Tuesday 1 August 2023

Address at a Mayoral Gala Dinner for the Prince Mangosuthu Legacy Cup

Address at a Mayoral Gala Dinner for the


The Most Revd Dr Thabo Makgoba

Archbishop of Cape Town

28th July 2023

The Programme Director, Mr. Alex Mthiyane,

Your Worship the Mayor of Zululand District Municipality,

The Revd Thulasizwe Buthelezi,

All Mayors and Councillors present,

Bishop Mandindi, from the Methodist church and fellow clergy,

Honourable Velenkosini Hlabisa, leader of the IFP,

Untwana ka Phendangene’s Family, Price Zuzifa, Princesses Mohale and Phumzile,

The Royal family present,

Distinguished quests, ladies and gentlemen.

Thank you kindly, Reverend Mayor, for your invitation to me to join you here, and for your warm welcome. I align myself with and underscore all the compliments that various speakers and the videos we have watched attest about you. I am proud that as a cleric and mayor, you take your vocation to serve the common good so seriously. Congratulations, Reverend Mayor, Shenge!

I am especially privileged to speak today just a few kilometres from where the British armed forces tried to crush the Zulu people, but where, a century-and-a-half later, the modern-day Ulundi is testimony to the remarkable renaissance of the nation. This renaissance is due in no small part to the efforts of Shenge, Prince Buthelezi, efforts and, no matter the controversies of the past, it will go down in history as a key achievement in his legacy. He has remained rooted amongst your people, and like Nehemiah in the Old Testament, he has worked to rebuild the walls of the old Zulu kingdom.

I can perhaps identify a little with the pain of your history: my own ancestors, whose totem is Tlou – the equivalent of Ndlovu – were crushed when, 16 years after the Battle of Ulundi, my great-grandfather, King Mamphoku Makgoba of the BaTlou, was beheaded by forces commanded by General Piet Joubert of Paul Kruger's Transvaal Republic. His head disappeared and today, more than 125 years later, we are still searching for his skull in our quest for healing and renaissance.

Tonight is about celebration through sports, music and dance and paying tribute to a special person, Prince Buthelezi. I must make a disclaimer that I am no professional in any of these fields, as at school I was disqualified from soccer, sent to the music group, and from music to the gardening team. But sport, and in our country especially football, has a wonderful capacity to bring people together across divides, and so one of the reasons I am thrilled to be here today is to be able to celebrate the way in which football helps us to put past divisions behind us and unite us in a common endeavour. On the football field, the players can contest one another strongly, and their supporters can voice their views vigorously from the sidelines, but at the end of the day they have to play by a set of rules which has created the legend known as “the Beautiful Game”.

Speaking of uniting people across divides: I visited and spent some time with Umtwana, Prince Buthelezi, in hospital today before coming here, and want to say that nothing has been more inspiring about his leadership in recent years than how he has comported himself in Parliament. I read to him the following: “Umtwana, when some of our politicians have made those hallowed precincts a laughing stock because of their disgraceful behaviour, you have been a model of dignity and discipline, reprimanding them and shaming them by showing them how public representatives ought to contribute to debate about the welfare of our nation, such as in your recent reply to the Budget Vote on the Presidency. On this, I am sure I speak for countless South Africans when I thank you profoundly for how you have modelled ubuntu in the National Assembly.

“It is for this and other reasons that I am proud, as I have told you before, that you are an Anglican, and an Anglican who has honoured us by accepting membership of the Order of Simon of Cyrene. Building on the legacy that our church shares with the Royal House, you have played many important roles in the church, too many to name here, but including serving as a faithful Lay Minister, as a Council member of St Peter's Seminary, as a representative of your Diocese to the Province, and, along with Alan Paton, representing us at the pioneering Anglican Congress in Toronto.”

I spoke a moment ago about how sport can unite us, and of how Prince Buthelezi has modelled ubuntu in the National Assembly. Sadly, I have to say that such values, the values which should be inspiring players and leaders in all areas of South Africa's life to unite in a common endeavour are woefully lacking today. The quality of our leadership is at a very low ebb if one judges it by the usual benchmarks for assessing leadership in a democratic society, which is whether our leaders are working for the increase of the common good, whether they are promoting social cohesion, and whether they are growing a democratic culture, one which will grow trust in democratic institutions.

It shocked me recently to see in an opinion poll that two-thirds of the people interviewed would be prepared to forego elections if they were able to get improved service delivery! And the lack of trust has been sorely manifest in increasingly polarised language and racial enmity. We saw it for example in the July “uprisings” of 2021. We see it – and this really angers me and makes me feel deep shame as a South African – we see it in horrible xenophobic language and activities, with anti-foreigner sentiment mainstreamed in almost all political parties.

My point is that when leaders – especially elected leader – fail to uphold, establish and deepen the very basics of a democratic culture which they were elected to promote, and fail to contribute to strengthening the common good, then we have in honesty to say – and not because we want to score political points – that our leadership is failing us. How can we say that the voices of the people are being heard and acted upon when certain of our political leaders are seen to be living the high life while claiming there is no money for service delivery, basic education and healthcare? Where does this societal deafness and social arrogance come from? In South Africa we need leaders who can fulfill their constitutional obligations, ensuring that social problems are addressed, ensuring that the new era of African democracy becomes a reality in South Africa too. Watching the video interviews of those who received water supply in their homes for the first time, in the Zululand Municipality, I was proud. I quietly said to myself, “It is not what the Mayor says about his works, but it is the deeds people see done on the ground and testify about them, that matter most.”

My comments of course put political leadership in particular in the dock, but that is a category of leaders we support with our taxes, leaders who are directly responsible to us in a way that is not true for other categories. Having said that, it is true that there has been a failure by other leaders in other spheres. I speak for exampe of those in the corporate sphere who have done very little to ensure economic justice, and who generate differentials in pay which are so astronomical that it’s difficult to get one’s head around all the zeros. The truth is that when people see such inequality, and are refused a living wage, then it has the effect of driving the poor into desperate acts of anger and into the clutches of a sometimes irresponsible populism. Religious leaders are not exempt from criticism either. Among the faith community, many moral lapses have blighted our leadership. Even worse has been our failure to speak out to give moral guidance and activate the kind of outrage that is part of our prophetic tradition.

So we have a huge failure of leadership. Again I want to stress just how damaging and dangerous is the distrust this generates in leadership and institutions, and how it pulls us worryingly close towards plunging over a precipice and into a chasm in which all that is symbolised by the Mandela era will be destroyed.

Of course, the situation is serious but not all is doom and gloom. There are pockets of hope in the midst of all these challenges. I have just come from an election for a new bishop in southern Gauteng, in the Diocese of Christ the King. Without breaking the confidentiality of the proceedings, I am pleased to say that the assembly was characterised by a quest for authentic leadership steeped in the ways of Christ. On Tuesday, I also saw a taste of such leadership in the public sector in Johannesburg, when I visited the scene of that explosion in Lilian Ngoyi Street, formerly Bree Street. The Joburg Metro Police official who walked me through the site turned out to be a caring and values-based leader of whom we can be proud. He related how City officials, the police and traffic officers worked together for the common good. And while upset at the disaster, he found joy in the public-spirited response of taxi drivers who did not stand by waiting for government to act, but who helped to clear the danger zone. I shared a tear and a prayer for him and his team, but as I walked back to my car I also shared a tear for the city I knew and grew up in, a city now in decay, and one about which we have to ask, what comes next? Do we have the leadership that it will take to reverse the decay, not only of Joburg but of Durban and some other towns?

Faced with the crisis in government at all levels in South Africa, what are we to do? Our future is not just in the hands of politicians; all the country's economic and social formations must be brought into the narrative so that everyone, including the poor, is listened to for their ideas, insights and solutions. So I have been advocating that we need to adopt a New Struggle to replace the old struggle against apartheid; that all institutions in society need to rally their forces to work for a new struggle for a new society, a society of compassion and caring, a society in which we end inequality of opportunity and improve the lives of the poorest of the poor. Such a struggle, pursued with dedication and commitment, has the potential to establish a new basis for our spiritual, economic, political and social lives; a morally virtuous framework that could and should unleash a sustainable wave of real change, or – as some describe it – a movement of transformative improvement and a re-prioritisation of the needs of our diverse communities.

To express the hope for such a movement is not wishful thinking. Hope is not a nebulous, pie-in-the-sky concept. No, hope is the driving force which motivates our determination to name our problems, to identify solutions to them and to mobilise people to overcome them. Hope must be what drives us to work to fulfill our Constitution’s promise of a society based on democratic values, social justice and fundamental human rights.

There is a saying attributed to one of our great African theologians, St Augustine of Hippo, which is that “Hope has two beautiful daughters, anger and courage. Anger at the way things are and the courage to ensure that they do not stay that way.”

As we celebrate the legacy of Prince Buthelezi at this time, let us be motivated by the example of the leaders of his generation. Let us channel our anger at our failure to build the society we want, and let us summon up the courage to work constructively to achieve it. This we must do, for our children's and our grandchildren's generations.

Thank you for hearing me out. God bless you, Umtwana and your family. God bless this tournament, and God bless the people of KwaZulu-Natal.

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