An article in the Mail and Guardian surprised me. Or rather a comment reflected in the article. The theme of the article is:
Why churches dumped the ANC
The article describes the relationship between the ANC and churches in South Africa. Especially the relationship with the Methodist Church of Southern Africa (MCSA) and the South African Council of Churches (SACC). Apparently the ANC has had a meeting with the SACC to discuss the strained relations.
Acting general secretary of the SACC Bishop Malusi Mpumlwana, who was at the meeting with Mantashe, told the Mail & Guardian that the council’s relationship with the ANC was one of “critical solidarity”.
The concept 'critical solidarity'was left as early as 2001 in favour of 'critical engagement'. The SACC did this at its Triennial Meeting, according to resolution 18:
RESOLVES that the SACC adopt an attitude of critical engagement in its dealings with the state and other organs of civil society and therefore requests the NEC to develop clear policies that will inform the concept of “critical engagement” and to assist SACC members in defining our relationship with the State ...
The rationale behind the shift from 'critical solidarity' to 'critical engagement' was the idea that one cannot be in solidarity with a government or with a powerful entity. Solidarity is always directed to the poor or those in the margin.
According to the Mail and Guardian
The Methodist Church has withdrawn its ministers from acting as chaplains in the party.
The M&G claims that the relationship between the ANC and the mainline churches has reached an all-time low under President Zuma’s administration. That’s why Mantashe invited the leaders of the SACC recently.
This is of course nothing new. Mbeki related to the church leaders and other religious leaders through the National Religious Leader’s Forum (NRLF), formed by the Mandela government. When Zuma came into power he formed his own structure: the National Interfaith Leaders Council (NILC). Already in 2010, the then President of the SACC, Prof Tinyiko Sam Maluleke, said in his Presidential Address at the SACC Central Committee Meeting:
Unlike the NRLF which was a forum, we are told that the NILC is going to be a service delivery partner of the ruling party.
A very prominent figure in the NILC is the Rhema church leader Ray McCauley. The Rhema Church is by many regarded as a proponent of the prosperity gospel. Hence it is not surprising that Mantashe, according to the M&G, writes in a NEC report:
The SACC is of the view that the ANC is more comfortable with wealth religion …
One issue that is singled out in the article is that the SACC was at the forefront in opposing e-tolls in Gauteng.
In the article Professor Tinyiko Maluleke is interviewed. Now as a political analyst at the University of Pretoria and he claims that the ANC has kept the SACC in line by giving government positions to SACC leaders:
Desmond Tutu [was given] the Truth and Reconciliation Commission chair position, Frank Chikane a position as director general in the presidency / … / This was a strategy to keep the SACC, the radical left churches, under control.
This is also old news. The question now is: Will the SACC become a strong, critical or even prophetic voice in the political situation of today’s South Africa? I hope so. I am, however, a bit pessimistic. The leaders are all men, most of them older than myself. Allow women and youth to be part of the leadership. That is my wish.
It is, however, a positive sign, that the ANC is a bit uncomfortable with the council.