects, listen to their story, share encouragement from Scripture and share seeds and rice with the village committee and the queen to distribute according to their system. We visit two more villages, Megaza and another. The key feature everywhere is that we are welcomed – and bid farewell – warmly in song and dance. Even in pain and total loss, the gift that they have not lost, nor are prepared to lose, is their song, dance and their hope.

Another disturbing, and very sensitive, matter is the number of young children who have their own children. Everywhere, there are countless children. I didn't see a school or similar centre in Morrumbala. It is clear that the cyclone is rewriting the history of these people of God – all of a sudden sparse rural villages are becoming concentrated townships because of relocation. These agrarian communities will soon lose their identity, the safety of village life and who knows, their rivers may be exploited to supply others so they end up short of water in these upland settlements. I wish we could at least build a primary school in  Morrumbala.

After thanking the members of our team, we travel the 275 km back to Quelimane. There we prepare to say goodbye, but also to take the longings and prayers of God‘s people to God in prayer as I say Compline and the Examen, examining my conscience. When grafted into the situations such as those I have experienced in these days, I realise there is much I can de-clutter and so live more simply.

Friday, 12 April 2019

Bishop McKenzie’s grave has drowned

Archbishop Thabo continues his visit to the Diocese of Niassa in northern Mozambique, visiting the Bishop, the Right Revd Vicente Msosa, and his people after Cyclone Idai:

DAY TWO: After breakfast and Morning Prayer – and reading Jeremiah 28:17ff – at our Quelimane guest house, I return to my room to catch up and study the disaster intervention plan from Niassa Diocese. As intimated yesterday, this diocese has dealt with flooding, food and health disasters before. They are amazingly well organized and deserve all the support they can get.

Our departure to a district 30 km outside Quelimane city is delayed because of past conflict in the area, which means we need special permission to travel and a dispensation from the Governor. We get this and it commends us to the three district governors whose areas through which we will travel.

We arrive at our first destination, we duly meet the district governor and he briefs us. Temporary tents, seed, food and instilling hope through prayer are his priorities. He assigns the district planning director to accompany us to transit camps and areas where the displaced are to be permanently resettled.

It's raining again today and the camps are wet. Indeed more tents are needed, since some families are squashed together in one big tent. Drinking water is being piped to tanks in these camps and a less than adequate sanitation area has been set aside. People are traumatised – not only have they lost all, but relocating to new sites allocated by the government also means losing their connection with their dead, who are buried in low-lying areas.

More photos of the scenes described here can be found in our Facebook photo album>>

The chief in one such relocation area, Chief Frans, is impatient because he agreed to be relocated but is now a chief without his people as some are resisting the relocation and others are taking far too long to be moved. He blames officials. About 4300 people are to be relocated. Charities are bringing more truckloads of food.

We then travel more than 275 km to Morrumbala district along a pot-holed road, the last 50 km of which is gravel. It is raining persistently now and the road becomes a shallow river. At Morrumbala we are welcomed by clergy and Vida groups, who are calm and impressive in their interventions. All are relatively young, and left their families some time ago to assist in this area.

The land on which some communities lived is completely flooded, as are the churches. The grave of Bishop Charles Mackenzie, the missionary bishop who, along with a number of members of his party, died of malara here in 1862, has been “drowned” under water. The grave is in the village of Chilomo, which is covered by water as a result of flooding from the Shire River. Those affected went to their relatives to seek shelter.

What is needed now are seed, food, plastic to cover the thatch of makeshift shelters, and mosquito nets, since this district is full of malaria. We will buy bags of supplies tomorrow.

Bishop Vicente is worried about the districts around Maganja da Costa and Chinde, which are on the coast respectively north and south of Quelimane. They are not accessible and Bishop Vicente fears that since they are out of sight, they will be forgotten.

At the end of a long day, we have dinner and pray for strength, for good weather and tomorrow's program. We retire in Morrumbala at a bed-and-breakfast. I use a lot of Tabard to discourage mosquitoes because I find the net claustrophobic.

Do you and your congregation want to help the dioceses in Mozambique recover? 
Please give generously to ACSA's Disaster Relief Fund:

Please give generously to ACSA's Disaster Relief Fund:

Bank: Standard Bank of SA Ltd 
Branch: Thibault Square 
Branch code: 02 09 09 
Account number: 07 007 8394 
Account name: Disaster Relief Fund

Thursday, 11 April 2019

Visiting the Diocese of Niassa in the wake of Cyclone Idai

Bishop Vicente gives a briefing on the visit
Following a visit to Beira and surrounds in the wake of Cyclone Idai last week, Archbishop Thabo has this week been in the Diocese of Niassa in northern Mozambique, visiting the Bishop, the Right Revd Vicente Msosa, and his people. His reflections:

DAY ONE: The alarm rang at 4:20 and by 5 am Uber is here to pick me up and take me to Cape Town's airport, where we board for Johannesburg at 5.50. Heavy mist delay the flight – fortunately all flights, and we were in Maputo by 11:20. Along the way we meet Bishop Zipho Siwa, the Methodist Church's Presiding Bishop, and his team, who are also visiting congregants affected by Cyclone Idai. Boarding for Quelimane is scheduled for 11:30 but we finally depart at 14:15 and while waiting I read a piece in the Anglican Theological Review on preaching.

Upon arriving in Quelimane, which is in Zambezia Province, Bishop Vicente and the faithful are waiting as always to welcome us, and Matlotly Mototjane, the Provincial Executive Administrator, immediately gets into her note-taking and recording mode.

We go straight to the office of the Governor of Zambezia and are welcomed by his officials and the director of disaster management, who brief us on their plans and needs, together with the representative of the Governor.

They need seed, food, medication, shelter and whatever support they can find, especially in areas which are still inaccessible. We go for a meal and connect with Bishop Vicente‘s team. He is well organized on the ground, with Vida (“Life”) teams, supported by other NGOs and ecumenical partners who are handling information, distribution and support. The teams were formed a long time ago to deal with malaria, HIV/AIDS and other community work. Now they are using their community engagement skills to intervene during this climate and humanitarian disaster.

We are joined by the Governor’s assistant, two archdeacons, a PCC member and the PCC treasurer. Quelimane is buzzing with international, multilingual and multiracial experts and the hotels are full, so we are lucky to get guest house accommodation in the city Centre.

Bishop Vicente left home on Monday to get here, driving 1200km one way and will drive another 1200km in order to lead a Palm Sunday service. He calls home and he relates how his one-year-old daughter recognises his voice and says “Papa, Papa.” Vicente is the youngest bishop in our Province. He did not need this climate change-induced disaster over and above the usual challenges of his huge rural and poor diocese. Compared to when I last saw him four weeks ago for the inauguration of the Missionary Diocese of Nampula, he looks exhausted but he still manages to smile.

Tomorrow we travel by road for 275 km to visit communities devastated by the cyclone, and will return on the same day. Bishop Vicente appreciates the solidarity and our visit. We are following the rhythm of breakfast, morning prayer and a walk of witness to the displaced and otherwise affected.

Arrival in Quelimane

Thursday, 4 April 2019

'Archbishop, we are hungry' – An appeal from Mozambique

Engaging people, via a translator, on their experiences.
Archbishop Thabo blogs on the final day of his visit to the disaster-stricken area around Beira in the Diocese of Lebombo:

Wednesday April 3: The words, “Archbishop, we are hungry,” stayed with me overnight as I battled with sleep even after a long day on Tuesday. The instruction from Jesus replayed in my mind, especially during Compline – “Feed my lambs,” and “Feed my sheep,” (Jn 21:15-17), as did Jesus's words in Matthew's Gospel that when we feed those who are hungry, we feed him. (Mt 25:37-40).

After waking in Beira on Wednesday to the sound of the generator which provided electricity to our hotel, we had breakfast and said an abridged Morning Prayer, reading from Jeremiah 18:1-11.

We connected with the local team of clerics and churchwardens who accompanied us throughout the trip and went to the local supermarket, where we bought the emergency food packs recommended for for 31 families at St Mary's, Mutau. Town was full – and filthy in the aftermath of the cyclone, with hammers banging everywhere as people fixed their roofs.

After this we reflected on how to mobilise urgent resources and met with like-minded organisations for medium- and long-term intervention. Behind the church in Beira, we gathered with a Tearfund team of eight from the region and the UK, and with Mennonites and Anglican teams, as well as with the SA National Defence Force represented by the Chaplain General.

Sitting in a circle under a tree, it was indeed good to pull together and commit to what each will bring. The key needs were food and water purification tablets, followed by capacity-building exercises, counselling and materials to rebuild infrastructure.

Then we were whisked to the airport after saying good-bye to our team members. At the airport, I shared in an interview with the local TV station my impressions, my tears, my worries about waterborne diseases, and an appeal that the people of this region should not be forgotten and that help should keep on coming.

We hopped onto the South African Air Force plane and flew home, joined by two medical doctors and a professor who is an expert in waterborne diseases. On arrival, we were met by the Chief of the Air Force, General Msimang, and briefed him on our visit. He in turn thanked us, took us around the airbase where we landed and shared their work.

As we were talking, a plane took off for the DR Congo, and I became aware that the SAAF does a lot of work that I was not aware of, including youth training programmes through winter and summer schools, all, I hear, on a tight budget.

The refrain from people in Mozambique that the SANDF's actions on the ground there changed their perceptions – that the military also cares, feeding people and saving lives – also changed my fear and my perceptions. Their commitment that they would take medical supplies and food to St Mary's helped me to address the lady's plea that “Archbishop, we are hungry.”

Once the water subsides, the possible trauma of finding the bodies of those so far unaccounted for and laying them to rest will require counselling, resources and support. It is still the rainy season, so when the water levels drop I hope people will be able still to plant new seed.

Thank you everyone for your prayers and please keep on giving to our Province's Disaster Fund (details below). Thank you also to General Shoke, the Chief of the SANDF, to General Msimang and to the Minister of Defence, Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula, for enabling our mission, as well as their men and women and other teams from South Africa who are helping on the ground.

Pray with me now, the Prayer for Africa:

God bless Africa,
Protect our children,
Transform our leaders,
Heal our communities,
Restore our dignity and
Give us peace, for Jesus Christ’s sake.

Please give generously to ACSA's Disaster Relief Fund:

Bank: Standard Bank of SA Ltd
Branch: Thibault Square
Branch code: 02 09 09
Account number: 07 007 8394
Account name: Disaster Relief Fund

Buying emergency food packs for families at St Mary's, Mutau.
Please give generously for what will be needed ahead.

Wednesday, 3 April 2019

Visiting the hidden and forgotten in cyclone-devastated Mozambique

With Bishop Carlos Matsinhe, Archbishop Thabo Makgoba is visiting areas of the Diocese of Lebombo hit by Cyclone Idai. Transport is being provided by a helicopter of the South African National Defence Force, which is helping Mozambican authorities with relief efforts. Also in the party were the SANDF Chaplain General, the Revd Brigadier General Monwabisi Jamangile, and Matlotly Mototjane of the PEO's office, formerly a senior disaster management official in Lesotho. The Archbishop continues his blog: 

Tuesday April 2:  We started the day with breakfast together and said a shortened Morning Prayer, reading from Jeremiah 17:19-27. The dining hall was full of all sorts of NGOs' reps and rescue people.

How to help the people of Mozambique >>

We drove to the airport, where we were received by a Mozambican official responsible for justice, the constitution and religious matters, who appreciated the role of the church in the crisis after Cyclone Idai. The airport is a veritable marketplace for journalists, NGOs and choppers.

Col IH Zurich of the South African Air Force and the SA Defence Attach̩, Col P Nkambule, welcomed us and Col Zurich briefed us on the day ahead. We flew to Gwaragwara and Busi, seeing from the SANDF helicopter the after-effects of the cyclone Рwater as far as the eye can see.

Water is sacred, as I always say, and in this context it is too – but too much of it is destroying the fields and displacing people, as we saw in transit camps. Medical teams are confirming that the waterborne disease, cholera, is now emerging in an area which also has lots of malaria.

Returning to our base at Beira, we held a service for the South African team helping the Mozambicans and connected with the South African charity, Gift of the Givers, who are also helping here. Then we were taken through a camp helping displaced people and saw its medical facilities – one of the helicopter pilots was feeling ill and was admitted there.

We returned to St George's in Beira, this time in daylight, and were able to see how their new church building had been destroyed. We visited Archdeacon Narciso Langa of Pungue and his family, who operate a school at the rectory there.

After lunch we drove more than 50km west to Dondo, on a road which was intact but where electricity lines were down, roofs were blown off and trees blown over. In this region, 11 churches are damaged to varying extents, and a health centre and 13 diocesan schools have been affected.

In Dondo, we hit the hidden and the forgotten, a deeply rural area where houses are flattened and roads full of holes (and our backs are sore). As we arrived at St. Mary's, Mutua, the singing of the welcoming congregation soothed us. Two classes with scheduled school times have 400 children, and only classes are affected.

PHOTOS: Destruction at St George's, Beira, at St Mary's, Mutua >>

In the rebuilding and rehabilitation phase that must now follow, the archdeacon’s work becomes critically urgent. He used to travel on public transport but Bishop Carlos agrees that he now needs a vehicle and estimates that this will cost the Diocese about 8,000 U.S. dollars. They will also need seed to plant, and bricks, mortar and zinc to rebuild damaged churches, schools and a health centre which serve whole communities.

On the way back to Beira, we stopped at a village after a long journey, after which the back of the van accompanying us is filled with more than 20 children. We are guided on an alternative route to that usually taken by the priest, which is now flooded. We leave the tarred road and hit gravel.

In midst of all this, the water lilies are blooming purple and white, saying all will be well. People are attempting to return to normality and schoolchildren are back to school and playing. Hope AFRICA and Green Anglicans continue to share useful information on the situation, as is Matlotly who is with us.

We headed back to Beira having given people some hope, but not food and shelter. Bishop Carlos says we can go on and on as we are, but experiencing the same pain and suffering. Matlotly says there is no proper sanitation and is worried about the resulting illnesses, especially among the many children. The Chaplain General remarks on how people have nothing and depend on Providence.

After the long trip back from St Mary's, we return to our accommodation. The refrain from the Chaplain General and all of us is that we must feed the people of Mutua sooner rather than later. We arranged resources and agreed on what I should purchase – hampers for 31 families will cost R22,000. We agree that is the way to go and will arrange this before I leave Beira. We will also arrange with Team South Africa to turn their eyes to this area.

Tuesday, 2 April 2019

Visiting Sofala Province, Mozambique in the wake of Cyclone Idai

St. George's, Beira, on Monday
 Archbishop Thabo blogs from Mozambique, where he is visiting Bishop Carlos Matsinhe and the Diocese of Lebombo: 

Monday April 1 - After waiting for four hours to get clearance to enter Mozambique airspace, we left Pretoria for Beira, accompanied by the SANDF Chaplain-General and the Administrator in the PEO's office, Matlotlisang Mototjane (who is also a disaster management expert).

We were received in Beira by a representative of the governor of Sofala Province and Col Zurich of the SANDF, and then were whisked into St George’s Anglican Church, where Bishop Carlos Matsinhe was leading Mass.

St George's had recently built a new church, but alas the church is now in ruins. We held a moving service, joined by the two SANDF pilots, the chaplain-general, clergy of the area and local parishioners.

After Mass, we dedicated to God the fruit of the labour of the parishioners among the ruins, and symbolically took down a brick to signify that we will fully demolish the ruined new church and rebuild again.

In my message to parishioners, I recalled how the Temple in Jerusalem took time to build, how Christ is the cornerstone and how, after the flood, there was a rainbow. We then went to eat, agreed on the schedule for Tuesday and retired to our accommodation.

Even at night we could see how old and established trees were uprooted from the ground and now lay flat. Palm trees are resilient but were flattened too.

Archbishop Thabo blessing children

Bishop Carlos Matsinhe

Praying for the people