Clergy’s role in the Strug­gle in the spot­light

Weekend Argus (Sunday Edition) - - METRO - DON MAKATILE

THE his­tor­i­cal role of the clergy – es­pe­cially the of­fice of the chap­lain-gen­eral – in the gov­ern­ing party has come un­der sharp scru­tiny af­ter the ut­ter­ances of the in­cum­bent, Rev­erend Vuk­ile Me­hana, went vi­ral on so­cial me­dia.

In a taped tele­phone con­ver­sa­tion be­tween Me­hana and an­other el­der of the Methodist Church, the chap­lain-gen­eral of the ANC is heard mak­ing dis­parag­ing re­marks about the role of fe­male priests in the church.

In a state­ment, the party quickly moved to dis­tance it­self from Me­hana’s views, af­ter it had “noted with dis­ap­point­ment” the ut­ter­ances at­trib­uted to Me­hana.

The state­ment con­tin­ued: “The deroga­tory re­marks about women have no place in our coun­try, where our Con­sti­tu­tion en­cour­ages all of us to work for a truly non-sex­ist so­ci­ety.

“The ANC has in­formed the pre­sid­ing bishop of the Methodist Church of South Africa, Bishop Zipho Siwa, that Rev­erend Me­hana will not of­fi­ci­ate at the Jan­uary 8th cel­e­bra­tions planned for next week. The Methodist Church ap­pealed for space to deal with this mat­ter in­ter­nally.”

Twit­ter was aflame with opin­ions, from the likes of Anda Bici, who was quick to lo­cate the clergy in­side the ANC: “My brief un­der­stat­ing is that at the for­ma­tion of the ANC in 1912 or shortly be­fore, the first as­sign­ment of the ANC was a prayer that came from the Bloem­fontein Con­fer­ence where the ANC was con­ceived as a move­ment. Then that be­came the tra­di­tion.”

Bici said: “One of the things that is un­said, which is the fa­ther of non-racial­ism, is Rev­erend Tiyo Soga.

“Im­por­tantly, it is Rev­erend Soga who com­posed Liza­lis’ idinga Lakho Thixo wenyaniso.”

The Xhosa hymn was the first to be sung at the open­ing of the con­fer­ence that founded the ANC in 1912 in Man­gaung. It has since been el­e­vated to the sta­tus of a Strug­gle hymn.

Bici ar­gues that “we should also re­mem­ber that the ANC was an or­gan­i­sa­tion of the elite and not the masses. Part of the ac­cep­tance of elitism was an ap­pre­ci­a­tion of chap­laincy that will, in part, open ma­jor events by a prayer”.

“Bishop Mai­son, among oth­ers, was a chap­lain of the ANC for the greater part of the ex­ile years. He used to do this work. So was Gen­eral Fumi Gqiba.”

The broad church had since grown to ac­com­mo­date other faiths, Bici ac­knowl­edged.

Bishop Malusi Mpuml­wana, gen­eral-sec­re­tary of the SA Coun­cil of Churches (SACC) said: “The prin­ci­ple of the chap­laincy is re­lated to the fact that it was peo­ple of Chris­tian com­mit­ment who stood up in 1912.”

Mpuml­wana said that Rev­erend Ng­cayiya was the first chap­lain of the ANC ap­pointed by then pres­i­dent Se­fako Mak­gatho.

But Rev­erend HR Ng­cayiya, of the Ethiopian Church, was elected deputy chap­lain at the found­ing con­fer­ence.

Asked for com­ment, Rev­erend Me­hana would not be drawn on what ex­actly the chap­lain-gen­eral did other than of­fi­ci­at­ing at ma­jor party events.

The ANC said it should be the Methodist Church that sanc­tioned Rev­erend Me­hana through its in­ter­nal pro­cesses.

The church, through the of­fice of Pre­sid­ing Bishop Zipho Siwa, has al­ready is­sued a state­ment con­demn­ing Me­hana’s com­ments, say­ing: “The mat­ter is re­ceiv­ing at­ten­tion.”

Bishop Mpuml­wana seemed to re­call that the Methodist Church had re­solved that its mem­bers not take up po­si­tions as chap­lains of po­lit­i­cal par­ties.

The SACC would have no hold over Me­hana or any other chap­lain. Bishop Mpuml­wana said: “The SACC has no re­la­tion­ship what­so­ever with the chap­laincy of the ANC or any other po­lit­i­cal party. ”


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