Cape Town archbishop sees change in South Africa’s political future
In possibly his strongest censure yet of the ANC, Archbishop Thabo Makgoba said it was time for South Africans to stop putting their faith in political movements.
POWER Talk host Iman Rappetti was in conversation with Makgoba and others for the OR Tambo dialogue at POWER House on Tuesday, discussing the icon’s life and legacy. Other panelists included Lindiwe Mabuza, South African High Commission in the UK and author of Oliver Tambo Remembered, Sizwe Mpofu-Walsh, an author and musician, and former ANC NEC member Pallo Jordan.
Makgoba was talking about the path forward for South Africans, saying: “Perhaps as South Africans we need to say yes, the glorious moment has done its part. If the glorious movement survives its December elective conference with whomever they elect, would the glorious party survive 2019? And maybe we need to move beyond the glorious movements and look at the glorious people of South Africa,” he said to applause.
Makgoba conceded, when pushed by Rappetti that indeed, the ANC’s time may be coming to an end.
“Are you saying its time has passed?” asked Rappetti.
He paused for a moment before saying: “Yes” to applause. He added: “If the values can’t reside in the glorious movement, let it reside in the people of South Africa.”
Rappetti noted it was his strongest censure yet of the movement.
Makgabo responded, saying: “I’m saying that this is the time for South Africans to take their own destiny into their hands, and to rely less on political formations. Because they’re not leading us into… economic emancipation. They’re about power, they’re about resourcing themselves and their nearest and dearest, and for me the poorest of the poor… continue to be poor.”
‘What happens to the ANC I could care less about’
Mpofu-Walsh was more forceful in his comments. “A mistake we made was conflating the ANC with the liberation movement,” he said to applause. “Sometimes it was at the forefront, sometimes it was at the back, sometimes it was going in the opposite direction as it is now.”
“We need to save the liberation movement… what happens to the ANC I could care less about,” he added. “We fought for democracy, not an ANC, NEC-ocracy. The centre of power in our country needs to move from the ANC NEC to parliament when we voted in people to represent us.”
Makgoba added later that he wrestled with a dilemma whether he and other religious leaders should take the major step of withdrawing moral support from the government.
“I always wrestle with… the question of when do we call for a withdrawal of moral support for a democratically elected government and I think that’s a deep struggle.”
‘Don’t abandon the father of our country, OR Tambo’
Responding to the idea that the clergy should stay out of politics, he said: “The values of OR as an Anglican Christian who nearly became a priest, his values were probably shaped by that passage in John 10: He came so that we may have life and have it abundantly.”
He then referenced scriptures that mention the “thief” that comes to steal and rob.
“Now if I see as a priest in South Africa that South Africans are not flourishing because there are thieves and robbers who are jumping over the fence to steal the fat of the land, should I just stay in my chapel and say-”
“Let us pray,” interjected Rappetti, to applause and laughs from the audience.
The future of the ANC and its place in South African society was a recurring topic in the discussion.
ANC stalwart and former chair of the OR Tambo Foundation, Mavuso Msimang, was in the audience and spoke about the party’s values and its current crisis.
“As a loyal member of the ANC I hang my head in shame that I participated, however indirectly, in the election of a bunch of people who have reduced the name of the ANC to where it is now,” he said.
Picking up on Mpofu-Walsh’s comments about the party he added: “The ideals of the ANC should be protected forever. They are universal, they are not exclusive to the ANC.”
Mabuza was more direct, saying to Mpofu-Walsh in her closing comments: “Sizwe, you may not care about the ANC, that is your prerogative. But please care about everything Tambo said. You’re right to criticise ferociously, that is your right, but please don’t abandon the father of our country, OR Tambo.”