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Recent Violent Protests in South Africa Had “groundswell of concerned people”: Archbishop

Archbishop Stephen Brislin of South Africa's Cape Town Archdiocese. Credit: Cape Town Archdiocese/Facebook

While the recent violent protests in South Africa were generally characterized by vandalism, looting, injuries and loss of human lives, there were people who showed genuine goodness and concern for others, a South African Archbishop has said in a prayerful reflection.

In his Wednesday, July 28 Prayer and Reflection, Archbishop Stephen Brislin who was looking back at the recent violent protests in South Africa alongside challenges occasioned by COVID-19 pandemic acknowledges with appreciation the “groundswell of concerned and good people.”

“Even in the dreadful looting and destruction that we witnessed recently in South Africa, there followed an outpouring of goodness as people turned out to clean up, to guard sensitive areas and to seek answers for and understanding of what had taken place,” Archbishop Brislin says.

The South African Archbishop adds, “There has been a groundswell of concerned and good people calling for root causes to be identified and addressed, for the injustices of the inequality and poverty of our country to be recognized.”

“We may think that these signs are small in comparison, that they are, by and large, spoken about by mostly powerless people, but the signs – like the miracles of Jesus – indicate something far greater at work,” he says, underscoring the good values a section of South Africans brought forth during the recent violent protests.

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Violence  erupted in KwaZulu-Natal Province on July 7 after South Africa’s former President Jacob Zuma handed himself over to prison authorities under order from the Constitutional Court, which held him in contempt for repeatedly refusing to appear before a commission investigating allegations of corruption during his nine-year Presidency that ended in 2018.

At least 117 people died and more than 2,000 arrested in the violent protests that were described as South Africa’s worst unrest in years.  

In an interview with ACI Africa, the Director of Denis Hurley Peace Institute (DHPI), Johan Viljoen, said the crisis had little to do with the former President, adding that South Africans were expelling their anger after many years of suffering.

Amid the violent protests, Catholic Bishops in the country expressed concerns over what they called a growing tendency of South Africans to resort to violence whenever they need their issues addressed by those in leadership.

“Our society has normalized the use of violence and vandalism to get the government to listen and be serious in addressing economic concerns of the poor,” members of the Southern African Catholic of Bishops Conference (SACBC) said in their July 13 statement shared with ACI Africa.

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They called for “a shift in mind-set, a collective conversion of heart and mind, which affirms that violent protests and destruction of property can never be a just response to the current economic hardships and economic injustice.”

In his July 28 prayerful reflection, Archbishop Brislin highlights the need, on the part of South Africans, to strive to achieve “true peace … founded on the pillars of truth and justice.”

 

Focusing his reflection on the COVID-19 pandemic, the Archbishop of South Africa’s Cape Town Archdiocese highlights the challenges of the pandemic that he says “has been a horrible time for us.”

“The socio-economic and political problems we face are enormous,” he says.

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However, the Archbishop adds, “even in these horrible times we must see that they are part of the coming of God’s Kingdom and are leading us towards it, rather than happening in spite of God’s Kingdom.” 

“What we must ask ourselves is what we have to learn from the horribleness of the times, and what we must do to be instruments of God’s light in the darkness they have brought,” Archbishop Brislin says in his July 28 reflection.

He goes on to urge South Africans not to give in to despair but to “face the present with hearts burning with the hope of God’s Kingdom and willing to persevere in being agents and instruments of God’s love and compassion in a world that is truly crying out in anguish for someone who cares.”

South Africa has been reportedly grappling with a new Delta Variant of COVID-19, which has led to a nationwide lockdown in a bid to contain its spread. The new strain led to a spike in infections, which saw the country cross the two million mark of reported cases of the pandemic.

The country has so far recorded at least 2.39 million COVID-19 cases, 2.18 million recoveries, and 70,388 deaths.

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In a televised address July 25, President Cyril Ramaphosa announced the easing of many of the country's lockdown regulations as the nation moves to an adjusted level 3 lockdown with immediate effect.

President Ramaphosa permitted gatherings including religious services, limiting the number of those coming together to a maximum of 50 people when indoors and 100 people outdoors, a move that saw Bishop Peter John Holiday of Kroonstad Diocese issue revised guidelines for public worship in his episcopal see.