November 14, 2017. Reverend Dr. Frank Chikane during a media briefing in Durban. Picture: THULI DLAMINI
On Tuesday, 14 November 2017, The KwaZulu-Natal Christian Council (KZNCC) launched its program to work towards peace and prepare for the 2019 elections. Keynote Speaker, Reverend Frank Chikane, senior vice-president of the SA Council of Churches, spoke of the importance of the program in the current turbulent climate in the country. Reverend Chikane provided a great deal of food for thought. Here are some of the key points he made:
On the role of the church today in KZN and the country:
Reverend Chikane said he did not believe in a church that regarded people’s lives as private. He said that God was about totality: “God cannot be marginalized onto the side. My spirituality is about the totality of the human reality and environment. As a church we must be concerned about the lives of people. That is why we are concerned about what is happening in South Africa.”
State Capture & Treason
He added that the country was in its worst position since 1994 and gave an analysis of the nature of the problems currently facing South Africa. According to Rev Chikane, Pre 1994 the struggle was to give power to the people this has changed to the present scenario where power translates to the capture of the state to serve the interest of a few individuals. He said state capture was not just about fraud and corruption – it is treason: “If you use state power to serve yourself then you have actually committed an act of treason. It’s like a coup. I don’t want comrades to wake up one day and find themselves charged with treason. As the church we need to advise our members who may be involved in state capture that what they are doing is wrong and that they may end up being charged for treason
The Reverend said the fact that there was state capture during apartheid did not make it acceptable now.
On Radical Economic Transformation
“I have no problem with radical economic transformation and I am committed to it. We need radical change in the economy to improve the lives of our people and ensure the participation of Black people,” he added. However, he did not want corrupt people – serving their own interests to tell him about radical economic transformation. He said people in the country were not foolish and were not hoodwinked by people who hid behind slogans. Transformation must serve all and not just the interests of a few individuals.
So what can the church do?
Reverend Chikane said that the church, as with civil society, needed to mobilize to say that we are not going to allow corrupt people to lead us to our own self destruction. He added that the KZNCC’s program for peace and deepening democracy by preparing for elections was part of this process. It was to make sure that the electoral process was free and fair and to alert people to the fact that when they see something wrong they need to take a stand. The Program was about monitoring the situation, ensuring dialogue and above all ensuring peace. “We need to make sure that people are governed properly and there is no fraud and corruption. All of us, wherever we are, we are here to defend the people of South Africa,” he added
But, what about the need for the Church to remain neutral
As a former ANC veteran and senior civil servant, Rev Chikane said he was mindful of the issue of neutrality. He said there was no such thing as total neutrality: “As the church we cannot be neutral to such an extent that we do not talk about justice. Yes, I’ve been a leader of the ANC, but the critical issue is that whatever I say cannot be against a political party. I operate on the level of what is right and wrong, even if my party is wrong, I need to say that it is wrong. I was at a meeting discussing the relationship between the church and the ANC and I said that we were with you because you were on the side of justice, but if you deviate from the path of justice, then don’t blame me for taking a stand that is critical.”