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Church support for Kennedy Road squatters: The Church of England Newspaper, April 13, 2012 p 6. April 18, 2012

Posted by geoconger in Anglican Church of Southern Africa, Church of England Newspaper, Crime, Politics.
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A squatter’s settlement in Durban that has been a flashpoint between the ruling African National Congress and pro-democracy activists has been badly damaged by a fire of unknown origin.

On the night of 3 April 2012 fire swept through informal settlement.  A spokesman for the Durban fire brigade said that upwards of 100 homes were destroyed, but only two people were injured.

The Archbishop of Cape Town, Dr Thabo Makgoba, offered his condolences and assured residents of his continued support.  In a letter given to the Bishop of Natal, the Rt. Rev. Rubil Phillip, Archbishop Makgoba said “We are deeply saddened in Holy Week to learn of the fire which has ravaged the little which the people and community still possessed. I understand that it is estimated that at least 1000 people are now homeless.”

“I know of the journey of the people of Kennedy Road: of their struggle for descent housing, for dignity and respect and the realisation of their constitutional rights. As we weep with them at this time, we continue to support their call for dignity and justice, and we appeal to our leaders and to the general population to help provide people with proper houses, and to improve the provision clean water and decent sanitation.

“May the message of Easter bring consolation to the community and a resolve to continue their fight for better housing, sanitation and water, as well as for safety.”

The Kennedy Road settlement was the scene of a violent confrontation when on the night of 26 Sept 2009 a group of approximately 40 men armed with machetes and automatic weapons surrounded a building where the members of the AbM — Abahlali baseMjondolo (Zulu for “people based in shacks”) Youth League — were gathered.  In the battle that ensued a dozen people were injured and four members of AbM were killed.

When the police arrived at the scene of the battle, they arrested 8 members of AbM for the deaths of their comrades. The next morning the gang returned to Kennedy Road and looted two dozen shacks – the homes of leaders of the shack-dwellers governing council, the Kennedy Road Development Committee (KRDC).  Local leaders of the ANC accompanied the gang as they looted the homes.  Police observed their actions but did not intervene.

“We are under attack,” the AbM and KRDC said in a press release. “We have been attacked physically with all kinds of weapons – guns and knives, even a sword. We have been driven from our homes and our community. The police did nothing to stop the attacks despite our calls for help.”

“What happened in Kennedy Road was a coup – a violent replacement of a democratically elected community organization. The ANC have taken over everything that we built in Kennedy Road,” the AbM said, charging local political leaders with seeking to evict the residents of Kennedy Road so as to develop the land for their personal profit.

The police subsequently arrested five members of the KRDC and charged the 13 activists with the murder of their colleagues killed by the ANC.

Bishop Phillip intervened in the affair, and spearheaded a campaign by democracy activists to free the “Kennedy Road 13”.  Following trial the 13 were acquitted, but charges have not yet been brought against those accused of organizing the attack.

The origins of this week’s fire is unknown and is remains under investigation, the Durban fire brigade has reported.

First printed in The Church of England Newspaper.

S.A. churches denounce government spying: The Church of England Newspaper, Oct 28, 2011 p 6. November 1, 2011

Posted by geoconger in Anglican Church of Southern Africa, Church of England Newspaper.
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First printed in The Church of England Newspaper.

Church leaders in South Africa have denounced the government of President Jacob Zuma for its attempts to spy on the country’s faith groups and turn them in to vassals of the ruling African National Congress (ANC).

On 18 Oct 2011 the National Church Leaders’ Consultation issued a joint statement saying they “resent the efforts” of the ANC’s chief parliamentary whip Dr Mathole Motshekgato muscle in on and manipulate Church Leadership Structures.”

However, the chief whip’s office rejected the charges as being “absurd,” saying this was “nothing but a storm in a teacup.”

“We are leaders in our own right and lead by Biblical mandate,” the leadership council said, stating they were “deeply offended by efforts by [Dr. Motshekga’s aides] to infiltrate our meeting in Johannesburg without invitation.”

“This is an unwarranted intrusion on our discussions and compromises our freedom of association and of religion,” they said, noting “Dr Motshekga does not enjoy our confidence” and should “back off.”

The consultation is an umbrella organization comprising the leaders of the South African Council of Churches, and the Anglican, Catholic, Reformed, Evangelical, Independent and African churches in South Africa.

The Chief Whip’s office responded that theaccusation stems from an innocent mistake today, in which the Chief Whip’s Political Advisor mistakenly walked into the hall where the National Church Leaders’ Consultation was meeting. The meeting, which the Political Advisor was due to attend, happen to be taking place at the same venue” in Johannesburg.

The Chief Whip’s office added that “after being informed by the chairman of the meeting that he was in the wrong hall, he duly apologised for the confusion caused and proceeded to the next hall, the correct venue for his meeting,” adding that “walking into the wrong meeting is a simple mistake that anyone can make.”

“We are therefore taken aback that the church leaders are turning this little, innocent incident into something major,” Dr. Motshekha’s spokesman said.

However, Cardinal Wilfred Napier told the Associated Press that three of Dr. Motshekha’s aides were discovered rifling through the church conference’s papers when they were discovered. “This is direct interference by a political party in the affairs of the church,” he said.

Long a supporter of the ANC’s leadership, relations soured in 2008 when the South African Council of Churches attempted to mediate the internal ANC leadership dispute between President Thabo Mbeki and then Vice President Jacob Zuma.  During the leadership struggle, Mr. Zuma moved away from the South African Council of Churches after he accused them of backing his rival.

The break also came in a transition in leadership among the country’s churches, with alliances formed during the anti-apartheid era between the ANC and churches superseded by a new generation of leadership.  The current generation of leaders has challenged the government on social and economic policies, and no longer gives their automatic support to the ruling party.

Cape Town archbishop denounces hate speech: The Church of England Newspaper, Oct 14, 2011 p 6. October 19, 2011

Posted by geoconger in Anglican Church of Southern Africa, Church of England Newspaper, Free Speech, Politics.
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Julius Malema, Photo:Gary van der Merwe

First printed in The Church of England Newspaper.

The Archbishop of Cape Town has stepped into the African National Congress (ANC)’s political civil war, obliquely chastising the leader of the party’s youth wing, Julius Malema, for racist speech.

In a speech printed in the Cape Times on16 September, Archbishop Thabo Makgoba called on South Africans to join him and “denounce” inflammatory language. “Hate speech, racist talk, sexist language only oppresses and imprisons,” he said.

The Archbishop’s comments follow last month’s court ruling that ruled Mr Malema was guilty of hate speech for his singing of “Shoot the Boer” at political rallies. The refrain in the Zulu language song popularized during the apartheid era — “the cowards are scared, shoot shoot, shoot shoot, shoot the Boer” — was found to be hate speech under South African law.

A political rival to President Jacob Zuma, Mr Malema denounced the court’s 12 September ruling as racist saying “once again we find ourselves subjected to white minority approval. Apartheid is being brought through the back door.”

He called for songs from the apartheid era to be protected as free political speech. “These were the songs of resistance and they will never die,” he said.

In 2009 Mr Malema helped President Zuma gain the top spot in the ANC, but he has since broken with the president. He faces an internal ANC disciplinary hearing for bringing the party into disrepute after he called for the Botswana government to be overthrown, calling it “puppet” of the West.

He has also clashed with the president on economic policy, applauding Robert Mugabe’s regime and has called for the state to nationalize South Africa’s mines and seize white-owned farms.

Archbishop Thabo Makgoba stated that freedom of speech “is entrenched in our Constitution” and was a “necessary bed-rock of democratic life.”

“But this does not mean we can and should say anything, anywhere, merely on the grounds that we claim it is ‘truth’. Nor should restraint merely consist in establishing the maximum we can get away with when arguing before the courts. No, freedom of speech touches on the very essence of what it is to be human, and to be committed to the well being of other human beings.

“Hate speech is not merely a legal category. It is, as I have said often before (when people have been called ‘snakes’ and ‘dogs’ and worse), any utterance that diminishes and degrades other human beings, other children of God. More than this, it diminishes and degrades not only its target, but also the speaker – for it demonstrates a general failure to understand and respect people at large,” the Archbishop said.

“The same is true of those who resort to racial epithets, or demeaning sexual slurs,” he said, adding that such language “undermines our capacity to ‘fulfil the promise’ of democracy, through building the sort of individual character and mature society which will help create the opportunity for every citizen to flourish.”