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

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