S. African church leaders reject President Zuma's advice to 'stay out of politics'

(Photo: Reuters / Mike Hutchings)South Africa's President Jacob Zuma celebrates his re-election as party president alongside newly-elected party deputy president, Cyril Ramaphosa (L,) at the National Conference of the ruling African National Congress (ANC) in Bloemfontein Dec. 18, 2012. South Africa's ruling ANC re-elected Zuma as its leader, setting him up for seven more years as head of state of Africa's biggest economy

A group of bishops and senior Anglican clergy in South Africa have rejected a suggestion by the national president, Jacob Zuma, that that religious leaders "stay out of politics and rather pray" for their country.

The Anglican members from the Western Cape region represented by clergy from Cape Town, False Bay and Saldanha Bay said they were "alarmed" by Zuma's pronouncement.

"As clergy whose ministry in South Africa spans many years and who have witnessed and participated in the long and painful struggle against oppression, we reject the President's comments," it said in statement.

"We wish to remind the president of the invitation of his illustrious predecessor, former president Nelson Mandela, ‎to the clergy in particular, to speak out strongly against those who in the democratic South Africa abused their power, misused their authority, misled their people and corrupted the trust placed in them."

Earlier in December Zuma addressed thousands of followers of the Twelve Apostles' Church in Christ members in a massive stadium in the east coast city of Durban in which he said the Church should avoid meddling in political matters, noting they are there to pray.


"It is sad to see the church and church leaders getting mired into matters of politics instead of praying for leaders. I urge the Church to pray for us as leaders' pray for our people to stop the hatred. I urge you to assist us to build a stable nation built on love'" Zuma was quoted as saying in the South African newspaper, The Times.


The Anglican group said faith communities of South Africa have a "time-honored" history and responsibility to speak truth to power, provide ‎a moral compass in times of confusion, encourage the disheartened and voice the needs of those who feel unheard and marginalized.

In that tradition, the leaders noted that communities are in pain caused by increasing violence and unemployment under the watch of elected leaders. The also spoke of growing and gross inequality between the haves and the have nots.

The Anglican leaders belong to the Church of the Province of Southern Africa which is a member of the World Council of Churches, the South African Council of Churches, and the All Africa Council of Churches.

Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu who won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1984 for this fight against the then racist ideology of apartheid in South Africa was the former national Anglican leader as Archbishop of Cape Town.

Religious leaders of the South African Council of Churches like Rev. Frank Chikane' Bishop Malusi Mpumlwana and Chief Rabbi Warren Goldstein have called on to Zuma to step down due to the plethora of corruption and mismanagement issues he faces.

The current Anglican archbishop, Thabo Makgoba, who also confronted apartheid has been an outspoken critic of corruption and xenophobia in South Africa often raising the ire of authorities.

"We see little moral and accountable leadership. We see a divided Cabinet and ruling party at war within itself - while around us we hear the cries of children and mothers both hungry and vulnerable to the evils of poverty and abuse.


"We witness a growing discontent amongst our young people. In a country blessed with abundant resources and with more than enough to share, we feel the anger of students seeking free tertiary education and understand their cries.

"In a land of the dispossessed we note the slow pace of land reform and hear the calls of those who seek to retake what was stolen from their forbears," the leaders said.

The leaders emphasized their rejection of Zuma's advice not to engage in political matters.

"Our people live there‎, work there, suffer, cry and struggle there. We live there too and cannot and will not stop commenting or acting on what we see and what, in our opinion, is unjust, corrupt and unacceptable to God's high standards of sacrificial love," they said.

They noted that South Africa is part of God's world, where all people irrespective of race, status, sexual preference and age, are one family and rejected any calls which aimed at sowing divisions among them.

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