Thursday, November 17, 2011

On the road (again) to Economic fiefdom or freedom?

Malema and his band of brothers (yes, I only see brothers) are going to lodge an appeal and also push for a 'political solution' to their woes. I guess that is fair. It remains within their rights to exhaust all avenues within the constitution of their organization, to fight their case. That is not my concern. In fact, I view the latest squabble to be an internal matter within the ruling party. Yes, I know that it might have public consequences and that the matters if the ruling party is public. Afterall, they are ... the ruling party, etc, etc,

My concern lies on a different level. I have been quite impressed with the effort of the Youth League in their campaign for Economic Freedom (in my Lifetime, as well!). The long walk to Economic Freedom raised some critical concerns, more pertinently the issue of youth unemployment. I do share their concern. The question is however, how we address that and how we infuse real hope amongst the youngsters, how do we get creative over a global crisis? It's at this point where sadly, me and Youth League's roads, part ways. Its in my view, time for us to ask the more difficult and awkward questions about why we are not at a place where there is signs of real hope for our youngsters, and perhaps try other angles. Let my start with 3 questions that are foremost in my mind. (Of course, I am open to better and fresher ideas, unlike the Youth League)

1)  When are we going to have a major campaign to mobilise volunteers in our townships, preferably Youth League officebearers, to teach youngsters afterschool lessons on maths, physical sciences and accounting? (no Life Orientation and Sex education please.) I want to see the big guns in Alex, Zola, Corrie, Heidedal, Steynville, but also in Richie, Koffiefontein, and in Mhlabatini, teaching pupils the basics. This could lead to more youngsters getting university entrance with a solid maths and science foundation, and it will lead to graduates, who will be able to eventually take over the mines, but more so, they will commit to also give another poor kid a helping hand.  That's it for question number 1and the nationalization of the mines is sorted out.

2) What about the Youth League getting involved in Sports and a Mass Scale Recreation Development. These days sport in our local township schools have literally died out. (I am aware of teachers who run the extra mile. God bless your souls!). But in the bulk of government schools in townships there is no more athletics, ('rooihuis', 'groenhuis', etc. you know what I mean); no more cricket nets or soccer and netball courts to play competitive sports. Imagine if the Youth Leage start to organise local leagues, regions and National leagues,with Kenny Kunene the sponsor. Ok, I know I'm delusional now, but I'm just asking. Whilst academia is one route to earn a sustainable living, professional sport could be another. It might not help with the mines, but ..... no, it will not help with taking over the mines.

3) Let me ask a last question. Juju knows in his heart of hearts that entertainment is so critical for youngsters. He loves it too. Just think Purple. Let me ask one question: Who is the celebrity who earned the most per minute? (this is a lame bit of Trivial Persuit, but wait for the punchline!) It is Beyonce Knowles-Zee! (isn't that her husband, Jay's surname?). Anyway, my point is that the entertainment world is dominated by black people and why can the YL get involved in the SA's Got Talent stuff, the development of choirs of drama of entertainment academies and develop the talent of our young people to walk tall; to rake in the millions if need be, to use their talents to make a difference in the world. The next Michael Jackson is not waiting to be born, some-one need to inspire, to revive the seed and our youngsters can do it. Can we not have a national youthmovement of creative youngsters, inspired to work hard, are disciplined and proud of their achievements, instead of the same old, same old, berets and extra small (Made in China) T-shirts, like back in the days of the founding fathers of the Youth League (Yes, I only hear of the fathers)

I guess, I'm dreaming huh? Yes, we'll only see another round of toy-toying, of ever new political slogans and songs, conferences and speeches with the customary Viva's and Amandla's. And we all will think that at least Pres Nelson Mandela lead the country at some point. The question is whether all these old styled antics lead to economic freedom for the mass of unemployed youth? Of course not. It will lead to more political power and access to economic benefit for the purple fiefdom though.  

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Building a home for all, on solid foundations.

In various ways we are reminded of the truth that despite our different-ness and differences, we are gifts to one another. This day is remembered for the violence and the terror unleashed against unsuspecting and innocent civilians in the USA, but also after that, in Iraq and Afghanistan. We remember the shock and horror as hatred played itself out in front of us. In many instances (too many to mention!) the hatred was justified in the name of religion.

We as religious people often find justification for the hatred we mete out against people who are different from us. We become sophisticated in the ways we exclude those others who come and interrupt our comfort. If anything, the memory of 9/11 and of the so-called 'War on Terror' interrupts these comforts and remind us that we need to consciously build bridges. Unless we consciously build bridges and work against exclusion, we will remain in the vicious cycle, where another volcano bubbling under the surface, may explode any-time. I might sound like a prophet of doom. I am not. What I am (or better, want to be) is some-one who consciously add my effort to build bridges, between people. The healing of memories is critical in order to be able to find in the person on the other side of the fence, a sister or a brother. Hence, I am not one of those who want us to believe that we should forget the history and simply move on. We cannot. The myths of the past will haunt us and the empires that are built on those foundations of sand, will collapse, sooner or later. In building bridges, we start to build our future, based on a new foundation, i.e. the relationships that hold us together. This we do with the view of building a home for all.

It is indeed the message of most religions that its in dreaming of a new world of brother and sisterhood that we find sense on our present struggles. In my faith tradition, we believe that Jesus Christ came to restore not only our relationship with God, but also, that through him, we are reconciled to one another and this good news is embodied in a new alternative household. This is a household, which challenge and transgress worldly borders and separations. It is in living in this new home, that we become a gift to the world.

Of course, for most of our history, we as faith communities have not been this gift to the world. We have supported and sustained exclusion; we have sowed seeds which bear bitter fruit. Today, perhaps we can only pray, God have mercy on us to help building bridges, towards a household for all.

Thursday, July 07, 2011

Beat Life.... Moving on the Beat of Life

Its quite a challenge to remain committed to values you hold dear and grew up with, and manage the political dances when you want to move up in life, or beat the struggles we are confronted with. Or is it? Perhaps this is the internal struggles of liberation movements. During the struggle you fight off an enemy and construct your identity against that of the enemy. They are evil, we are divine; they unjust, we are just; support for them, is being a sell-out, support for us, mark you as a comrade.

It's not so easy anymore. In the midst of political negotiations, trade-offs, a new set of challenges, the lines becomes blurry. We make new discoveries: the enemy becomes human, the issues more complicated, the poor, unjust, marginalised, etc, it is discovered, is also human. They are not simply innocent anymore, they're desperate, violent, sometimes downright cruel, and so we start to dance. We spin around our clinical analysis of the past, the mechanical schemes, which sustained our cause. Our dance today, against the background of our failures, becomes a parody of the noble struggles and blood that was shed.

Dance might also have a positive spin to it. It's not all negative. Its not simply about replaying and feeling the old long-play records (LP's). Life is indeed more then a simple black or white, heaven or hell, just and evil scheme. Whilst you might want to remain a clinical scientist in a squeecky clean lab, life happens irrespective. In all its messy-ness, off-coloured-ness and blended experiences and creativity and passion. And in the midst of this, a creative, imaginative God is dancing, as the beat of life itself. As we start to dance along with our father, we discover that we also move to the rhythms of life; we sense the experience, we feel the beat, we move along. We realise that our values are not changed, by the realities of life, our values are embedded in the way we move and have our being. Yes, it's not about moving 'up in life'; it's about moving to the beat of life. It's being free to move. Now that is true liberation, freedom, moving on... the beat of life.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

An African tale of 1974... read in 2011

I'm still haunted by this tale, by John Mbiti, told in 1974.

He learned German, Greek, French, Latin, Hebrew, in addition to English, church history, systematics, homiletics, exegesis, and pastoralia, as one part of the requirements for his degree. The other part, the dissertation, he wrote on some obscure theologian of the Middle Ages. Finally, het got what he wanted: a Doctorate in Theology. It took him nine and a half years altogether, from the time he left his home untill he passed his orals and set off to return. He was anxious to reach home as soon as possible, so he flew, and he was glad to pay for his excess baggage, which after all, consisted only of the Bible in the various languages he had learned, plus Bultman, Barth, Bonhoeffer, Brunner, Buber, Cone, K√ľng, Moltman, Niebuhr, Tillich, Christianity Today, Time Magazine...

At home, relatives, neighbours, old friends, dancers, musicians, drums, dogs, cats, all gather to welcome him back. The fatted calf are killed; meat roasted; girls giggle as they survey him surrounded by his excess baggage; young children have their imagination rewarded-they had only heard about him but now they see him; he, of course, does not know them by name. He must tell about his experiences overseas, for everyone has come to eat, to rejoice, to listen to their hero who has studied so many northern languages, whyo has read so many theological books, who is the hope of their small, but fast growing church, the very incarnation of theological learning. People bear with him patiently as he struggles to speak his own language, as occasionally he seeks the help of an interpreter from English. They are used to sitting down and making time; nobody is in a hurry; speech is not a matter of life and death. Dancing, jubilation, eating, feasting-all these go on as if there were nothing else to do, because the man for whom everybody had waited has finally returned.

Suddenly there is a shriek. Someone has fallen to the ground. It is his older sister, now a married women with six children and still going strong. He rushes to her. People make room for him, and watch him. "Let's take her to the hospital," he calls urgently. They are stunned. He becomes quiet. They all look at him bending over her. Why doesn't someone respond to his advice? Finally a schoolboy says, "Sir, the nearest hospital is 50 miles away, and there are few busses that go there." Someone else says, "She is possessed. Hospitals will not cure her!" The chief says to him, "You have been studying theology overseas for 10 years. Now help your sister. She is troubled by the spirit of he great aunt." Slowly he goes to get Bultman, looks at the index, finds what he wants, reads again about spirit posession in the New Testament. Of course he gets an answer: Bultman has demythologised it. He insists that his sister is not possessed. The people shout, "Help your sister; she is possessed!" He shouts back, "But Bultman has demythologised demon possession."
[This story is entirely fictional and is not based on the experience of a real person]
Fantasy? No, for these are the realities of our time.....

Reading this tale in 2011, I wonder... Has anything changed?

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Yes, David Wilkerson inspired me too.

Some might be utterly surprised by this confession, but its true. I am a big fan of 'The cross and the switchblade', the book. In my teen years, this is perhaps the book that played the biggest role in shaping my calling to work with young people, but more so to share the love of God.

Of course, some of you might remind me that Wilkerson was a very conservative (perhaps righwing?) Baptist pastor. Perhaps, his interpretation of history and scripture makes the hair to stand up. Yet what we cannot deny is the fact that the story of his pioneering efforts in connecting with some of the fiercest gangcrews, and marginalised young people in New York City, hit a nerve amongst people growing up in impoverished gang and drug infested communities. In these communities it (still) seems as if God's people have left the city and handed it over to the Devil. Wilkerson's theology of course didn't allow him to probe deeper into the social factors which gave birth to these realities. For him, the change in these communities would come, as individual young people made a decision to accept Jesus Christ. This, he felt would bring change in the communities.

Today we are still confronted with new generations of gangsters and new drugs in the States and other cities of the world. I don't see this as a failure; I do see this as a reminder that he was also human afterall. One need to see Wilkerson, the Baptist pastor, as a image of something more. He was a prototype, and in that sense an inspiration for many of us, for youth ministy or the being church not merely as a means for institutional survival, but as an embodiment of a love that take God's world serious. Yes, this is a divinely inspired love that is still human and therefore in many ways flawed and open to critique. Its a love that struggled to find expression in the real world, yet the ultimate transformation of people and communities remains God's work. Pastor David Wilkerson, a son of his time, believed that God so loved this world; this dirty, broken, messy world. And he acted upon this belief. Yes, this remains Gods work, and this world is where God is still touching the lives of those who often are not clean enough, predictable and obedient enough for the church. The lines between church and world, between sacred and secular is not so clear anymore, because God's love is much more then our little circles and humanly flawed efforts, yet our hearts are taken up in God's passion for the excluded.

Perhaps in this sense, it was another childhood hero, Erik Estrada, who in the movie played the role of Nicky Cruz, former gangleader turned evangelist, who did it for me. After all these years, I still don't know what turned me on. What I do know is that I also wanted to share in God's love with a community. This is still a dream and I am often so aware that I haven't yet been able to fullfil the promise. At least this can explain my restlessness and impatience with my own faithtradition and church and with a formalism that's cold towards the dire needs of our trapped communities and untapped generation (a term coined by David and Don Wilkerson, published in 'The Untapped Generation, 1971).

Whatever one wants to say about Wilkerson, one need to remember that he was one of the few willing to get out and do something, willing to risk not just ridicule and misunderstanding or risk making mistakes and errors in judgement, but more so, he was willing to die. Perhaps that's the biggest factor which inspired a young teenager, trying to find his way, in the ganglands of the Coloured communities in South Africa.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Ironies of Freedom....

The Presidency in South Africa asked us: what does freedom means to you? The last few weeks, I've been thinking a lot about freedom or liberation, which I use interchangeably. This has been in the context of the brutal crackdowns by governments on pro-democracy demonstrators, but also the ongoing relentless cry, throughout history: let my people go!

This challenge leaves me with many questions, but let me rather refer to a few bitter ironies. Hopefully these random pieces of my mind or better, these unanswered agonies, might help us to look at our own story, as South Africans awaiting Freedom Day tomorrow (I put it in this way, aware of the bit of ambiguity in my formulation!).

For me, the first obvious irony is staring at us in our neigbourhood. Here, we squirm at the ugly reality that those who were paraded as the paragons of liberation, has turn out to be the worst enemies of freedom. I'm refering of course to our very own neighbourhood villian, Robert Mugabe, once the leader of the liberation from colonialism, in the then Rhodesia. A few years into his reign, in the midst of the liberationspeak and reconciliation gestures, there were disturbing rumours of human rights abuses against his political opponents. At that stage, only a few would dare to speak out for fear of being branded an enemy of the state or worst a 'counter-revolutionary'. Within this discourse, everyone wanted to be revolutionaries and they would all pat themselves on the back, invoking notions like 'comrade', 'cadre', 'footsoldier', etc. Anyway, at least in Zimbabwe, this farce has been exposed. These so-called 'liberation fighters', turned out to be agents of the same cruel system, clobbering the poor and political opponents into submission. Their dreams for the nation, it dawned, was not justice or freedom, but fantacies of capitalist grandeur, supping the finest of whiskey, jetting in and out of the best European fashion capitals, and of course, licking sushi from the bodies of white models. In the meantime, they keep the duped masses enthralled by their tales of their heroism in the struggle, swearing at any opportunity at the evil Europe and dead white colonialists, yet craving secretly to be in their shoes, or better, in their beds. Freedom for them, is to be white, to be rich, to show that we can bling it better then the old master.

There's a second irony, in that the support for the anti-colonialist struggles, the allies who used to support the liberationstruggles, has turned out to be the worst criminals against freedom, back home. The Great Socialist People's Libyan Arab Jamahiriya, or better known as Libya, under Gaddafi supported liberation struggles and post-colonial states, propping up regimes with trade, weapons and soldiers. This kind of comradeship gave him the audacity to accounce himself as the Brother-Leader of the United States of Africa, with its seat in his hometown, Sirte. Today, everyone laugh at this idea for obvious reasons, yet last year Gaddafi was a respected trade partner, so much so that the South African President recently, at the 'very successful' AU resolution of the Libyan conflict, still refered to him, as our 'brother-leader'. The point is, we know now who this person really is and what the point was of his support for the anti-colonial struggles. We know now what their definition of liberation means. There was no such thing as national sovereignty, nor socialism, let alone freedom from imperialism where the resources and wealth are shared amongst the people. It was the defence of his and his family fiefdom, the clinging to power, at all costs, which motivated his foreign policy. His current 'scorched earth' response to the uprising of younger generations, asking for freedom to decide their own future, radically exposes his definition of liberation as he buy his grip over Africa. This is the reality of the postcolony, where the cruel realities after the political take-over remains intimately ingrained in personal selves and the systems of power colonies inherit, perpetuate and brutally protect.

There is however another irony which gives hope. It is the irony that the younger generations, the children of the postcolony, those born after the heroic liberation struggles, are redefining what true freedom means. This is a remix of opaque strugglesongs for a new set. I'm here not simplistically refering to a person of a particular age; I'm refering to those who share a particular social consciousness forged in the midst of a self-conscious struggle for freedom, against the contemporary empires. This is an ongoing struggle which are not naive about human nature and great leaders or great institutions. This social consciousness insists on access to information and decisionmaking, they declare the agency of all people, irrespective of past loyalites, in the quest for social transformation; theyr are driven by the values of equality and integrity.

Our generation hoped that these coordinates would have been the cornerstones of today's free post-colonial society and that the current crop of public leaders would have been the custodians of it. We felt that this is indeed the space within which freedom reigns. Yet, it didn't happen. And so the vulnerable, the oppressed still await their freedom day. This is not a passive wait, the biggest irony is that we find this freedom allready present, on the flipside of the failures of the older generations of liberators. We find it in the uprisings of these younger generations. I personally don't see it merely in the youth formations of political parties irrespective of their rhetoric. What I find is that they merely aspire to emulate the first generation of post-colonial despots. Their eye is on the candy. Perhaps, if you look inside these ghost-towns, you might find the true custodians of these values, already been assasinated in the powergames of post-colonial politics. I find the inklings of freedom in young people, who are not duped anymore by empty liberation rhetoric and songs of fat youth leaders, surrounded by elite private security personel.

This freedom ironically is graphically demonstrated in the Andries Tatanes from obscure, poor townships. He was from nowwhere in the Free State, a place called Meqheleng. Yet, he was from somewhere, some one, a committed maths tutor, an unarmed protester against the lack of justice in post-colonial South Africa, a young father, who apparantly wanted to prevent the police from brutally attacking the older people in the march. He was shot dead at close range by riot police.

It's happening also in Swaziland, Zimbabwe, Libya, Mauritania, Bahrain, Syria.

It's happening as the Andries Tatane's are obeying the call to serve the cause of justice, even though the authorities and human laws might forbid them and punishment and suffering be the consequence.

It's in the free choice for this kind of service to the vulnerable, a service for which you are willing to die.

It's here that freedom rings, mr President.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

New images from Africa | Dreaming of a Human Face

Images quickly flip over our screens, opening up new worlds, as ordinary, young Africans are calling for justice and peace. On the other side, we see the powerful and their wealthy families who, with power and violence, cling desperately to their positions and ill-gotten gain, by uprooting thousands and brutally murdering others. It just brings disgust and horror, especially when we discover that our own leaders and business people remain cautious and quiet.

What happened the last few weeks in North Africa and the Middle-East does have an impact on us here on the southern tip of Africa. Yet, in many faith-communities, some go in with their ‘spiritual’ lives, almost as if nothing happened. Yet it does affect us, because this is one Africa, one world, Gods world.

I was part of a gathering of religious leaders, who grappled recently with the question, how do we bring these different images together, how can faith communities bring about, unity, reconciliation and justice? This was a consultation on the Accra Confession.

How are we to respond then to the revolts happening. Firstly, it is critical to understand from North-Africa, but also other parts of Africa, for example Ivory Coast, what is happening. A superficial reading, might understand this to be a spontaneous explosion of build-up expectations. The self-immolation of the 26 year old, Tunisian fruit seller, Mohamed Bouazizi, after he simply had enough of police brutality, is according to this analysis, a moment of catharsis. Hence, this is a spontaneous uprising of hope against merciless repression.

I agree with this explosion of hope, however the shifts taking place, are much deeper and it was really other tweeters, who opened my eyes to these deeper realities. This reading takes serious the agency of younger generations in a new world. Bouazizi represents the experience of younger generations, who grew up in a skewed world, economically and culturally. This generation however also have within themselves, dreams and images of a different world, a world which they try to create for themselves. These dreams are based on the possibility; at least as experienced in new virtual spaces of social media, where the world is weaved into one. Here the important question is whether you are part of the bigger net. If not, then you don't have 'friends', connections or 'followers'. Indeed, as some-one said recently, social media is changing the meaning of these words. But more importantly, it’s in these networks where stories, information and value flows together. The point is therefore not so much to Facebook (verb!), but to connect; or its not to Google (verb), but to get the information.

In this matrix, the image of one fruit seller’s disgust under a repressive police-force, and skewed economic system are transposed within minutes and flows seamlessly, over my timeline and it becomes our disgust. A social net are formed of activists on the ground, others in exile/diaspora and a band of cell-phone or citizen journalists. Now the name Bouazizi and his unknown hometown called Sidi Bouzid gets a hastag # and becomes a powerful symbol which binds other unknown people together, people discontent with the exploitation of unknown people, other ordinary and wounded fruit sellers. Others start to share their own stories and experiences of exploitation and soon it becomes a social movement, a movement of unknown and unacknowledged, yet who are now recognised and acknowledged within this network. They get a name, a powerful name, which connects the timelines of thousands, if not millions over the globe. This is another face of globalisation, linked by #Bouazizi or #SidiBouzid.

In a different time Bouazizi would have remained an unknown figure in a far-off country where police brutality and economic tyranny against the nameless, could have continued. We would have explained: of course, we don’t know them; we didn’t know it all happened. During that time government forces could have decimated masses of nameless peoples, put on their imperial robe and convinced the masses via images from a bunker on state TV, that they are actually appointed by God and therefore untouchable.

It doesn’t work like that anymore. Nothing stays hidden anymore and because of that, we are in this together and we are responsible. Now, the 'international community' are implicated in the murders of a cruel dictator,if they remain quiet. Now, Wikileaks and social networks can function as tools, which support people of hope, the new prophets to cast down contemporary false images. It helps us to see what is really going on. It cast light onto the dark corners. The emperor is unmasked, dethroned.

So, today, we have a new struggle of faith. This is a struggle which is embedded in a generation, who dreams, but also a generation who connects and are part of a network. She is perhaps a young Egyptian student, who simply wants to finish her medical studies to serve her community. He is a fruitseller or a mechanic, like his father, who loves to stretch his abilities in fixing things. They are a group of young mothers, from Burkina Faso, who works in the cocoa plantations in Ivory Coast, for their family back home. It is a interconnected dream and struggle where erstwhile ordinary, unknown people have a face, a name; they are recognized and acknowledged as the having dignity. Here the color, gender or language in which you worship God, doesn’t count. What counts, is Gods dream, a dream of fullness of life for all. Steve Biko describes this dream as follows, ‘We believe that in the long run Africa's special contribution to the world will be in this field of human relationship. The great powers of the world may have done wonders in giving the world an industrial and military look, but the great gift still has to come from Africa-giving the world a more human face' (1971:51)

Monday, February 14, 2011

URCSA leaders, blast Zuma and the ANC: 'South Africa is no heaven under the ANC'

In perhaps the strongest response by a church to the utterances of the ANC president, the URCSA leadership has come our guns blazing, on the apparant 'misuse of religion'. I'm thrilled. Listen to this:

The Uniting Reformed Church in Southern Africa has learned with great concern and sadness of the misuse of religion for the umpteenth time, by the African National Congress (ANC), solely for cheap political ends. It was not long ago, as recently as 2008, that another leader in the ANC, the Premier of the Free State, Mr. Ace Magashule, according to newspaper reports, said that: “Zuma suffers like Jesus.” Mr. Magashule then said, “Jesus was prosecuted. He was called names and was betrayed. This is the same kind of suffering that Mr. Zuma had to endure in recent times…”

According to newspaper reports, Mr. Zuma, President of the ANC, among other things, said on an electioneering campaign, “When you vote for the ANC, you are also choosing to go to heaven. When you don’t vote for the ANC you should know that you are choosing that man who carries a fork (the devil)… who cooks people. When you get up there (heaven), there are different cards used, but when you have an ANC card, you will go to heaven.”

In the Christian faith, the Bible and its Confessions, heaven has a fundamental significance as the abode of God and for those closely associated with him. Traditionally Christianity has taught heaven as a place of eternal life, and a Kingdom of God. As Christians we believe Jesus Christ our Saviour took up His place at the right hand of God, after His ascension, from where He will return to judge humankind. Heaven in our understanding is also a reverent periphrasis for God. The Bible, when it speaks of heaven, it speaks of the “Kingdom of heaven”, which belongs to God.
Heaven is furthermore understood in the Bible as the peaceful condition on a New Earth (Revelations 21, Isaiah 2:2-4, 9:7). Heaven speaks of bodily perfection: No hunger, thirst, death, sickness, and no tears (Isaiah 1:25, Jeremiah 31:12-13). Heaven speaks of ruined cities that will once again be inhabited by people and flocks of sheep (Amos 19:14, Isaiah: 14, 61:4-5)

For Mr. Jacob Zuma, president of the ANC, and president of our country, to equate the ANC with the above beliefs of Christians, about heaven, is to defile one of the core beliefs of the Christian community not only in South Africa, but of the Christian family, around the world. It is unbecoming of somebody, like Mr. Zuma, who presides over a nation of many faiths and in whose faith the religious concept of heaven plays a significant role.
No ANC membership card will get anyone to heaven or guarantee an automatic pass to heaven. According to Christian faith, the only way to heaven is repentance and accepting Jesus Christ as Lord and Saviour.

South Africa is no heaven under the ANC. Daily tears flow from the eyes of our citizens, because they are victims of murder and other types of violent crime. Poverty and unemployment increase day by the day. Children must attend classes in the open without anything decent to sit on. Delivery of services by the government is despicable to say the least. This is not heaven, if anything for many South Africans, this is hell.

The president of the ANC has clearly no respect for what we hold dear as people of faith. We call on the president of the ANC and his organization not to misuse religion for cheap party political gains or to prop up their election campaign with the misuse of religion and religious coercion. The president of the ANC should sell his party’s policies to the nation and not use scare tactics by misusing people’s deeply held beliefs.

No amount of spin-doctoring by the ANC will be enough to cover up this, yet another insult, to the Christian faith. Mr. Zuma, in his capacity as president of South Africa, should apologize to the Christian Community for his insensitivity, because he presides over a nation of many faiths.

The Uniting Reformed Church in Southern Africa (URCSA) rejects the utterances made by Mr. Zuma, president of the ANC. The New and real South Africa stands for religious respect and tolerance, which the president of the ANC and the ANC from time to time disrespect.

In light of this yet another despicable occurrence, the leadership of the Uniting Reformed Church in Southern Africa has no other choice, but to call upon all its members, to search their conscience before God, to think carefully and ask themselves , if they can vote in this coming election for any party who has no respect for their faith.
What we need in South Africa is an electorate who votes on moral grounds.

Issued by: The Executive/Moderamen of the Uniting Reformed Church in Southern Africa (URCSA)
Prof. Thias Kgatla (Moderator)
Rev Dr Mary- Ann Plaatjies – Huffel (Deputy- Moderator)
Rev Dr Dawid Kuyler (Scribe/ Executive Secretary)
Rev Godfrey Betha (Actuarius)
Rev Dr LJ Modise
Rev Dr Henry G Platt
Rev. PM Moloi

Distributed by: Rev Daniel Kuys
(Media spokesperson of the Moderamen /Executive of the General Synod of the Uniting Reformed Church in Southern Africa)

Friday, February 04, 2011

Mubarak, simply don't get it.

Perhaps one of the more pressing challenges facing Mubarak's generation of tyrants, is the fact that they simply don't get it. Some might argue that he is trying his best: He appeared in his toy TV station, all dressed up and ...well... nowhere to go. He send in the police, the army, the veterans, the mobs to restore peace, but the people in Liberation Square is simply going nowhere. It's obvious: he didn't get the message, its time for him to go.

I would however want to probe deeper, because here's a lesson to be learnt. The issue is not simply that another dictator is being shown the door. Of course that is the main thing happening here and like many other tyrants, its clear, they don't simply hand over power to their people. Let's remind ourselves of the words of Biko,
'We must accept that no group, however benevolent, can ever hand power to the vanquished on a plate. We must accept that the limits of the tyrants are prescribed by the endurance of those whom they oppressed....the system concedes nothing without demand'
We must therefor salute our sisters and brothers up in the North, the Egyptians and Tunisians for standing up for their (our) freedom and indeed this struggle will continue, in many other parts of the world.

But there is something else. Its something that I pick up from the responses to the uprising, also in traditional media. Its not clear in my head yet; its just a gut feeling. Its seems to me that the constant frantic speculation about which parties are involved, about Islamic fundamentalism and about which leaders are waiting in the wing, etc...suggest something else. These commentators seemingly know what will happen and expect more of the same. They think (like Mubarak and his generation) that they know this game. They know the passionate youth and yes, 'this too shall pass'. After this, everything will return to 'normal'. Folks, I'm not so sure about this. It seems to me that this 'organic' and indeed social phenomenon is something different and yes, we will have to wait and see how it will pans out. For now there are some indications of what's to come: They don't march under anyone's or party's banner; political parties were left behind or wake up very late and still don't get it. Its clear, the traditional mediahouses are still playing catch-up. They follow, dazed, these movements and expressions; These often morph into new expressions, whether it be organising, social care in the streets, in houses of worship, volunteer community groups protecting the vulnerable, family-based carnivals, prayer meetings, quick-mix self-protection units and protections units for the cultural heritage, etc... The list goes on and here we see it will continue to invent new ways in which humanity's urge for being, grow through the ruins of an old world.

For me this is fascinating, this is life evolving...its something that cannot be controlled, let alone crushed. What Mubarak and his ilk don't get is that the game has not changed; but that there is another game at play and he simply don't have the capacity to be part of it. This will happen with Mugabe as well.

Wednesday, February 02, 2011

In solidarity, with Egypt-Frantz Fanon

I'm reading Fanon's book 'Black Skin, White Masks' and are struck by his broad sense of solidarity, when it comes to injustice in the world. This comes in the context of the struggles of people against injustices all over the post-independant continent. He qoutes, Karl Jaspers extensively,

There exists amongst men [sic] because they are men, a solidarity through which each shares responsibility for every injustice and every wrong committed in the world, and espescially for crimes that are committed in his presence or of which he cannot be ignorant. If I do not do whatever I can to prevent them, I am an accomplice in them. If I have not risked my life in order to prevent the murder of other men, if I have stood silent, I feel guilty in a sense that cannot in any adequate fashion be understood juridically, or politically, or morally..... That I am still alive after such things have been done weighs on me as a guilt that cannot be expiated.
Somewhere in the heart of human relations an absolute command imposes itself: In case of criminal attack or of living conditions that threaten phsyical being, accept life only for all together, otherwise not at all.
[La culpabilite allemande, p 60-61]

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Doing theology in South Africa, call for papers.

Can a distinctively South African way of doing theology be identified? How does one capture contemporary South African theological discourse? How is “South African theology” different from other regions in Africa and elsewhere in the world? Is it at all possible to address such questions?

The Theological Society of South Africa will explore these questions under the theme, “A distinctly South African way of doing theology? Revisiting and gathering various strands of contextual theology”

For more info check the MISSIO-LOGICAL blog

Monday, January 17, 2011

Tunisia, is in us...

For many of us, Africans, Tunisia is a great soccer team. The last few weeks, for some of us, especially those here in the Southern tip of Africa, the name has become a sign of hope. The dreams for change, for our voices to be heard, are the dreams of the people of Tunisia, as they rose up against a dictatorship, within their own country. Tunisia has become more then a soccerteam, they've become part of us. They are alive in the dreams for change, for justice.

The us that I refer to are perhaps, the cries for justice in Zimbabwe, where another dictator, Robert Mugabe and his cronies, has been looting the breadbasket of Africa for 3 decades now. None of his liberation buddies want to say anything or speak up for the poor people of Zimbabwe, because after-all, he is black and therefore it will be embarrassing to the liberation, to say anything against him. But also, South Africa, after 17 years of ANC rule, is sliding into a state, which only favors those connected to the President in power. Those who stand in line to take over the reins, in the ANC Youth League, already knows how to squander the tax-payers money, and how to pay favors to friends and family. Its becoming endemic, and slowly its becoming part of the culture within the ruling party. There is also here a cry for justice, as the poor continues to suffer and as political enemies are ruthlessly dealt with.

So the dream of liberation still lives within us. The hope for a fundamental transformation of the economic system and realities, still fuels a struggle, at the southern tip of Africa. Its within this context that the dreams of Tunisia, the most northern tip of the continent connect with us. But more so, its the activism, the consistent and relentless marches, demonstrations and writings of ordinary people, the agency of the people, that has won our heart. Its in us, as we start this year, Tunisia is in our hearts, in our activism, in us, as we march forward to take down the Ben Ali's of this world.

Friday, January 14, 2011

A Shift in North-Africa...for who?

Is there a reformation taking place within Islam ? Some people believe so. They also suggest that this tectonic shift has the potential to change the face, not only of the Arab world, but also the rest of the world. I have to admit, I still have to get my head around this kind of thinking. The key question for me is whose interests will these shifts serve. What I do observe though is that we see a perhaps a shift of sorts unfolding, errupting in North African states, like Tunisia, Algeria and perhaps also Egypt(?).

If anything, I think there is certianly a painful and bloodsoaked new birth taking place. Reading Fanon, places these shifts in a historical context. But more so, Fanon helps to make me see that the postcolonial political machines, also carried within themselves the seed of their own destruction. Its as if that old doctrine of Augustine, (bishop from Hippo) the doctrine of total depravity, loom large over the excesses of these governments. Unless leaders and their families and friends are kept in check by a vigilant and informed civil society, then they run amock, irrespective of their religious identity or the shifts taking place there. It seems critical to note that it's rather a vigilant and critical civil society, which keep governments, (but also rligious communities!) in check, to serve the needs of all.