The National Executive Committee (NEC) of the SA Council of Churches (SACC) met yesterday at the University of South Africa (UNISA), in Tshwane. Many challenges facing the Church and broader society were prayerfully discussed:
The looming South African national and provincial elections, the vast opportunities offered as well as the challenges inherent therein
The SACC produced a "Public Covenant for Life", an equivalent of what is generally referred to as an election manifesto. In this Public Covenant for Life the SACC spells out what it is that voters should demand from political parties and future governments. We humbly present this Covenant as a resource to hold our government accountable to the people whom it is elected to serve. The Public Covenant for Life also places a high premium on ethical leadership in the contest of elections. The NEC is grieved by the unnecessary violence that has erupted in KZN at Nongoma and calls upon the parties involved to urgently bring it to a halt.
The NEC encourages all political leaders to avoid intimidation and language that will fuel tempers and cause violence as we near the day of our national and provincial elections. We salute the IEC for the commendable work it is doing in ensuring free, fair and credible elections. It is political parties that should control and order the behaviour of their supporters.
We call on all South Africans to maintain the order and discipline of previous democratic elections; to freely exercise their right to vote; to expose and isolate those who intimidate voters and to join the South African Civil Society Election Coalition (SACSEC) in voter education and election observation.
The reconstruction of the country's moral fibre across all sectors
The NEC demands that all our people join in the moral reconstruction of our society. The state of moral decay and spiritual malaise in our land is a vexing matter of concern. Building our nation in a chaotic situation where people are simply unable to live freely is unacceptable.
The abuse of and violence against women, children and vulnerable members of our communities must not be allowed and tolerated. Perpetrators of crime, violence and corruption must be brought to justice. Corrupt practices, the use of illegal substances and drugs must not be tolerated. Those who engage in criminal activity must be reported to the police and persecuted.
The ongoing national battle against the spread of HIV, AIDS, TB and other preventable diseases
Too many people are infected with HIV, AIDS and TB. We call on government to make antiretrovirals available freely or at affordable prices, while we urge TB patients to take their medication. Responsible sexual behaviour is imperative if we are serious to win the battle against HIV and AIDS. The SACC urges SANAC (SA National Aids Council) to increase its efforts in stopping the spread of HIV, AIDS and tuberculosis.
The problem of poverty and the increasing gap between rich and poor
The prevailing global economic crisis threatens to worsen the situation of the poor and the marginalised. Already the gap between the haves and the have-nots has reached appalling proportions in our country that is rich in so many ways. Unemployment poses a serious threat to the social and moral fibre of our nation and thus the future of our democracy. This is a challenge to our faith.
The Zimbabwe Crisis
While political efforts to deal with the crisis in Zimbabwe leave much to be desired, the NEC welcomes the most recent SADC political developments that offer an opportunity to find acceptable solutions for the creation of a democratic, peaceful and stable society in Zimbabwe. We express deep sadness and profound concern at the appalling and degrading experiences that ordinary Zimbabweans are subjected to. Many of them are experiencing unimaginable hardships, suffering, human rights violations, unjust persecution, violence, police harassment destruction of family life and death,. These and many other injustices must be priorities for a political solution to have any credibility.
While we welcome the recent breakthrough of SADC, we are disappointed at the time it took. This causes us to worry about the reconstruction efforts that have become urgent, as the situation calls for all parties to collaborate in addressing what has become a humanitarian crisis.
The NEC thanks churches, other organisations and people of goodwill that are providing refuge and support to thousands of Zimbabweans that have been displaced by the violence, human rights violations, cholera, hunger and starvation in Zimbabwe. Against this backdrop we call for the removal of Mr Robert Mugabe from any public office.
The NEC commits to join in the hunger strike campaign of South African civil society organisations, while urging its member churches to use Ash Wednesday as a day to demonstrate support for this campaign.
The SACC and her member churches are ready to assist in immediate humanitarian relief, processes of peace-building, healing and reconciliation that will bring the peace and justice that all Zimbabweans deserve. We accordingly offer to collaborate with Zimbabwean churches, the SADC and other agencies that are commitment to finding lasting solutions informed by the will of the people of Zimbabwe.
The Israeli and Gaza Crisis
The SACC has been in partnership with the World Council of Churches and Churches in the occupied territories of the West Bank in efforts for peace with justice in this troubled region. We are deploying ecumenical accompaniers (EAs) to demonstrate our solidarity with Palestinian families who are subjected to the demolition of their homes, strict military control on their mobility by way of check-points and other military operations of the powerful Israeli Defense Force (IDF). Our EAs report on a wide range of human rights atrocities committed by the Israeli occupiers and settlers on defenceless Palestinians.
Many of our Palestinian sisters and brothers are unable to visit their holy sites, medical facilities, educational institutions, family and friends as they are separated by the Apartheid Wall. Palestinians were unable to celebrate Christmas as they are prevented and controlled by check-points from moving freely in the country of their birth.
The recent war and killing of defenceless people and vulnerable sectors of society in Gaza is criminal. We strongly reject the collective punishment and disproportionate use of force that the Israeli government is practising and explaining as a defence due to the rockets launched from Gaza. While we condemn the rocket attacks, we can not accept the bombing and destruction of homes, maiming and killing of innocent people by the IDF.
The SACC already joined the SA Catholic Bishops Conference, SA Government, COSATU and Gift of the Givers in dispatching a consignment of humanitarian relief to Gaza. Such an action is understood as an interim measure while the search for peace with justice is pursued.
For true Shalom/Salaam/Peace between Palestine and Israel resolutions of the United Nations and other international conventions have to be respected and implemented by Israel and Palestine. The Israeli government must end its occupation of Palestine. The SACC calls on President Barack Obama (of the United States of America) to honour such UN Resolutions and conventions in his contribution to resolving problems of the Middle East. We also call on companies to desist from supplying equipment that is used by the Israeli government to violate the rights of the Palestinian people.
For more information contact: Eddie Makue, General Secretary (082 853 8781) or Prof Tinyiko Maluleke, President (082 925 5232)
4 February 2009