A Pastoral Letter on the Presidential Succession Debate

A Pastoral Letter on the Presidential Succession Debate

To the Province of KwaZulu-Natal Christian and Civil Communities and to the Nation of South Africa

26 November 2007


Pastoral greetings from the Chairperson of the KwaZulu-Natal Christian Council (KZNCC). This pastoral letter seeks to inform the people of KwaZulu- Natal (KZN) on what the church perceives could be confusing concerning the political climate on the eve of the ANC conference at Polokwane, Limpopo province in the month of December 2007. This letter seeks to spell out what could be a dangerous for the development of democracy post ANC conference.

In this pastoral letter, the churches seek to outline what could be the desired outcome in the future of democracy and political leadership post Polokwane conference. Ideally, the churches are concerned about the character, the quality and the principles churches would like see as the outcome of the Limpopo ANC conference. As far as it is possible the churches would not like to entangle herself in the political dynamics of the ANC but to suggest what could be the nature of an amicable and inclusive future for the unity and prosperity on out nation.

A series of meetings has been conducted in response to the call from the South African Council of Churches (SACC) for churches to speak out on the type of leadership we would like to see in church and society from a theological perspective. In the meting which was held in KZN it came forth that the type of leadership we are envisaging should be people who are commanding respectable statesmanship and could rise above political ideological inclinations and serve the whole nation indiscriminately and unify it.

Aspects of Qualities of Any Leadership

The churches are looking for a person who accommodates and encourages open debate, one who is not vindictive, who has moral fortitude, has genuine concern for the poor and is down to earth. The meaning of these aspects of leadership is that: “Statesmanship: … involves a capacity to see beyond personal or party interests, and to have a genuine concern for all people everywhere. Moral fortitude: … implies a high standard of ethical behaviour, whether private or public, and a willingness to pursue this standard with courage, even in adversity. A genuine concern for the poor: this is a vital quality for any worthwhile leader in this country currently, where the levels of poverty are still unacceptably high. Finally, a belief in debate: this looks for a readiness within the African National Congress to welcome candid discussion on national issues, with a tolerance of disagreement”.

The KwaZulu-Natal Christian Council (KZNCC) held a discussion on the ANC presidential debate on the 20th November 2007. We would like to share some of the issues which we raised in the meeting.

Some of the Issues Emerging from the Debate about “the leader we want” Include that we want to have:

  • A leader that will make democracy work for all people in spite of their status.
  • A leader with integrity, who will allow debates (was reiterated), with good morals and ethics, who is not self-centred, who can take blame without pushing it to someone else, a leader with value.
  • A leader that can rise above the party-political arena.
  • A leader that can unite South Africans.
  • A leader that will strengthen democracy.
  • A leader that will uplift the poor and those who are suffering.
  • A leader who cares for people and is chosen by them.
  • A leader, people – especially the poor can identify with.
  • A leader that will adhere to the Freedom Charter.
  • A leader who will take South Africans to the global context.
  • A leader who may not have all the above mentions qualities but who is prepared to develop them.
  • A leader who can change our poverty to prosperity
  • A leader who is transparent, accountable and morally upright

In this meeting of the churches discussing the question of leadership qualities, it was said the people who are poor in rural areas have yet to taste the new found freedom and democracy. The rural poor have not touched the freedom. Justice for the poor is inaccessible. Seemingly the rich get justice and the poor are denied it. The leader the poor are looking for is one who will listen to their voice; one who will fight and stop corruption especially one issuing out tenders. It was also said that South Africa needs a leader who can discern the voice of God and listen to the voice of the people as well. A leader who can deal with crime and be a touch- bearer of the nation. A leader who commands national and international respect who is caring for people in freedom and responsibility. A leader who can hold the nation together and nurture human relationships and one who can think nationally and internationally.

It was muted out that the churches need a leader who will sincerely deal with poverty, HIV/AIDS, unemployment, housing and tolerate no abuse against women and children. A leader who does not personalize the issues of the nation, who can accept constructive criticism and critique and deal with high levels of crime. South Africa needs a leader who can strengthen democracy, uphold democratic principle, build the economy, distributes the gains of the economy and champion the course of the poor and the suffering. The country needs a leader who shall be in solidarity with the poor and continuously work for peace painstakingly.

What May Bring Confusion Among the People?

The churches want to warm people about issues which may bring confusion and derail us from out good intention in entering the presidential race’s debate. It is apparent that according to the Constitution of the country Mbeki must leave office in 2009. The Constitution of the ANC is mute in this matter. If Mbeki is elected for the third term in the ANC we might enter a debate of his third term in government already in 2008. If he does hold the power in the ANC, we may end up with two power centres, one being the President of the country elected by the and an opposing President of the ANC in the person of Mr Thabo Mbeki. This country may find that this scenario may slow down any development, and delivery of services.

The role of the media could swing things in the positive and at times to the undesired negative. In his input, Prof T S Maluleke, the President of SACC says about the role of media: “.Are we speaking against the exposure of corruption and ineptitude on the part of the politicians? Are we asking for out politicians to be treated with kid gloves? Are we asking for our media to be lame and hagiographical about our politics and politicians? By no means. We are speaking against being served carefully orchestrated and carefully selected dirt masquerading as truth. We are speaking against co-option into the web of vindictiveness and acrimony that seems to rule our political sphere. We would like to appeal to all people who are participating in this orgy of mudslinging to stop – whether they are politicians or journalists. This is not what our freedom is about. This is not the political freedom we fought for. This is not the press freedom fit for our democracy”

What happens if Mr J Zuma becomes President of both the ANC and of South Africa in 2009 and the pending court case of his alleged corruption is opened. People may not want to speculate for now. Whilst writing this pastoral letter it is reported that most of the ANC branches including the women’s league which the public was told till now that it was pro-Mbeki has also voted for Jacob Zuma. Seemingly Zuma is leading the race by a reasonable margin so far. And the press is suggesting that this pattern of voting will not change much at the Polokwane conference.

What May be Some Danger Points Embedded in this Debate?

One serious danger point is the use of a tribal card to try to gets votes for the presidency and membership of the ANC’s National Executive Committee (NEC). The tribal card is most likely to divide the ANC South Africa as a country. The other danger point is the use and abuse state power and resources to sustain a political career and to vilify political opponents both in the party, outside the party, in the press and society at large. One of the journalist has lamented: “… When the news broke that the SABC had a blacklist of certain commentators, I said any state that blacklists its citizens is only a step away from assassinating them”.

If peace and accord is not sealed before the December 2007, Polokwane conference whatever result we have from their will not ameliorate fierce rivalry and factionalism. The politics of vengeance and disgrace will continue. Petty picketing and political goal scoring tactics will make cosmetic the serious need to deal with the HIV/AIDS pandemic, the economic policies of the country, cosmetic concerns about Zimbabwe, the politics of the arms-deal and travel-gate scandals to quote a few. A culture of dissent will to thrive and will drive the state to be defensive and dictatorial.

Some Desired Outcomes of the Polokwane Conference

One desired outcome is to do away with the Floor Crossing legislation and to incorporate the Scorpions into the South African Police Services albeit with the same mandate so that they are not subject and vulnerable to abuse and misuse by the state though our highest office of the police is suspected to have some connections with the international underground crime syndicates. This must be purged and corrected very soon.

We would desire the entire leadership of the ANC, the country, civil society, faith based communities and political parties to support the ruling leadership and keep the on their toes and cause them to account for governing the country. We would desire an economic policy that will transform poverty to prosperity for all. We shall desire the retention of independent state institutions. Life must go on after Polokwane.

Some of the Challenges Facing the Church and to be Faced by the Church Include the Following:

The church has to be clear about an agenda to drive in relation to transformation of people’s lives.

The church itself must open up to issues and questions of good governance and good leadership.

The church must widen discussions on morality, ethics and value systems.

The church has to be more visible, and should be forthright in its prophetic and pastoral functions.

The church has to pray for the government.

The church is not the enemy for the government.

The church leadership has to speak out to the government authorities about good governance and good leadership.

The church should minister to leaders, regardless of their political affiliation and religious orientation.

The Call to Exercise Maturity and Integrity

Church leaders called upon all South Africans to exercise caution and maturity when making public statements regarding the succession debate to ensure that their participation in the debate is not divisive and destructive.

They also called on all churches to set aside some time these coming weeks to offer special prayers on behalf of our country, our government and our leaders, for God’s special undertaking on the presidential succession debate and processes before, during and after the Polokwane ANC conference.

The outcome of this “Succession Debate Seminar from the Perspective of the Churches” was that churches started engaging on this debate, prayed for peace, stability, guidance and smooth processes, had an opportunity to listen to the voices from communities and church leadership as well as from Christians leading other political parties. KZNCC is facilitating continued discussions and debate at local level in Ladysmith, Eshowe, Durban, Edendale, Portshepstone and Amanzimtoti. In these gatherings, a pastoral letter containing a theological vision around “the leadership we want” will be distributed for discussion.