Don’t misread South African politics

02 November 2006


Sir, — Michael Bleby’s article on the Church in South Africa (Comment, 15 April) is ill served by its headline “The new rulers still need an opposition” and strapline “The Church in South Africa is struggling to speak against the government . . .”

 Rather oddly, the article fails to mention that Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu has been the target of a great deal of criticism precisely because he has spoken out against the disparities between rich and poor to which Michael Bleby draws attention. The ANC is a “broad church”, and is also itself in coalition with the unions through COSATU and with the Communist Party. It is the internal opposition from the Left within the party which addresses issues of inequality most meaningfully. The South African Council of Churches has lined up with such critics in proposing more redistributive policies such as the Basic Income Grant. 

 Readers of the Church Times in the UK may, therefore, be led to misread the South African situation, and conclude that the Church should now align itself with the main opposition party, the Democratic Alliance, in opposing black empowerment and policies involving positive discrimination.

 If such policies are to be criticised from the standpoint of the Christian commitment to justice, it must surely be with a view to more effectively addressing the historic imbalances and injustices of South African society.

 The temptation, as always, is to legitimise the closing of the white ranks by misrepresenting it as healthy opposition to the government. Given the huge disparities between rich and poor, the results of this could well be disastrous, not least for the white community.
Assistant Priest, Christ the King,
UK address: 36 Whitton Dene
Hounslow TW3 2JT


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