Thursday, 6 April 2017

Statement on the crisis in South Africa by Revd Dr Jeremy Jacobs, Rector, St George's Anglican Church, Parktown, Johannnesburg

I don't normally post other people's writing on this blog but sometimes exceptions are necessary. This is one such exception. 

As Jeremy says below, our church in Parktown has hosted the ANC veterans 101 Group meetings over recent months. But they have been dismissively ignored by the ANC. President Zuma and his handlers have lost all respect for men and women who were once the heart of the ANC, as they have for all other democratic forces in South Africa.

Today's marches are a sign of the DA and civil society's determination to change that, and force the ANC to take action to remove Zuma. This is the beginning of a protest movement that is looking more and more like its predecessors in the 1980s aimed at removing the National Party from government. The climax to this movement will be the 2019 elections when the DA aims to be part of a new government, ushering in a renewed sense of hope for our citizens. We have a bumpy two years ahead.

But don't confuse the marchers' motives. The DA's end game is the removal of Zuma and the ANC. Save ANC is a proxy for the old ANC and hopes the party will cleanse itself of the Zuma faction which is destroying our country. We have just heard that the SACP will be joining the Save SA march in Pretoria. They want Zuma removed, they have not withdrawn their support for the ANC.

Voters must not be duped into thinking Zuma's removal will fundamentally change the ANC. All depends on the outcome of the ANC elective conference in December which will determine which faction comes out on top.

03 April 2017


Dear Friends

When our president gets to hire and fire ministers with impunity, appointing his own unqualified cronies to positions of enormous power, we have to realise that we no longer live in a true democracy. This trend has defined the tyranny of Jacob Zuma’s rule for several years and the oligarchy he has created hints strongly at the onset of despotism. However, there is the possibility of a split in the ANC, and should this happen, it will either bring us back to negotiated sensibility, or plunge the country into deeper civil crisis.  These uncertainties have now brought us to the edge of a precipice. Every South African must therefore play a part to ensure a productive and just outcome. 

A potentially good sign is the solidarity which South Africans are now showing to stand (more or less) united against Zuma’s assault on the country - despite our ideological and party-political differences.  Our hot-blooded nature exemplifies the resolve of our spirit to stand together when we reach our threshold of tolerance – I think that time has come.

I will never forget Nelson Mandela’s great wisdom; “If the ANC does to you what the apartheid government did to you, then you must do to the ANC what we did to the apartheid government”.  For the past year or so St George’s has hosted the ANC Veterans (members of the so-called 101 group) as they forged their plans to confront the degraded values of the current ANC leadership. In conversation with them, it appears that inasmuch as they have issued stern warnings to the NEC, the message has not penetrated the presidency and to a large extent, these great men and woman of the struggle have been fobbed off – it is a display of appalling disrespect for our stalwarts. This malaise injures all aspects of governmental functionality and affects every level of society. As always, those who stand to lose the most are the poor and disempowered. As such, my particular concern as the Rector of St George’s and Chaplain to Roedean is for the crisis in education.

When a country’s population is not given the freedom and support to be properly educated – to learn openly and think critically (as some now speculate may be the presidency’s hidden agenda), the result is a populist mass which is intended to be too informationally disempowered to stand confidently against the rise of a presidential fiefdom. If so, might it be that our president views himself, in fact, not as ‘president’ who works to serve the country, but as a king whose country works to serve him? 

If there is any truth in this speculation, then the ‘king’ is naturally entitled to everything in the country because, in his mind, he owns it.  His ideological purpose must therefore be to persuade the population to believe it. Notions of what we might call corruption, graft, capture, nepotism, and Zupta-ism are therefore actually legitimate endeavours to secure and expand the power of the king – there is no ethical contradiction in this scheme at all. This kind of control needs a population as cowing, dependent, and educationally weakened as possible to succeed. 

South Africa’s maths and science education has again been shown to be among the worst in the world – second last in fact according to global school rankings. If this is not embarrassing enough, only UCT (according to URAP: University Ranking by Academic Performance) is still within the world’s top 250 universities (just) and, together with all our other universities, is on its way down in international standing.

The deeper implication of this statistic is its impact on industry and employment, and therefore GDP due to a catastrophic lack of skills and intellectual capital.  In brief, our poor education, more than anything else, seriously threatens our international marketability and therefore our economy (unless you have a seat at the king’s table and a sliver of his pilfered tenders). Consequently, a weak economy may not be a king’s first priority since he already owns the country and ‘mediates’ its most significant deals, besides, he wouldn’t want any outsiders meddling in his kraal. We appear rather to be developing into a variant of veiled feudalism. Consequently, we are failing on every front as an emerging economy. 

One of the tangential indicators of such a kingdom is the rapid rise of highly superstitious literalist/fundamentalist types of religion, and evidence of this trend is already overwhelming.  It goes like this: Create a largely unproductive, uneducated, and reliant population – a population duped by the rewards and punishments of their king and endorsed by the fidelity of his vassals, and in their servility they will just as easily be duped by the punishments and rewards of pre-modern God who accentuates the same qualities as their king. This kind of religion also easily inculcates hatred and fear of dangerous people - the dodgy liberals. Nothing threatens a king more than an educated activist. Give people information and the skills to think, and the king will soon put a stop to it.

We need to stand our ground! Informed critical thinking is imperative if we hope to succeed as a democratic country – and it is not anathema to 21st century Christianity either. There are pockets of light and hope in many sectors of society, and particularly in our independent schools, and we should be resolute in our intention to rise with contemporary knowledge rather than thrust our country and our faith back into pre-modern paradigms. It is vital that every South African now stands up against this villainy – we fought for our freedom once, we now have the know-how to do it again, but a new wisdom is needed – the issues are now more complex and more integrated. Ill-considered reactionism may make things worse. Either way, whether Zuma resigns or is ousted, or not – we are in for the long haul – it is going to take many years to turn the tide. We need to be smart, resolute, and patient. It is time for yet another ‘Long Walk to Freedom’.

The Revd Dr Jeremy J Jacobs

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