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South Africa reaches tipping point on rape: The Church of England Newspaper, February 17, 2013, p. 6. March 15, 2013

Posted by geoconger in Anglican Church of Southern Africa, Church of England Newspaper, Crime.
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Bishop Rubin Philip of Natal

The gang rape and murder of 17-year old Anene Booyson has galvanized South Africa, focusing attention on the county’s culture of rape.

On 2 Feb 2013 a security guard discovered the dying girl at a construction site close to her home in the rural town of Bredasdorp in the Western Cape. Before she died, the girl was able to identify one of her three attackers – a family friend.

According to United Nations statistical reports, Southern Africa (South Africa and Lesotho) lead the world in incidents per capita per rape. The Crime Report 2010/11 published by the South African Police Services stated 66,196 rapes had been reported to the police – however, women’s rights activists claim the number of rapes could be eight times higher as most women do not report to police.

However, the rape of Anene Booyson may have “become a tipping point” for South Africa, said Albert Fritz the Western Cape provincial minister of social development, that leads to change.

President Jacob Zuma denounced the crime saying: “The whole nation is outraged at this extreme violation and destruction of a young human life,” he said. “This act is shocking, cruel and most inhumane. It has no place in our country. We must never allow ourselves to get used to these acts of base criminality to our women and children.”

The president called on the courts to “impose the harshest sentences on such crimes, as part of a concerted campaign to end this scourge in our society.”

The Bishop of False Bay, the Rt. Rev. Margaret Vertue, paid a pastoral call on the dead girl’s family after preaching in the Anglican Church in Bredasdorp on 10 Feb 2013.  “Anene is the victim of the social ills and loss of moral values of our society,” the bishop said, adding that what “happened to Anene and others who have died a violent death is a symptom of brooded evil.”

The Dean of the Anglican Church of Southern Africa (ACSA), Bishop Rubin Philip of Natal stated: “Anene Booysen is a name on the lips of almost every South African this week. She has become the visible image of a deathly scourge that haunts us all – the scourge of rape.  As happens more and more frequently, Anene’s rape was accompanied by extraordinary levels of violence.”

“Anene has been robbed of her life. Her mother has been robbed of a child. But it is not only Anene who has died brutally this week. The hope of our rainbow nation dies, agonising cry by agonising cry, every time a woman is raped – approximately 3500 times a day.   How is it that the dream nation has become the rape capital of the world,” Bishop Philip asked.

The leaders of ACSA had called upon all Anglicans to “use the season of Lent to recognise that every time we fail to act against gender based violence, we are complicit in its perpetration. Anglican churches are being requested to light a candle on Wednesday in memory of Anene and all women who have suffered the violence of rape. Male members are being asked to declare ‘not in my name. This violence may not continue’,” the bishop said.

Civil insurrection warnings from South Africa: The Church of England Newspaper, September 23, 2012 p 7. September 24, 2012

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The Archbishop of Cape Town has urged the government of President Jacob Zuma to take immediate steps to address the unrest in Marikana in South Africa’s North-West Province following last month’s police shooting of 34 striking miners, warning the community is on “knife edge” with the situation set to spin out of control.

On 5 September 2012 Archbishop Thabo Makgoba, accompanied by the Bishop of Pretoria Johannes Seoka – the president of the South African Council of Churches (SACC) – participated in talks between management, labour and the government to resolve the tensions.

“Finding a peaceful way forward was the prime concern of almost everyone present, though the atmosphere of hope was accompanied by the sort of robust speaking that can sound threatening, even terrifying, to those not used to South Africans’ frank talk,” the archbishop said.

As he drove home from the meetings past the Markana Mine where the shootings took place, the archbishop said his heart was telling him “all is not well.”

“I could not help but fear we are living in the calm before a storm.  We are on a knife edge. The dire states of everything from living conditions to issues in the mining community are the stuff from which revulsion follows and revolution is too easily made.”

In an interview with the Daily Mail, the Bishop of Natal, the Rt. Rev. Rubin Phillip said he was afraid the situation would get worse.  The African National Congress government’s failure to address poverty, substandard health and education programmes, and communal violence had left the country unsettled.

“The feeling on the street is one of very deep anger and you don’t want an angry people for too long,” he said.

Unless the politicians and businessmen address the imbalance in the economy, we are going to see many more Marikanas coming up. Not just in the mines, but in the informal sectors as well.

“I think we are sitting on a powder keg situation and we need to address that,” the bishop said, and unless the government fulfilled its promises to the electorate, South Africa “could end up with a scenario that would be very tragic for all of us”.

Archbishop Makgoba said that he, nevertheless, remained optimistic. “Because I have faith in the living God, whose word to us is peace and hope and new life, I am optimistic that a better future is possible.”

But his visit to Marikana “left me with the sense that this country is like a smouldering log that, left unattended, lies ready to ignite at the slightest wind.   There is real urgency in these matters.  This is not a message of doom – it is a call to wake up and act.”

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

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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.”