This morning Diana and I attended a service at the Unity Fellowship Church in Chiawelo, Soweto, run by the charismatic Pastor Mukhuba and her husband Dr Mukhuba. This was at the invitation of one of their congregants, Paulette Nkosi, whom I met on Monday to talk about her media business which is poised for growth and needs a helping hand.
It became clear during the service that Pastor Mukhuba is a powerful voice of dissent against an ANC regime she claims is corrupt and failing to serve the needs of the people. Announced to the gathering of thousands as a DA MP, I was the first politician from an opposition party invited there, showing her fearless determination not to be intimidated by inviting a member of the ANC's arch enemy not just to attend the service, but to speak.
Pastor Mukhuba founded the church ten years ago and her Sunday services now attract over 5 000 followers, packed into the main hall, two huge tents and a lean-to metal shelter located in an industrial area just off Chris Hani Drive. Her Facebook page has over 213 000 Likes. Her glossy magazine, Changing Lives, a mountain of literature and DVDs of past services tell of a marketing machine fuelled by generous tithing and donations from her mass of followers, who flock in droves to listen to her message of repentance.
We arrived at 10 am and already the venue was packed. We were shown through to the office where a smartly dressed Dr Mukhuba, an academic at North West University, greeted us and sat us down. He flipped through the thick legal documents outlining the City's case and explained why he and his
wife were fighting the eviction notice.
Churches around the country, he said, are waking up to the moral decay we are falling into at the hands of the ANC government. These churches are falling victim to a concerted campaign to close them down, to snuff out the increasingly vocal highlighting of this fact by more and more pastors.
Pastor Mukhuba came in to say hello, followed by a retinue of obedient staff who knelt when speaking to her. She asked me to write down my name and details on a piece of paper so she could introduce me. She then left to take over the service, which by 10:30 was well under way and creating a huge volume of noise.
Diana and I were escorted to a short row of chairs behind Dr Mukhuba and observed the gathered thousands listening in rapt awe to their prophet. It was indeed awe-inspiring.
Striding to and fro along her platform, which she shared with an all-female choir and four-piece band, all dressed in red, Pastor Mukhuba, herself in a striking red dress, preached on the verses from 1 Kings 18, where Elijah challenges the people of Samaria to declare whether he was the true prophet of God, or whether Baal's prophets were. She used this as the biblical justification for a sermon on why adherents to a false authority will always be vanquished by the true followers of the Lord. She then launched into a direct attack on the ANC government, whom she lambasted for abandoning the word of God in its treatment of the people of South Africa.
She touched on the vexed topic of land, by referring to her thwarted attempt to convert a 100 hectare piece of land in Eikenhof, nearby, to an expanded church for her followers. Yet again, the ANC government and its anti-church stand was the object of her wrath.
While this was going on I was thinking what I was going to say following this powerful display of oratory which was impossible for me to match. I considered declaring I would sign her up to the DA but quickly dumped that idea when she said she was not a politician but a preacher of redemption. I then realised she was today's equivalent of Dr Beyers Naude, who in the 1970s abandoned his Afrikaner countrymen and the Dutch Reformed Church's support of the National Party on the grounds of their immorality and forsaking Christian values.
She called Diana and me up to the platform and, bible in hand, I took the microphone. After thanking her for inviting me to her church I spoke of my own church in Parktown, where I sang in the choir and said wouldn't it be a good idea for us to share a service together, in the spirit of unity? This went down well, a chorus of approval emanating from the congregation. My reference to Beyers Naude also struck a chord, after I equated him and Pastor Mukhuba speaking truth to power in their respective eras.
I referred to my being a white man in Soweto, and how our country's future depended on our being able to cross the historical racial divide which can only lead to ruin. How closing down this church would lead to its 66 employees losing their jobs and how can this be right, when the country needed jobs more than anything. Why I supported Pastor Mukhuba's dismissal of government grants as only a partial solution, with jobs through the formation of businesses a more long-lasting one.
I spoke for about ten minutes and the reception I received encouraged me to think change is in the air. When I mentioned Jacob Zuma's claim the ANC would rule until Jesus returned and he was in for a big surprise in 2016 the roof nearly came down.
Dr Mukhuba said to me earlier, answering my question about what the DA needs to do to attract more black voters, that we should shout louder than the ANC when injustices against black people are committed. It seems Pastor Mukhuba and me were singing from the same hymn sheet today, and I hope some of this struck a chord with our listeners. This message must come, first and foremost, from white DA leaders, for the DA is still seen as a white party, he said. The ANC turns this to its advantage when saying the DA will bring back apartheid if we are elected to government. This is a lie which we must expose again and again.
Dr Mukhuba spoke of the insidious effects of the ANC deploying its cadres to every institution of state, who close down dissenting views and view open debate as anti-revolutionary and anti black speak. Will the churches form the vanguard of civil society opposition to the destruction of our institutions and the rule of law in the service of a clique of ANC insiders? Will it speak out more loudly against laws which restrict our freedoms and opportunities for individuals to live the lives they choose? Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu in the Independent on Sunday today gives cause for hope that they will.
South Africa is a deeply conservative society and religion plays a big part in that. Somehow the DA must find a link between conservative values which uphold our traditions, including the African obeisance to ubuntu, and liberal values which aim to preserve our rights and freedoms and create conditions for enterprise which will lead to economic growth and job creation.
Pastor Mukhuba's message and mine today is that the ANC cannot forever claim to be the protector of our freedoms. While it led the battle for freedom from oppression resulting in our first democratic election in 1994, it is now closing down on freedom wherever freedom raises its head - including the distorted version of freedom promoted by the Economic Freedom Fighters, as witnessed in Parliament at the State of the Nation address.
Much more dangerous is its invoking the Freedom Charter in this cause. This is nothing more than a veil to cover its true intentions, contained within the National Democratic Revolution, which draws on fossilised and dangerous ideas which will curtail our freedoms, not advance them. It claims the developmental state is the means to advance our freedoms but this doesn't wash - Helen Zille tells the true story here.
Just before Pastor Mukhuba invited me to the stage today she said she was launching a petition to save her church from eviction. I left the stage after vowing to support her petition by presenting it to Parliament - drawing more huge cheers. I believe she has a case, and trust the law in this case will be dispensed without fear or favour.