With the governing African National Congress facing calls for President Jacob Zuma to step down following a slew of corruption allegations and concerns around “state capture”, the South African Council of Churches (SACC) on Thursday urged the party’s leaders to examine their way of governance before the country reaches a point of no return.
Addressing the media at the historic Regina Mundi Catholic Church in Soweto, the secretary-general of the SACC, Bishop Malusi Mpumlwana, presented a report from its Unburdening Panel on the challenges of corruption, maladministration and loss of public trust in public institutions in the country.
Mpumlwana said citizens came to confess to the panel – which included former Constitutional Court Judge Yvonne Mokgoro and former IEC chief Brigalia Bam – information about widening corruption in government and state officials being pressured to rig tenders.
The panel was launched in April last year following the ANC’s decision to discontinue its probe into allegations of state capture and public statements made by then finance minister, Mcebisi Jonas, former ANC MP Vytjie Mentor and government spokesperson Themba Maseko into claims of state capture by the controversial Gupta family and the influence they wielded over some state-owned companies and decision taken by the executive.
“We have come to recognise that South Africa may just be a few inches from the throes of a mafia state from which they may be no return, a recipe for a failed state,” Mpumlwana said.
He said most of the people who came to the panel to unburden were reluctant to talk to lawyers who were part of the group, saying they just wanted to talk to the priests instead.
The council’s secretary-general also said South Africa had a serious problem if citizens were afraid of an elected democratic government.
“What has emerged … I’m telling you, it’s disconcerting. It now seems that the problem is far greater than corruption but organised chaos. We have now come to learn that what appears to be chaos and instability in government may well be a systemic design of the madness that ills our political environment, a chaotic design,” he said.
Though “churches are notorious for making statements on things they know very little about”, Mpumlwana said the panel previously worked with the Human Research Council, Institute for Justice and Reconciliation, as well as the Nelson Mandela Foundation in its processes.
The SACC said its process for citizens to come and unburden to the panel was still open.