Tutu, religious leaders resist drive to make S. African area ungovernable

(Photo: Ecumenical News / Peter Kenny)The Anglican Archbishop of Cape Town Thabo Makgoba on November 6, 2013 at the World Council of Churches 10th Assembly in Busan, South Korea.

A group of prominent South Africans, including Nobel Peace Prize laureate, Desmond Tutu and the Anglican Archbishop of Cape Town, Thabo Makgoba, have written a public statement condemning a group of activists who they say want to make their part of the country ungovernable.

"We call on all people of goodwill to take a stand against what is happening, and stand up for treating each other with respect," the group wrote in the statement that was carried in the Cape Times newspaper in full on November 27.

Making areas of South Africa ungovernable was a tactic of the African National Congress and its allies during the struggle against the racist apartheid system in the 1980s.

The ANC runs the national government of South Africa and has control of eight of the country's nine provinces, but it does not control the Western Cape, which is in the hands of the Democratic Alliance.

"We call on the religious communities as well as politicians of all parties to call on the activists engaged in this destabilization project to cease and desist and return to the values that this country is supposed to uphold," the group of 86 said.


Religious organizations played a key role during the latter years of the struggle against apartheid with leaders such as Tutu and Makgoba part of it.

"We call on all people to stand against violent protests and calling for ungovernability."

Some South Africans fear that the actions of the group that seeks to make the province ungovernable is a sign that supporters of the dominant party in the country are not prepared to accept change through the ballot box.

The group of 86 warned that if what they termed a concerted campaign to destabilise the Western Cape was not stopped, it could spread across the country.

The group called on South Africans to refuse to accept threats of ungovernability and rather promote human dignity and equality.

The majority of the 86 signatories are religious leaders and it includes; Mohammed Kagee, of the Claremont Main Road Mosque; Roman Catholic parish priest Father Christopher Clohessy of Newlands/Claremont; Zen Buddhist Heila Downey of Robertson and former city mayor Gordon Oliver of the Unitarian Church.

Also among the signatories are: Christoffel Lombard, Desmond Tutu Chair for Ecumenical Theology and Social Transformation at University of Western Cape; Rev. Peter Storey, former president of the Methodist Church and former president of the South African Council of Churches; Nozizwe Madlala-Routledge, executive director, Embrace Dignity and Rev John de Gruchy.


Many of the signers of the statement were prominent in the fight against apartheid.

Their statement read, "The proper delivery of services to the poor by the public administration in the Western Cape province and across the country is inadequate, and it is understandable that poor people are feeling frustrated and angry.

"However, constructive engagement on the best way forward is possible and necessary without resorting to violence, and without fomenting hate or disrespect."

They wrote that the democratic process is "currently under severe assault by a group of political activists in the Western Cape.

"Because they were not chosen by the electorate, who preferred to have a different party ruling the province, they have set in place a campaign to destabilise the Western Cape and make the province ungovernable.

"This has created space for other political groups to also join in destabilisation."

The ANC Youth League was singled out a number of times as being responsible for these attacks.

The signatories' action was "not a statement in support of any political party,"

They said, "There are democrats in all political parties who share our view."

They wrote that public statements by some activists before the action began had confirmed the aim of the destabilisation project which had since been put in motion.

The statement pointed out that on July 27 last year, a memorandum had been handed to the provincial Premier's Office from the pro-ANC groups such as the ANC youth and women's leagues, the Cape Amalgamated Taxi Association and the Congress of Democratic Taxi Associations.

These called for their demands to be met, otherwise they would make "this city and province ungovernable."

Among disruptive measures was one in which bus driver Andile Hoko died when stones were thrown at his bus in August.

Helen Zille, the leader of the Democratic Alliance, which governs the Western Cape was forced off the stage by AMC supporters recently.

Zille was warned about dangers to her when entering certain poor areas which were seen as a threat.

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