SACC can just go to hell, say pro-Msholizi churches

Zuma case sparks war of words among bish­ops

The Sunday Independent - - News - 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 of be­ing part of con­spir­acy to de­stroy for­mer pres­i­dent Ja­cob Zuma.

Ng­cobo, who leads a pro-Zuma church group­ing, is in­censed that the for­mer pres­i­dent is back in court fac­ing charges of fraud, money laun­der­ing, cor­rup­tion and rack­e­teer­ing.

The crim­i­nal charges, re­cently re­in­stated by the Na­tional Pros­e­cut­ing Au­thor­ity, arise from al­le­ga­tions that Zuma so­licited bribes dur­ing the multi-bil­lion-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, via his for­mer fi­nan­cial ad­viser, Sch­abir Shaik. This al­legedly went on from Oc­to­ber 1995 to July 2005 in 783 pay­ments to­talling R4 072 499.85.

While the SACC was crit­i­cal of Zuma’s ten­ure in of­fice and wel­comed his re­cent res­ig­na­tion, Ng­cobo reck­oned that his on­go­ing pros­e­cu­tion was part of a broader power strug­gle within the ANC.

Lead­ing a pack of Nicsa men of the cloth who ral­lied in sup­port of Zuma at his ap­pear­ance in the Dur­ban High Court last week, Ng­cobo lashed out at the SACC for wel­com­ing Zuma’s re­cent res­ig­na­tion.

“Some, like the South African Coun­cil of Churches, have found Zuma guilty even be­fore he ap­peared in court,” said Ng­cobo.

“We can­not tol­er­ate be­ing ruled by the SACC. They are noth­ing to us indige­nous churches in South Africa. We are not look­ing for any­thing from them. They can go to hell.”

While the SACC has not both­ered to en­ter into a war of words over Zuma, Bishop Emer­i­tus Ru­bin Phillip of the Angli­can Church has come to the de­fence of the SACC.

Phillip, for­merly a leader of the Black Con­scious­ness Move­ment and deputy pres­i­dent to Steve Biko in the South African Stu­dents’ Or­gan­i­sa­tion in 1969, is renowned for peace-mak­ing, rec­on­cil­i­a­tion and me­di­a­tion ini­tia­tives through­out KwaZulu-Na­tal.

“I am sad­dened that part of the church has been co-opted by some of the po­lit­i­cal lead­er­ship,” he said.

“In­stead of stand­ing with the poor and suf­fer­ing they are defending poli­cies that are in­creas­ing the suf­fer­ing of our peo­ple.”

Phillip said it was prob­lem­atic when church groups de­fended poli­cies that worked against the poor.

“The Na­tional In­ter­faith Coun­cil of South Africa is one ex­am­ple,” he warned. Ng­cobo ar­gues that Nicsa sup­ports rad­i­cal eco­nomic trans­for­ma­tion, free ed­u­ca­tion for poor peo­ple and the ex­pro­pri­a­tion of land with­out com­pen­sa­tion.

This also a ral­ly­ing call of the Eco­nomic Free­dom Fight­ers and the Black Land First Move­ment.

Nicsa is a merger of the Na­tional Re­li­gious Lead­ers’ Fo­rum and the Na­tional In­ter­faith Lead­ers Coun­cil. The for­ma­tion arose from a pres­i­den­tial in­ter­faith sum­mit or­gan­ised by Zuma in 2008.

Zuma de­scribed it as “the holy rev­o­lu­tion” of peo­ple of God against cor­rup­tion, moral de­gen­er­a­tion and marginal­i­sa­tion of pre­vi­ously dis­ad­van­taged peo­ple.

The re­la­tion­ship between Zuma and Nicsa has spanned more than a decade and looks set to con­tinue.

Ng­cobo and his Nicsa as­so­ciate, Bishop Vusi Dube, who also rep­re­sents the ANC on the KwaZu­luNatal provin­cial leg­is­la­ture, said they would con­tinue to mo­bilise sup­port for Zuma ahead of his next court ap­pear­ance on June 8.

Ng­cobo and Dube said those who thought they were “holier-than-thou” would be shamed when Zuma walked scot-free.

“We are go­ing to be vis­it­ing Msholozi’s homestead to show his en­e­mies that we love him and we are go­ing to de­fend him,” said Ng­cobo.

A wel­come-back cer­e­mony is planned for Zuma on April 21 at his Nkandla res­i­dence.

lungani.zungu@inl.co.za

PIC­TURE LEON LESTRADE

OP­POS­ING FORCES: Church lead­ers from the Na­tional In­ter­faith Coun­cil of South Africa rally in sup­port of for­mer pres­i­dent Ja­cob Zuma at his court ap­pear­ance on cor­rup­tion, money laun­der­ing and rack­e­teer­ing charges.

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