If South Africa’s Violence “masterminded”, It is for “own self-preservation”: Archbishop

Credit: Archdiocese of Cape Town

If the recent violent protests and attacks in South Africa were masterminded, the motivation was driven by selfishness and efforts toward “self-preservation”, a Catholic Archbishop in the country has said.

In his Sunday, July 18 Homily, Archbishop Stephen Brislin said the violence witnessed in the KwaZulu-Natal and Gauteng Provinces among other parts of the country were detrimental to the nation’s “fragile democracy” and those who might have masterminded “must be called to account”.

“If there are those who masterminded it, they, more than all the others who have been involved, are responsible for doing enormous damage to our fragile democracy and economy,” Archbishop Brislin said.

The Local Ordinary of South Africa’s Cape Town Archdiocese added, “If there are such people who have planned and executed this, they have acted selfishly presumably for their own self-preservation, with no regard for the good of the country and its people. They particularly must be called to account and punished appropriately for their actions.”

He faulted a section of the South African leadership for their lack of integrity who seem to have contributed to the latest violence.


“Corrupt leaders, over many years, have scattered their seeds of corruption widely, seemingly with impunity, which has given rise to a culture of presumed impunity. There are those who have incited and encouraged the violence and, perhaps, even some who have masterminded and orchestrated it,” he said.

Poverty and the huge economic gap between citizens, Archbishop Brislin said, are among the main causes of the violence and looting witnessed in parts of the country.

“There are many factors which have contributed to this violence and lawlessness, primarily poverty and the enormous gap that exists in our country between the rich and the poor,” the South African Archbishop said.

He added, “We have known for many years that this stark inequality is unsustainable; it is a powder keg that has been waiting for the spark to explode.”

The coronavirus pandemic has made the situation worse, the Archbishop said, and explained, “The frustration of our present circumstances in terms of the COVID-19 pandemic, the lockdown and the hardships that so many people have experienced, has exacerbated and lent fuel to the violence we have witnessed.”

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He expressed shock at the levels of looting and destruction of property saying the violence has cost people’s livelihoods.

“We have witnessed almost unbelievable scenes which have shocked us and left us stunned. Looters have stolen and destroyed, lives have been lost, hundreds – if not thousands – jobs have been lost, livelihoods wiped out,” the Archbishop said.

The effects of violence and destruction will finally take a toll on the needy in the society, he reiterated, and implored, “Today we pray for peace, but we are also aware that it is incumbent on us to work for peace. We work for peace by building a just and equitable society.”

In the end, he noted, “the way to peace is not through arresting more and more people, building bigger prisons or meeting violence with violence.”  

The Archbishop went on to advocate for a governance structure that seeks to empower all citizens with fair opportunities.


“The way to a true and lasting peace is to build a society in which people have a share in the prosperity of their country, where they can work in order to support their families, a society in which their children will have opportunities for education and for a better future, a society in which there are not two parallel worlds,” he said.

Such a peaceful society, he continued, “will only be attained when people have their fair share, and so will not live in poverty and neither will they live in obscene luxury through exploitation, corruption and self-interest.”

Making reference to the Gospel Reading that described Jesus Christ as the good shepherd, Archbishop Brislin said, “Let us have the heart of a shepherd to commit our lives to work for peace, knowing that we all have a responsibility for the good of our country and all its citizens.”

“We cannot close our eyes to the needs of our neighbor – if for no other reason, to do so would be to follow a path of instability and insecurity,” the 64-year-old Archbishop said.

“Today we pray for peace. I invite all of you, with your families if possible, to pray the Rosary today for the sake of peace. On a Sunday we pray the glorious mysteries which inspire such light and hope in our lives,” he said.

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Archbishop Brislin further encouraged, “Pray the Rosary today and let us seek the intercession of our Patroness, Our Lady Assumed into Heaven, that the violence of destruction, the violence of malevolence, the violence of poverty and all the other forms of violence will come to an end.”