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The SA Coun­cil of Churches (SACC) plans to send a del­e­ga­tion to Cape Town to try to con­vince MPs to re­move Pres­i­dent Ja­cob Zuma and dis­solve Par­lia­ment. The SACC – rep­re­sent­ing 36 churches and or­gan­i­sa­tions – wrote a let­ter last Wed­nes­day to Speaker Baleka Mbete ask­ing for a meet­ing.

The church lead­ers say they want to ap­peal to her con­science, and that of other MPs, to “do the right thing” by vot­ing to re­move Zuma and dis­solve the gov­ern­ment, which they say has lost moral le­git­i­macy.

This comes as Mbete con­tem­plates her next move af­ter be­ing in­structed by the Con­sti­tu­tional Court last week to make a ra­tio­nal de­ci­sion on the re­quest by op­po­si­tion par­ties to al­low MPs to cast se­cret bal­lots in the up­com­ing vote of no con­fi­dence against the pres­i­dent, cit­ing in­tim­i­da­tion of ANC MPs.

More than two weeks ago, the SACC made a call for snap elec­tions and for gov­ern­ment to be dis­solved as al­le­ga­tions of state cap­ture com­pound in the wake of the #Gup­taLeaks.

SACC gen­eral sec­re­tary Malusi Mpuml­wana said it was Par­lia­ment alone that could usher in a new gov­ern­ment. He said the cur­rent gov­ern­ment en­vi­ron­ment had be­come “too toxic”.

“Un­der any nor­mal democ­racy that [the dis­so­lu­tion] would have hap­pened by now. We want to meet with the lead­er­ship of Par­lia­ment and dis­cuss the res­o­lu­tion we took, but mainly to ap­peal to their con­sciences. The res­o­lu­tion asks for the vote to dis­solve Par­lia­ment and gov­ern­ment,” he told City Press this week.

Mpuml­wana said Par­lia­ment con­trib­uted to what ailed the coun­try by de­fend­ing Zuma in­stead of mak­ing him ac­count for the Nkandla scan­dal. Had Par­lia­ment acted then, he said, the coun­try would not now be in cri­sis.

“What needs to be clear is that we do un­der­stand that no­body out there can just call for snap elec­tions and they hap­pen. Se­condly, Par­lia­ment doesn’t dis­solve with­out its own vote, we know that,” he said. “The idea is to ap­peal to the con­science of Par­lia­ment to vote.”

It has also emerged that the or­gan­i­sa­tion’s re­quest for a pri­vate meet­ing with Zuma af­ter the 2016 Con­sti­tu­tional Court Nkandla judg­ment that he vi­o­lated his oath of of­fice was never granted.

SACC pres­i­dent Ziphoz­ihle Siwa wanted to coun­sel him and ul­ti­mately per­suade him to con­sider step­ping down, but Zuma’s of­fice didn’t con­firm the meet­ing. The next best op­tion was to meet the ANC top six lead­ers and Zuma was again to be per­suaded. But upon the ar­rival of the SACC del­e­ga­tion to the meet­ing, only three of the top six of­fi­cials were present – sec­re­tarygen­eral Gwede Man­tashe, deputy sec­re­tary-gen­eral Jessie Duarte and trea­surer gen­eral Zweli Mkhize. How­ever, the room was packed with other ANC lead­ers, in­clud­ing na­tional work­ing com­mit­tee mem­bers Lindiwe Sisulu and Jack­son Mthembu.

Of the ill-fated pri­vate meet­ing with Zuma, Mpuml­wana said: “If the pres­i­dent af­ter the meet­ing woke up and thought about it and ac­knowl­edged that he had made a gross mis­take, it was un­in­ten­tional, he re­grets it and as a re­sult he de­cided to step down with­out a de­bate in the na­tional ex­ec­u­tive com­mit­tee, no vote of no con­fi­dence – imag­ine how much hon­our he would have gained? That’s what we tried to achieve by go­ing to talk to him.”

He in­sisted that the SACC wanted to do ev­ery­thing it could to avoid em­bar­rass­ment for Zuma.

“The only rea­son we went pub­lic was, when we went to meet the top six, we were very surprised. There was only three of them and the room was full of peo­ple we didn’t even know why they were there. They all had copies of our memo. What we thought was a pri­vate meet­ing was ac­tu­ally a pub­lic meet­ing.”

Ex­plain­ing the call for Par­lia­ment to dis­solve, Mpuml­wana said Par­lia­ment was de­fi­ant, failed to ex­press re­gret af­ter the Nkandla judg­ment and no longer rep­re­sented the peo­ple.

“It can’t just be like noth­ing hap­pened, which is where we are ... Ide­ally, there should have been a vote of re­gret,” he said.

Mpuml­wana said even though they may be ig­nored, the clergy was duty-bound to cau­tion of­fi­cials pre­sid­ing over a “sin­ful gov­ern­ment” be­cause oth­er­wise they would be “party to the sin”.

Re­gard­less of the out­come of the vote of no con­fi­dence, Mpuml­wana says the SACC plans to con­vene a na­tional con­ven­tion of val­ues in Novem­ber to which ev­ery­one is in­vited, in­clud­ing op­po­si­tion par­ties and ANC stal­warts. The coun­try, he said, needed “a new con­sen­sus on our na­tional strug­gles and val­ues”.

But at the con­ven­tion there will be no room for any­one who doesn’t be­lieve in eco­nomic trans­for­ma­tion, for blacks in par­tic­u­lar, who re­main con­sumers and labour­ers in the econ­omy. “There is hope that things will come around but we don’t hold our breath on that be­cause all these politi­cians care about is them­selves and their par­ties,” he said.

“The church has al­ways formed an in­te­gral part of the fight against apartheid, so much so that the once glo­ri­ous move­ment was formed in a church.” Its first pres­i­dent, John Lan­gal­ibalele Dube, was a min­is­ter or­dained in the Con­gre­ga­tional Church in 1899. “We made the mis­take in 1994 of leav­ing our fate entirely in the hands of politi­cians. We are say­ing our pas­toral re­spon­si­bil­ity says no – we have to go back to a sit­u­a­tion where we are en­cour­aged to think about the fu­ture and let the politi­cians re­spond,” said



SACC gen­eral sec­re­tary Bishop Malusi Mpuml­wana

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