SA Synod of the UCCSA Statement on Gender-based Violence and Xenophobic Attacks in the Gauteng Area
DATE: 11 September 2019
The South Africa Synod of the United Congregational Church of Southern African (SA SYNOD-UCCSA) has condemned the outbreak of many incidents of gender-based violence, violent clashes between foreign nationals and South Africans and the destruction of business premises in the city centers.
These incidents have plunged our country in a state of crisis and requires all of us to refrain from anger, violence and an attitude of lawlessness.
As the SA SYNOD – UCCSA we are still reeling in shock in the merciless killing of 19-year old UCT student, Uyinene Mrwetyana, who was raped and killed by her perpetrator who later confessed to the crime. We are also in shock at the discovery of the bodies of four children in KZN who were hanged by their own father.
We are aware and express our shock at the many other discoveries of bodies of various other young girls and women.
These gruesome discoveries once again bring to the fore that there is a level of anger by men folk. To stoop to the level of violence in the form of rape and murder, indicates that our country has a deep-seated societal problem that requires serious attention.
We support government’s measures to tighten the screws of our laws when handing out punishment. We support government’s plans to refuse bail against perpetrators of gender violence, in particular serious violent crimes of assault (GBH), rape, attempted rape and murder. However, as the church, we call on our congregants and the public to encourage a culture of community.
Our churches, in particular should embark on educational programmes aimed at changing the way men view women and young girls. Our churches must be platforms of effecting change to the public. It is against this background that:
• The SA SYNOD – UCCSA will soon embark on a series of events that are aimed at promoting a culture of no violence against women and children.
• The Thursdays-in-Black campaign as a symbol of pledging support to initiatives aimed at promoting “no violence against women and children” will become a permanent activity and we urge all our local UCCSA churches across the country to join in the initiative.
COMMENTING ON ALLEGED XENOPHOBIC ATTACKS AND DESTRUCTION OF BUSINESS PREMISES
As the SA SYNOD – UCCSA, we want to condemn the alleged violent xenophobic clashes that have taken place in Gauteng and KZN. While we are driven to conclude that these attacks are of a xenophobic / Afrophobic nature, we however have observed a criminal intent as the reason behind. We further noticed with concern that these incidents coincided with South Africa hosting the World Economic Forum.
We call on our member churches and congregants to distance themselves from calls circulating in social media, calling on South Africans to block Africans from other countries from entering their homes and work places. The bible which is our source of authority instruct us as Christians:
“‘When a foreigner resides among you in your land, do not mistreat them.” (Leviticus 19:34)
We also have become aware of the urgent communication that trucks must be halted, and deliveries disrupted, as a protest against the employment of non-South Africans in the trucking industry. We have heard also of the planned retaliatory blockage of South African truck drivers delivering goods in other African countries bordering South Africa. South Africans will be attacked wherever they go in whatever capacity.
As the SA SYNOD – UCCSA, we support the call by the South African Council of Churches (SACC) that a Task Team of religious leaders be established to work together to find solutions to these challenges.
As the SA SYNOD – UCCSA, in pledging support to resolve these challenges, we will be roping in our national leaders who are members of our church, so as to tap into their expertise and leadership in a bid to find urgent solutions to these challenges. Our country is burning, and the church cannot just keep quiet.
As we ponder and give introspection on incidents that plunged our country in total darkness, we however also note some pertinent truths that must be taken account of:
• The reality of poverty and unemployment for black South Africans is a stark reality, and it can result in some of the most inhuman acts. Poverty and unemployment should be no excuse to engage in criminal acts. We need solution-driven engagements.
• The same reality of poverty gnaws away at citizens of neighboring countries, whose citizens have for generations been contract workers building the now shrinking South African economy.
• There is a special negative focus on African foreign nationals, which is a problematic categorization amounting to the black on black violence of old apartheid days, when we attacked each other on our tribal identities hence we deem these so called xenophobic attacks as Afrophobic attacks.
• A very great number of foreign nationals are in this country legally, as students, as traders or business people, as refugees from political persecution – something South Africans know well; as expatriate employees of South African and other global companies, and even for the African Union and the United Nations. This is a fact and reality in all countries. To promote attacks and blockade of movement of all these people because they are not South Africans, is to shoot ourselves and our international relations in the foot. In fact, it may lead to retaliation against the South African economy; and we may end up with even greater stress on our capacity to sustain jobs!
As our church, the UCCSA, looks ahead to its 52nd Anniversary since it was formed, we would call on our local churches to use the Congregational Day celebrations and services that will be held on the week of 01 – 06th October to reflect and re affirm our support to:
• Build a prosperous South Africa that is stable, peaceful and tolerant of other nationals
• Promote a culture based on family values
• Promote a culture where the girl child is provided with opportunities to grow; and,
• We distance ourselves and all our churches from people who commit heinous crimes in the church of God and would have the decency to call themselves “man of God”
• We call on all other South African denominations to support calls for harsher punishment to perpetrators of sexual crimes and other violent crimes against women and children
• We call on other denominations, led by the South African Council of Churches that a national platform be convened to listen to other voices of civil society on how we can respond to the social justice challenges currently plaguing our country.
God Bless Africa!!!
Issued on behalf of the Congregationalists churches in South Africa by:
Rev Thulani Ndlazi
SA Synod Secretary