Churches in war of words over ex-pres­i­dent

Sunday Tribune - - FRONT PAGE - LUNGANI ZUNGU

THE South African Coun­cil of Churches (SACC) can go to hell, says Bishop Bheki Ng­cobo of the Na­tional In­ter­faith Coun­cil of South Africa (Nicsa), which has ac­cused the SACC – an in­ter-dom­i­na­tional group­ing that unites 36 mem­ber churches and or­gan­i­sa­tions – of be­ing part of a con­spir­acy to de­stroy for­mer Pres­i­dent Ja­cob Zuma.

Ng­cobo, who leads a prozuma church group­ing, is in­censed that the for­mer pres­i­dent is back in court to face charges of fraud, money laun­der­ing, cor­rup­tion and rack­e­teer­ing.

The crim­i­nal charges arise from Zuma al­legedly so­lic­it­ing bribes dur­ing the gov­ern­ment’s multi­bil­lion-rand gov­ern­ment arms deal in the mid-1990s.

Ac­cord­ing to the in­dict­ment, Zuma, who was then ANC deputy pres­i­dent and Kwazulu-natal MEC for eco­nomic de­vel­op­ment, il­lic­itly pock­eted pay­ments from the French arms com­pany, Thales, through his for­mer fi­nan­cial ad­viser, Sch­abir Shaik. This al­legedly went on from Oc­to­ber 1995 to July 2005, in a se­ries of 783 pay­ments to­talling R4,072,499.85.

Shaik was sen­tenced to 15 years in prison in 2005 based on the same ac­cu­sa­tions, but re­leased on med­i­cal pa­role in March 2009.

The SACC has been crit­i­cal of Zuma’s ten­ure in of­fice and wel­comed his res­ig­na­tion ear­lier this year.

Ng­cobo said the pros­e­cu­tion of Zuma formed part of a broader power strug­gle within the ANC.

Lead­ing a group of men of the cloth who ral­lied in sup­port of the for­mer pres­i­dent at his court ap­pear­ance in the Dur­ban High Court last week, Ng­cobo lashed out at the SACC.

“Some like the SACC have found Zuma guilty even be­fore he ap­peared in court. We can­not tol­er­ate be­ing ruled by the SACC. They are noth­ing to us but indige­nous churches. We are not look­ing for any­thing from them. They can go to hell,” Ng­cobo said.

Bishop Emer­i­tus Ru­bin Phillip of the An­gli­can Church came to the de­fence of the SACC. For­merly a leader of the Black Con­scious­ness Move­ment and deputy pres­i­dent to Steve Biko in the South African Stu­dents’ Or­gan­i­sa­tion in 1969, Phillip is renowned for his peace-mak­ing, rec­on­cil­i­a­tion and me­di­a­tion ini­tia­tives.

“I am sad­dened that part of the church has been co-opted by some of the po­lit­i­cal lead­er­ship. In­stead of stand­ing with the poor and suf­fer­ing,” Phillip said.

“They are de­fend­ing poli­cies that are in­creas­ing suf­fer­ing of our peo­ple.”

Phillip said it was prob­lem­atic when a church group­ing de­fended poli­cies that worked against the poor, cit­ing Nicsa as “one ex­am­ple”.

Ng­cobo said Nicsa sup­ported rad­i­cal eco­nomic trans­for­ma­tion, free ed­u­ca­tion and ex­pro­pri­a­tion of land with­out com­pen­sa­tion. the

PIC­TURE: DOC­TOR NG­COBO

Bishop Bheki Ng­cobo, wear­ing pur­ple, along­side Carl Niehaus, spokesper­son of Umkhonto we Sizwe Mil­i­tary Vet­er­ans’ As­so­ci­a­tion and fel­low sup­port­ers of Ja­cob Zuma dur­ing the for­mer pres­i­dent’s court ap­pear­ance in Dur­ban last week.

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