Melt van der Spuy: “I have a dream for SA in 2017…”

By Melt van der Spuy*

My dreams are not different from Alec’s but they are more general and, in a sense, undergirding to the very specific dreams for 2017 Alec has shared. As a vocational church and para-church leader from 2003, my dreams revolve strongly around the role of the Church and other faith communities in facilitating the resurgence of our fledgling and deeply troubled democracy.

Melt van der Spuy

During the run-up to the first democratic elections in 1994, the TRC urged all factions, parties and peoples to forgive and to receive forgiveness. The alternative to forgiveness was, at that time, too terrible to contemplate. An unspoken assumption was that the church and other faith communities would ‘unpack and process’ the initial (and emotional) act of forgiveness. Unfortunately we largely dropped the baton of processing and lived joyfully and naively in the initial afterglow of a unified government.

The shine of that initial act of granting and receiving forgiveness has long worn off. Racist acts, racist rhetoric and racist rants have become all too common in the political arena and on social media platforms. Past hurt, anger, resentment and pain has re-surfaced all too quickly because the initial act was only skin deep.

Forgiveness, both the granting and receiving thereof, is a process; and depending on the level of hurt and pain, often  a process with which people need guidance, assistance, direction and mentoring. The initial act of setting someone free from obligation and from the desire for vengeance will go a long way in releasing one from the tentacles of anger, resentment and bitterness, but unless the process of forgiveness and the ‘triggers’ that ignite that bitterness are understood and acted upon by the continual renewing of one’s mind, that thing will come back in bite you in the butt with a vengeance you will not begin to understand, nor be able to bring under control.

I dream of a South Africa in which the Church will arise and fully take up both its prophetic and its healing role in society. Prophetic as an organism that is ‘salt’ (preservative of the good in government and society) and ‘light’ (exposer of the dark and immoral in government and society). I dream of a South Africa that sees faith communities active in healing the hurts of the past by facilitating critical conversations, by journeying with those consumed by bitterness, by powerfully demonstrating that leaders ultimately serve those who they lead – and do not ‘lord it over them’, by recognising and naming the good, the neutral and the dark side contained in every single culture, and by bringing God’s healing to all peoples, since culture is not a holy cow.

I dream of a South Africa in which the goodwill of the average Joe (I believe there is an immense and underestimated amount of this goodwill) filters into the deeply divided and often infantile political arena and social media. (How sad it is to have to recognise that our political leaders are so often unbelievably infantile and grossly self-serving.)

Ultimately I dream of a South Africa where you (dear reader) will strive with me toward these signs of true forgiveness:

  • Tell nobody what they did to you.
  • Do not let them be afraid of you.
  • Don’t even let them feel guilty.
  • Let them save face.
  • Protect them from their darkest secret of which maybe only God, you and they are aware.
  • Pray for them.
  • It’s a life sentence – you do this, until it is gone, every single bitter thought, utterance or action, even if it takes you your whole life.

This is the ongoing act that will save us.


  • Reverend Melt van der Spuy is the incoming Director of DAI South Africa, transforming the way leaders lead to impact communities around the world.