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No visit to South African anti-Apartheid landmarks is complete without a pilgrimage to Regina Mundi in Soweto. Holding 7 000, it is the biggest Roman Catholic church in the country and scene of many of The Struggle’s critical gatherings. Referred to by the late Nelson Mandela as the people’s cathedral, such is its esteem the former President declared November 30 to be “Regina Mundi Day”. Apart from the sanctuary which their churches provided, another important contribution by SA’s Catholic Church is through the Jesuit Institute, which is dedicated to aiding reflection on social issues from a faith perspective. The Institute has now added its powerful voice to civic society concerns around SA’s political leadership. Specifically the majority ANC party’s reaction to the Constitutional Court’s damning judgement. The Catholic think tank is not holding back. Witness its comment that “corruption….has colonised the minds of our leadership and they can no longer think or lead clearly.” The Jesuit Institute’s contribution republished below, is a must read. It argues that enough is enough, One scandal after another proves SA’s deeply compromised President Jacob Zuma has lost his moral compass. It calls for his resignation as the first step towards a return to a moral path. – Alec Hogg
By Fr. Russell Pollitt and Dr Anthony Egan
The Jesuit Institute strongly condemns the way South Africa’s leadership has sacrificed “a better life for all” on the altar of selfishness, greed, ego, hypocrisy and dishonesty. What happened in Parliament on Tuesday shows that corruption, like a drug, has colonized the minds of our leadership and they can no longer think or lead clearly.
Speaking in Kenya last year, Pope Francis described corruption as “a path to death.” South Africa now stares that path in the face. Our public life is fast becoming dead to any sense of moral integrity. The common good, once summed up in the noble ideals of the Freedom Charter and other programmes expressing freedom for our people, is no longer that for which we strive. We have settled for the lowest common denominator of dictatorships everywhere; beneath a veneer of freedom and human rights, a self-serving elite treats the country as its personal fiefdom, the law is at best an advisory, and the people as little more than vote fodder, to be lied to always, and placated with welfare crumbs from the rich men’s tables.
Pope Francis went on to say “Each time when we accept a bribe and we put it in our pockets, we destroy our hearts, we destroy our personalities, and we destroy our country. Corruption moreover takes away our joy, our peace. Corrupt people don’t live in peace.” South Africa is not at peace and is being destroyed by those who have been consumed by corruption.
The Prophet Hosea judges Judah and Ephraim harshly “The princes of Judah have become like those who move a boundary, on them I will pour out my wrath like water. Ephraim is oppressed, crushed in judgment, because he was determined to go after vanity” (5:10-11). The people of South Africa deserve better. They do not deserve to be abused, yet again, by a government whose only interest is itself.
Scandal after scandal has been the hallmark of this presidency. Increasingly it seems that the problem may go beyond him and reflect a systematic problem with his party. The sometime party of liberation, like many liberation movements in parliamentary politics has become fat: feeding on its own people like ticks on a cow, its leadership seeks its own comfort and well being, not that of those who elected them. Feeding on its own propaganda, it thinks that it is invulnerable, even at times godlike. It attempts to use the poor as welfare grant hostages who are expected to vote up, shut up and put up with whatever seems expedient to those in power. The people of South Africa have been patient, they have afforded leadership the time and space to deal with the problems the country faces. Leadership has failed and a crisis looms. Our leadership stands judged because of their vanity.
The Jesuit Institute, like many other voices in the country, calls for president Zuma to take the only moral option he now has: resign. We call on those in the National Assembly, who have collaborated in this, to repent their failure to honour the country’s Constitution. At the very least we should see a thorough going review of our electoral system including the possible direct popular election of the president and a public vetting of candidates for cabinet positions.
We call on the leaders of all faith communities to speak out. Since 1994 we have failed in our religious obligation to promote the common good and, particularly, address those most vulnerable in society. You can longer afford to be silent, lead your people!
Furthermore, we encourage the people of South Africa to channel disappointment and despair into action to help bring about the common good every concerned citizen desires. Participate in any legal, non-violent movement/s that will show those in leadership that we are serious about accountability and that we will no longer accept corruption. Do not let the evil of despondency and lethargy win you over! The Jesuit institute welcomes initiatives like that of the alliance of civil society, church, trade unions and academic organisations who have announced that they will confront the political and economic crisis South Africa faces.
Kwanele, kwanele! Enough is enough!
- Father Russell Pollitt is the director and Dr Anthony Egan the Social Ethicist at the Jesuit Institute.
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Listen to the story of Cyril Ramaphosa's rise to presidential power, narrated by our very own Alec Hogg.