SOUTH AFRICA faced one of its worst weeks of Afrophobic violence last week: at least two foreign nationals were killed and many foreign-owned businesses were looted. At the same time, the issue of gender-based violence made headlines after a Cape Town student was murdered after going to collect a package at a suburban post office.
Church leaders on Sunday followed a call by the South African Council of Churches (SACC) for a day of prayer against violence.
Preaching in St George’s Cathedral, Cape Town, the Archbishop of Cape Town, Dr Thabo Makgoba, said: “The violence we are seeing in society, whether in individual acts of crime such as the assault and killing of women and children, or in the attacks by crowds on migrants and refugees, are indicative of an unstable society torn by pathologies and dysfunction.
“South Africa needs a turn-around strategy to address issues of equal opportunity, education, and employment.”
The general secretary of the SACC, the Rt Revd Malusi Mpumlwana, said at an interdenominational prayer service in the Methodist church in Johannesburg which was attended by Nelson Mandela’s widow, Grace Machel: “We need to deal with the shroud of silence. . . In fact, some of the pastors are the molesters, and, if we want to protect our churches, we must out everyone.”
Dr Makgoba said that the Church was “deeply disturbed by the recent orchestrated attacks on citizens from outside our country”. Together with the Primate of Nigeria, the Most Revd Nicholas Okoh, he condemned the violence and expressed his condolences to those who had lost loved ones.
“I have just attended the World Economic Forum, and the buzz-word has been ‘cross-border trade’. How can we expect other countries in Africa to trade with us when we demean and mistreat others?”, he asked.
Bishop Mpumlwana echoed this when he said: “The economy of South Africa was built on the back of neighbouring countries”: workers from Mozambique, Malawi, and Zimbabwe had been coming to work in South Africa for more than a century.
He said that many churches knew no borders, “they are in all neighbouring countries. South African church members will be bused to other countries for their conventions. Are we ready for a trans-border conflict? We think not. That is a no-win conflict.”