THE churches will remain the moral compass of society, the general secretary of the South African Council of Churches, the Rt Revd Malusi Mpumlwana, said on Thursday morning, hours after the dramatic resignation of President Jacob Zuma.
Speaking on South African radio, Bishop Mpumlwana said that South African clergy in all denominations have been consistent and vociferous in their call for Zuma to step down as the country’s president.
The former president has been long accused of corruption, to the extent that his own party, the African National Congress (ANC), was about to back a motion of no confidence in him. In his speech in Pretoria, Mr Zuma said that he was resigning with immediate effect. “Even though I disagree with the decision of the leadership of my organisation, I have always been a disciplined member of the ANC.”
The deputy president, Cyril Ramaphosa, who was chosen to lead the ANC last December, in preference to Mr Zuma, automatically succeeds him.
One of President Zuma’s most outspoken critics has been the Archbishop of Cape Town, Dr Thabo Makgoba (News, 5 January). On Thursday morning, the Archbishop tweeted: “Let’s roll up our sleeves and make South Africa move forward.”
In a statement, he said that the country now has a golden opportunity for a new start. “May those called upon to take up where he left off not squander the gift of this moment.
“I hope I will be speaking for many by saying we have a country to build, a new vision to shape, and a future to craft that our children will be happy to inherit. Even in this trying hour, I hope we can mobilise and direct our energies towards nation-building.”
Dr Makgoba went on: “President Zuma’s resignation is an acknowledgement that public power is to be exercised on behalf of and in service to the people of South Africa, rather than for the self-service of the incumbent.”
The president should be accountable to all South African citizens, not just his party, the Archbishop said. “The indiscretions that the outgoing President found himself embroiled in pointed to the undeniable breakdown of a contract between himself and the people he was obligated to serve, as well becoming a source of division within his party. Consequently, the country had descended to a state of painful distress.”
Bishop Mpumlwana had said a year ago that South Africa was on the verge of becoming a gangster state. He said on Thursday that the Churches welcomed President Zuma’s resignation, though with regret that it had to come to this. They had no preference over who succeeded him.
A week ago, the Bishop had closed the People’s Tribunal On Economic Crime, saying: “We must ensure that never again shall the country surrender public values to the whims of politicians, regardless of party or the leadership thereof. “
And he quoted from the prophet Amos: “Let justice roll on like a river, righteousness like a never-failing stream.”