Rise up for the New Strug­gle

The fes­tive sea­son should be en­joyed with news of great joy for all South Africans. In­stead, it is marred by the per­va­sive smell of the rot that is be­ing spread by the moral pol­lu­tion of our pub­lic life

CityPress - - Voices - Thabo Mak­goba voices@city­press.co.za

After the events of the past few weeks, we must en­sure that the sac­ri­fices we and our fore­bears made for our lib­er­a­tion will not be squan­dered at the al­tar of greed and cor­rup­tion, and in the pur­suit of false gods. It is not easy to bring news of great joy or say, with­out in­hi­bi­tion: Happy Christ­mas. Many are ask­ing: Where is the joy? How can we put aside our daily cares to cel­e­brate the birth of Christ? Grow­ing, deep­en­ing dis­con­tent is pal­pa­ble in South Africa, a dis­con­tent that is caus­ing even the most beau­ti­ful days to be marred by the per­va­sive smell of the rot that is be­ing spread by the moral pol­lu­tion of our pub­lic life.

The #FeesMustFall cam­paign re­flected the dark clouds of un­hap­pi­ness, frus­tra­tion and re­bel­lion against the in­creas­ing in­equal­i­ties that con­tam­i­nate our daily lives. But whether or not you agree with the gov­ern­ment’s re­sponse to that, at least it was ra­tio­nal.

The sheer reck­less­ness of the fir­ing of for­mer fi­nance min­is­ter Nh­lanhla Nene and the fail­ure to con­sider the needs of the na­tion, es­pe­cially the needs of the poor, were stag­ger­ing. Since then, we have read shock­ing rev­e­la­tions in City Press of how cor­rupt lead­ers and mem­bers of teach­ers’ union Sadtu have cap­tured large parts of our ed­u­ca­tion sys­tem for per­sonal gain at the ex­pense of our chil­dren’s wel­fare.

Fright­en­ingly, our na­tion’s moral pol­lu­tion has spread to sec­tions of our gov­ern­ment in epi­demic pro­por­tions. If not pur­pose­fully and vig­or­ously ad­dressed, it will dis­ori­ent us, en­gulf us and even­tu­ally over­whelm us, and will deny us the pos­si­bil­ity of achiev­ing our unique po­ten­tial as a na­tion.

It some­times feels as if some of our lead­ers stopped their fight for a new South Africa to the point where they joined the ranks of the cor­rupt who im­morally amassed wealth un­der colo­nial­ism and apartheid.

Our strug­gle now should not be for the new, mul­tira­cial mid­dle class to live the way the white elite lived un­der apartheid; it should be for a new so­ci­ety, a more equal so­ci­ety, a so­ci­ety of equal­ity of op­por­tu­nity, in which the wealth that comes from new eco­nomic growth is shared among all.

Let us not make the mis­take of think­ing that the so­lu­tion to our prob­lems lies in re­plac­ing one leader with an­other. The new strug­gle is about val­ues and in­sti­tu­tions, not about per­son­al­i­ties, which is why, when church lead­ers went to see Pres­i­dent Ja­cob Zuma re­cently, we said we would work with the pres­i­dency to re­store trust in gov­ern­ment.

Work­ing with the pres­i­dency means work­ing with the in­sti­tu­tion, no mat­ter who the in­cum­bent is. We know that the abuse of our in­sti­tu­tions for po­lit­i­cal rea­sons did not be­gin with Pres­i­dent Zuma’s in­cum­bency, so whether or not he is re­placed be­fore his term ends, we need to build strong sys­tems and in­sti­tu­tions that can­not be un­der­mined by one party or one per­son’s whim.

Some of our read­ings for this sea­son al­lude to fright­en­ing signs and apoc­a­lyp­tic vi­sions – signs and vi­sions that have se­duced many fol­low­ers through the cen­turies into strange doc­trines, un­usual ex­pec­ta­tions and re­lent­less fear. Yet a close read­ing of the scrip­tures re­veals a com­fort­ing truth: that no mat­ter what the cir­cum­stances, no mat­ter how dis­mal the out­look or how bleak the di­ag­no­sis, we are heirs to the un­shake­able prom­ise that God is al­ways with us.

In the midst of our tri­als and tribu­la­tions, God is wait­ing to be born, or wait­ing to be dis­cov­ered again, no mat­ter where we are in our lives.

So as we face 2016 with its un­cer­tain­ties, its gov­er­nance chal­lenges and its threats to our well­be­ing as a na­tion, we must hold on to the be­lief that we can over­come them.

Then we must act on that be­lief: join to­gether, or­gan­ise, lobby and em­bark on what I call the New Strug­gle, the strug­gle to en­sure that the sac­ri­fices so many made for our lib­er­a­tion are not wasted; the strug­gle against greed, cor­rup­tion and nepo­tism; the strug­gle for true jus­tice, in­clud­ing eco­nomic jus­tice, and the peace from God that flows from jus­tice.

The New Strug­gle be­gan in 2015, when we saw a na­tional mo­bil­i­sa­tion of young and old against the fail­ures of lead­ers who are al­low­ing the cor­rup­tion epi­demic to rob the peo­ple of South Africa of the fruits of their hard-won free­dom, gained over many decades by the old strug­gle against apartheid.

We must use our words and ac­tions against those who put their per­sonal in­ter­ests ahead of those of the peo­ple, pro­mot­ing a cul­ture of Me in­stead of a cul­ture of We.

We must op­pose those who take and don’t give, who use hate­ful, racist and xeno­pho­bic lan­guage, who ig­nore the needs of our stu­dents, our neigh­bours and com­mu­ni­ties. We must rise up against all of this. If we learnt any­thing from the courage of our stu­dents, who said “enough is enough”, it is that we can cre­ate a so­ci­ety that is rooted in hu­man love and in God’s care for us and peo­ple ev­ery­where.

In that spirit, let us light the can­dles of hope across the coun­try, mind­ful that there are those who can­not even af­ford a can­dle.

This fes­tive sea­son, let us recog­nise that if we are to be the sig­nallers of the dawn of a new king­dom, it will in­volve us leav­ing things that blind us to the suf­fer­ing and mis­ery of oth­ers, from in­her­ited forms of priv­i­lege and wealth, and from a world-view that is com­fort­able with ex­clud­ing from the world’s re­sources those who are dif­fer­ent to us. It will in­volve a com­mit­ment to work­ing for jus­tice and peace, build­ing re­la­tion­ships that are gen­tle and nur­tur­ing, and do­ing that which the an­gels did – bring­ing news of great joy for all peo­ple.

Mak­goba is the Angli­can Arch­bishop of Cape Town. This is an edited ex­cerpt from a ser­mon he de­liv­ered at

St Ge­orge’s Cathe­dral on Christ­mas Eve

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