THE installation of a new President of South Africa, Cyril Ramaphosa, last Friday, has “instilled a sense of hope”, the Archbishop of Cape Town, Dr Thabo Makgoba, said this week. But he warned that churches in South Africa must remain vigilant against colluding with corruption.
President Jacob Zuma, who had long been accused of corruption, resigned on Thursday of last week, as his own party, the African National Congress (ANC), was about to back a motion of no confidence in him. In his speech in Pretoria, President Zuma said that he was resigning with immediate effect. “Even though I disagree with decision of the leadership of my organisation, I have always been a disciplined member of the ANC.”
He was succeeded automatically by his deputy, Mr Ramaphosa, who was chosen to lead the ANC last December.
Dr Makgoba, one of President Zuma’s most outspoken critics, called in his Christmas Eve sermon for his removal (News, 5 January). Dr Makgoba was in the South African parliament last Friday evening to hear President Ramaphosa deliver his first State of the Nation Address (SONA). In the speech, the President promised to “turn the tide of corruption in our public institutions”.
Speaking on Sunday, Dr Makgoba described the speech as “electric”. “I felt hopeful as most of the gospel values that I am calling for seemed evident in his talk,” he said.
He went on to say that he was “hopeful because the country has learnt and tasted apartheid, as well as good elements of democratic leadership and bad ones. We will hopefully wake up earlier next time. Being at SONA last Friday evening and watching the ceremony in parliament also instilled a sense of hope.”
Dr Makgoba warned, however, that there was a “danger” of churches colluding in corruption. “Corruption, as President Ramaphosa said, involves the corruptor and corruptee. It is endemic and needs all of us to root it out. Every penny stolen makes the poor poorer.”
In a statement issued on Thursday of last week, Dr Makgoba said: “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.”
The general secretary of the South African Council of Churches, the Rt Revd Malusi Mpumlwana, said on Thursday of last week that South African clergy in all denominations had been consistent and vociferous in their call for Mr Zuma to step down as the country’s president.
Bishop Mpumlwana had said a year ago that South Africa was on the verge of becoming a gangster state. He said on Thursday of last week that the Churches welcomed President Zuma’s resignation, though with regret that it had to come to this.
Earlier this month, 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.”