25 July 2017

Denis Hurley Hall, Diakonia Centre, Durban

The Chairperson of the Diakonia Council of Churches, Revd Ian Booth;

The Executive Director, Ms Nomabelu Mvambo-Dandala;
The rest of the Leadership of Diakonia;
Esteemed Church Leaders;

Leaders of the business community and civil society formations;
Community leaders; the people of eThekwini and the rest of the KwaZulu-Natal (KZN) Province; Distinguished guests, brothers and sisters, comrades, ladies and gentlemen:

Thank you for your invitation to participate in the Conversations@Diakonia.

I must start by saying that WE LIVE IN EXTRA-ORDINARY TIMES! I feel like I’m in 1985, during the worst times in our struggle for liberation when we lived with the reality of death that was always lurking around. In this regard, the cellphone age is not very helpful. I’m happy we didn’t have cellphones during those days because they can pinpoint where I am. They can see even when I am given a lift. They see where I am turning, we are more vulnerable than we ever were. One day I said to my dear wife, please get me a cellphone that has no GPS capacity to ensure that they can’t track me. I wanted to throw away this sophisticated thing and make sure that I’m not tracked. That is where we are at the present moment. It’s extraordinary times!

In May 2017 the Minister of Safety and Security (Police) said that there were more than 35 politically motivated murders in KZN since January 2016, that is, from the beginning of preparations for elections; during and after the local government elections in August 2016 – and the country goes on with life as if nothing has happened!

In August 2016, it was reported that there were at least 20 political assassinations in the run up to the local government elections, most of them in KZN and neither the Independent Electoral Commission nor the President referred to this outrage at the election outcome announcement ceremony. More than 20 people died during an election – and these were candidates, not just ordinary people – and this country announces the election results and nobody refers to those deaths.

We have become so cold. We have accepted that people just get shot and die anytime and there is no alarm, no headlines. In the olden days, it was the brutal apartheid security police who killed us. Now, it is comrades who shoot each other and if they don’t do it themselves, they contract killers to do it for them. Those of us who are outside KZN are beginning to worry, that the time may come when these “hit squads” that are operating here in KZN, will be unleashed nationally to deal with people at a national level, and, we take it lightly; it’s ok and we go on with life. I can’t believe South Africa!

Since last year there has been overwhelming evidence related to the matter of “State Capture” to serve the interests of a handful of families in South Africa at the expense of the masses of our people. Now, all of us know that the monies involved amount to billions of Rands. This is not theory anymore or speculation, but no one has been arrested, and, there is no indication of any serious investigation as the state security organs are themselves captured.

We struggled for liberation instead, we get captured by other forces. The police can’t do what they are supposed to do. The prosecuting authority can’t do what it is supposed to do. This suggests that the State entities are almost decimated; they are captured and are used to do the wrong things. Based on the above, it is clear that this country is in big trouble – we have a very serious problem. The state organs have been captured and they serve the interests of individuals and not the national security of the people. The whole justice cluster is being neutralised and the judges are the last to be targeted. If judges get captured we will be reduced to a classical mafia state. In a mafia state, criminals determine who gets arrested and who goes to jail. In a mafia state, they even decide on a judge as well as determine your sentence. In my view, that’s where we are heading to as a country.

The former Public Protector recommended that a Judicial Commission of Enquiry be established to probe allegations of “State Capture” and we know that she had to duck and dive during the last days of her office as a Public Protector, to ensure that the information she had did not fall into the hands of those who are captured. She took a bold stand notwithstanding the risk that went with it before she retired. About ten months later the Commission is still a subject of debate instead of investigating the matter.

Where in the world have you seen a situation where the person who is a subject of allegations made, remains the person who has to make the decision about the Commission that has to investigate the allegations? It just does not make sense. This happens only in dictatorships rather than in a democracy.

The evidence coming from the Public Protector’s report, the report of the South African Council of Churches’ (SACC) Unburdening Panel, and the latest trove of Gupta related emails (what is now called “Guptaleaks”) is frightening. It is loads and loads of evidence and indicators suggesting that people acted with impunity. They operated like nobody would ever know about it, it was brazen. They did whatever they did without much effort to hide their tracks because they believed that they had so much power or, were covered by people in powerful places that they did not need to worry.

As you would know, I’ve said before that, those who think power does not come to an end, are making a big mistake. Power does come to an end. When you have power you must use it in a responsible way because the day will come when power will come to an end, unless you are God! Nobody has held power forever. There are these dictators who took over governments on the continent after those countries became free, but they were 21, 22, 23 year old soldiers at the time. They had say 40 years more to govern. They worked on the basis that they were young and wouldn’t die soon, and could relax. They believed that nobody would pursue them or persecute them. Where we are now is the internet age, you can’t do this for long. It will come to an end, sooner than later.

With regard to all these Gupta emails, I managed the Executive Ethics Code as secretary of Cabinet when I was in government, and I must say that many of the ministers who are implicated would fail the test of these Executive Ethics Codes. Many of them would lose their jobs about things they have done which they should not have done, yet they do it openly and Parliament just doesn’t do anything about it. One could go on and on.


The worst is that people think they can move money around – from one account to another, including moving it or laundering it – without being accountable to anybody. It’s the tax that’s going to catch up with them. The best way to catch a criminal who enriches himself or herself in a criminal way is to check the tax. Tax issues will follow them for many years to come.

The shocking part of the crisis we are facing is that the rot involves comrades we have been in the trenches together with, and in jail or in exile with. One day we are going to have to sympathise with them or cry with their families when we see them sitting in jail. It’s not going to be nice seeing people arrested and sentenced to jail terms. But when we say to them ‘stop what you are doing’, they don’t stop. Instead they lie and defend themselves whilst continuing with their criminal activities.

What is more painful and hurting for me is that almost all the veterans and stalwarts of the liberation movement, who die now, die with a sore heart. The veterans who died during the first ten years or so of the new democratic South Africa went away happy with what was happening in this country. But veterans that are passing away now – starting from Sister Bernard Ncube through to Comrade Ahmed Kathrada (Kathy) and to Mama Emma Mashinini – go with deep pain in their hearts. In fact Sister Bernard said that she could not believe this is the South Africa she suffered and sacrificed her life for. Comrade Kathy left us the letter he sent to the President which speaks for itself and has become the best message Comrade Kathy has left us.

Mme Mashinini, a trade unionist par excellence, who passed away recently, left us her book where she expresses her disappointment about what comrades were doing with the new South Africa she struggled and suffered for. She talks of ‘the hell’ South Africa had fallen into and about the leadership that was forcefully driving the country in a direction that, in her own words, was “so different from what we fought for and looked forward to.” She did not see an end to it “because the leaders are involved in it.”

Whilst billions are being stolen by a handful of families in this country many of our people continue to live under conditions of abject poverty. We did not engage in a liberation struggle for our people to remain poor (or the same). There are places in the country where it looks like the Reconstruction and Development Programme (RDP) never arrived. One example for me is one of the townships I visited in Kroonstad. The other is Mbalenhle in Secunda. The opposite of this reality is Soweto where every little road is tarred and where pavements are becoming part of the feature of the township, and so forth.

There are councillors who are elected democratically in those townships but nothing happens. It does not make sense. People say, in those failing townships, ‘we are becoming poor as others become rich.’ And this is done at their expense.

We as South Africans thought we were not the same as others. We thought we could achieve what others couldn’t. We were very idealistic about our vision. We defied apartheid because we wanted a just and equitable country and an ideal society. It was almost utopian. The churches found it easy to engage with concepts of a classless society and an equitable society as these were compatible with their theological concept of the “Kingdom of God.” This made lots of sense to lots of us, reading the scriptures. Thus our expectations of the type of society we envisioned were very high.

This is why the SACC has reduced its overall vision to ‘The South Africa We Pray For.’


This vision is a product of the renewed Council of Churches, which was in its death throes by June 2013, when all the staff at the Head Office were retrenched and the General Secretary later suspended. In the light of this crisis, former General Secretaries of the SACC came together and developed strategies to save the SACC, and bring it back to life as well as reposition it to play its prophetic role again. This resulted in the February 2014 National Conference, which elected new leadership to pursue the renewal programme ending up with a clear vision by December 2015.

The vision took the form of ‘The South Africa We Pray For.’ As many of you would know the vision has five pillars. These are:

(1) Healing and Reconciliation

(2) Fabric of Family Life

(3) Poverty and Inequality

(4) Economic Transformation, and

(5) Anchoring Democracy

The Anchoring of Democracy pillar includes issues of governance, maladministration, corruption and the challenge of loss of public trust in public institutions. This is where the “Unburdening Panel,” which is now a reference point for many comes from.

In the Pastoral Letter on the report of the “Unburdening Panel”, we talk about the PROMISE of post apartheid South Africa, that is:

“A just, reconciled, sustainable and equitable society free of racial, tribal, ethnic, xenophobic and gender prejudices, free of corruption and deprivation and with enough food and shelter for every citizen, and for each child born to grow to their God given potential.”

That’s the type of society we struggled for and this is the society we are now praying for. But prayer is not just a passive action. It means working for it. So, over and above saturating the country with prayer, which Church Leaders decided on in March 2015, it was agreed that the best way in which we can turn these pillars of ‘The South Africa We Pray For’ into reality was through what was conceptualised as a ‘ward-based form of ecumenism’ where local churches act together at local levels (where people are) to deal with challenges people are experiencing.

This is a new approach to deal with the weakness of traditional national forms of ecumenism that is expressed through leaders at a national level but doing nothing together at the local level where people are. Ward-based ecumenism finds its expression at the point of implementation of the programmes or activities encapsulated in the SACC vision referred to above which include Healing and Reconciliation; Family Fabric; Poverty and Inequality; Economic Transformation and; Anchoring Democracy.


At the June 2017 National Conference of the SACC the delegates preferred the use of the word ‘community’ form of ecumenism rather than ‘ward-based’ form of ecumenism. The view was that the word ‘ward’ was a government concept. Although this made sense to the Conference what the word ‘community’ loses is the geographic or spatial dimension of the concept of a ‘ward’. The concept of ‘local ecumenism’ was ward-based, and is more geographic than community-based.

My view is that we should leave the semantics to academics and focus instead on what we would like to achieve. What we want to see is churches within a particular geographic area working together to deal with challenges expressed through the vision of the SACC. This is the only way in which our ecumenism will be effective. The day we will say that we have an effective ecumenical movement is when local churches work together to deal with challenges, which are facing the people where they are. As long as we work in silos we will not be able to achieve the objectives we committed ourselves to.

The National Conference adopted a number of other resolutions related to the national crisis in the country. One of them deals with “State Capture” following the report of the Unburdening Panel. By February this year, the Panel had gathered enough information which suggested that some of the key ministers and key organs of government and state entities were captured to an extent that government was now serving the interests of individuals or specific families and not the people of South Africa. This raised the question of the ‘moral legitimacy’ of government.

The last time we dealt with the ‘legitimacy of the State’ was at the height of the struggle against the apartheid regime in the mid-1980s. For me, the spectre of declaring a democratically elected or constituted government morally illegitimate was unimaginable. When it was first raised in February, I resisted it and felt that it was going too far. But by March, the evidence was so overwhelming that one could not resist it anymore. What was more frightening was that the capture of government had reached a state where parallel institutions outside government were making decisions about the resources of the country. This amounted to surrendering the sovereignty of the State to private individuals and foreign entities. At this stage we could have declared the government as constitutionally illegitimate. But the churches left this to the legal fraternity.

The level of surrender of our sovereignty is practically demonstrated by what the Mayor of Ekurhuleni said to the President a few months ago in a public meeting. He pleaded with the President to ask the Guptas to ‘allow’ them to govern or ‘give’ the party ‘space’ to conduct its business. This shocking disposition of the leadership of the African National Congress (ANC) was repeated in the joint press briefing by Comrades David Mabuza and Sihle Zikalala who said exactly the same thing – asking for the Gupta’s to give them space to conduct their business.

I just can’t believe that we have come to a stage where we have to plead with an individual or family to give us space to run our country. What has happened to us? We must be ashamed of ourselves!

The failure of government leaves Parliament as the only entity that can stop government or the Executive surrendering the sovereignty of the countries to individuals or foreign entities. If Parliament fails to stop state capture, it would have to dissolve and allow for a national election, as the National Conference of the SACC resolved.

The other critical decision by the Conference was that the SACC should convene a National Convention to build a new consensus on our national values. To help South Africa to arrive at a common basis for a common, reconciled citizenship; a reconciled social and economic dispensation for the realisation of the post apartheid promise that we worked for.

The challenge though is that if leaders are elected within their party on a corrupt basis there is no reason why they would not try to corrupt the national election. Given the capture of the State it is risky as to what will happen between now and the elections in 2019. Either the governing party is able to reinvent itself, change its trajectory and liberate itself from the forces that are capturing it or its dominant faction, or if they fail, the nation will have to be the last line of defence.

The worry though is that the way in which those who are captured behave – in such a reckless manner – suggests that they don’t need to have popular support of the people. And, if you act in a way that you don’t need it, then there must be a plan of how you will remain in power. The dominant group within the governing party (government) seem not to care much about what they say or do and don’t seem to worry about what the masses of the people think or feel. This would suggest, and this is the sensitive part, that they are not planning to rely on the will of the people, but a manipulation of the process to produce the results they want.

In this regard, we must do everything possible to defend the 2019 elections in this country. If we fail we are gone. And, this is where the ward or community-based forms of ecumenism comes in. We need to link up the churches at a local level to develop a strong operational presence to be able to create an effective observer system for the elections at all voting stations.

I have learned in dealing with other conflict situations that the best way to defend the integrity of an electoral system and the outcome thereof is to focus on a voting station through party agents and observers or monitors to see the ballot papers arriving; watch the voting process; empty ballot boxes in the presence of all; seal them; watch the counting; and have all affected parties and observers sign the relevant form and; let all affected parties have copies as of the original form sent to the results centre. If this is done in all voting stations no one can corrupt the election processes.

But, not all parties can be at every voting station around the country. That is why we need churches and communities where these voting stations are to be able to get volunteers to act as observers in all voting stations. Unless you are organised to that level, you will need donors to assist you to monitor elections because it is going to be expensive.

We must make sure there is an observer at every voting station twenty-four (24) hours, around the clock until the elections are declared. That is the only way in which we can deal with the possibility of election rigging. There’s no short cut to it. We don’t need to depend on a donor. The churches are there at the local level.

A study of one ward in Soweto, that is, ward 14 showed that there were about 21 well-established churches in this ward. And, given that on the average there are about 200 people who attend services per church on a Sunday, we should have the capacity to monitor each voting station with the least possible costs. We must aim to have six (6) monitors per voting station to make sure that our presence is guaranteed. The community (local/ward) based form of ecumenism should enable us to achieve this objective. The only unavoidable costs are for training of observers, their management, supervision and trouble-shooting.

One sure thing, we are not going to allow anybody to corrupt our elections come 2019. I believe that this country can mobilise itself to defend the integrity of the elections. For me, it does not matter what method you use to mobilise the people to defend the elections. What we want is for you to get six (6) people per voting station who can walk to the station rather than those who need to be transported there to ensure that there are no mistakes that can be made or mishaps. We don’t need people who monitor as to whether or not people are fighting outside of the voting station only. But we want people who will sit at the voting station for twenty-four (24) hours to defend our democracy that people sacrificed for.

The church can do that. The church forms a quorum every Sunday where members are ministered to. This is useless or latent energy that comes to the church just to come and be blessed and go away, while there is trouble in the streets. The church can’t be there just for itself. It must be there for the people. And, until we reach that stage, we are not what God wants us to be!

Lastly, we need to act as catalysts to help resolve the economic crisis the country is facing, especially the challenge of including the black majority in the economy. As long as the historically disadvantaged because of the racist apartheid system remain outside the mainstream of the economy in this country, we will never have peace and stability. We need radical solutions to level the playing field to an extent that no one’s historical conditions, say, of poverty, will determine one’s future.

This is where the ‘Poverty and Inequality’ and the ‘Economic Transformation’ pillars of our vision come in.

We need to play our role as the Creator leads us in all these areas.