, 15 September, 2020 / 7:02 PM
Church leaders in South Africa on Tuesday, September 15 took part in a one-hour countrywide silent prayer session to protest against corruption involving COVID-19 funds, which has been described as “stealing money from people that cannot breathe.”
The national Church leaders under the South African Council of Churches (SACC) who participated in silent prayer protest were drawn from the country’s nine administrative provinces carried placards bearing anti-corruption messages and the hashtag #CorruptionIsNotMyHeritage.
Speaking at the start of the protest that was streamed live on Facebook, SACC General Secretary, Bishop Malusi Mpumlwana of the Ethiopian Episcopal Church highlighted the various identities that have been associated with the country over time, the latest one being corruption.
“South Africa has assumed many identities; it has been known as the country with the best constitution in the world and before then it was known as an apartheid society that was killing its own citizens,” Bishop Mpulwana said.
He added in reference to South Africa, “Recently it has come to be known as the world’s capital of gender-based violence and also the world’s capital of public protests for service delivery.”
In his September 15 remarks, the SACC General Secretary bemoaned a new emerging identity for South Africa as “the world’s capital of corruption where you mention South Africa and corruption at the same time.”
“We the churches of South Africa together with our congregation we are saying that (corruption) will not be our heritage; that will not be our identity; that will not be how we shall be known and we shall do everything we can; one and all, we shall stand against corruption in every possible way,” the South African church leader said.
He noted that corruption starts in “small ways” such as one offering a bribe to a traffic police when caught on the wrong side of the law, “and then you begin to breed a culture of corruption and it grows and grows to a point where people steal money that is intended to save lives.”
To the SACC official, stealing COVID-19 money is “actually stealing oxygen from people that cannot breathe.”
On why the prayer protest was silent, Bishop Mpulwana explained, “We are silent because we are speechless; we have stopped talking; there is no more to say but to do and we shall do it together.”
The Church leaders also staged silent performances in front of various key national and provincial locations including the Union Buildings in Pretoria, which houses the office of the country’s President.
Bishop Mpulwana led other SACC Church leaders in walking up the stairs of the building, as a sign that “whoever is involved in corruption deserves to wear the orange suits in jail.”
South Africa’s COVID-19 response has been marred with corruption allegations regarding a US$36.6 billion relief package, aimed at facilitating efforts to curb the spread of the pandemic among the country’s 57.7million people.
Speaking on behalf of SACC leaders in Kwazulu Natal Province, the Catholic Archbishop of Durban, Wilfrid Cardinal Napier said that as Church leaders from the region, they participated in the prayer protest to, among other reasons, “acknowledge and support” anti-corruption measures announced by the Premier of the province, Sihle Zikalala.
The Premier recently announced that the names of the people entrusted with the responsibility of administering COVID-19 funds be published, as well as their responsibilities and the amount of money involved, the Cardinal noted.
“We want to support him in the actions he is taking but we also want to commit ourselves to living with integrity so that our ‘Ubuntu’ is what governs the way we deal with each other and not our personal desires or greed,” the member of the Order of Friars Minor (OFM) explained in his September 15 address.
In his remarks at the end of the prayer protest, SACC President, Bishop Ziphozihle Siwa of the Methodist Church called on South Africans to denounce corruption saying it “costs so much and has claimed the lives of the innocent.”
“We must fall in love with integrity, accountability and be above reproach in whatever we do,” he said from Eastern Cape province and added, “The commitment should be to render service and not self-enrichment.”
The September 15 prayer protest is part of the activities that members of the interdenominational forum are undertaking in the month of September dedicated to campaigns against COVID-19 corruption.
The anti-corruption campaign coincides with the Heritage Month of September in which South Africans honor the culture and diversity of beliefs and traditions of all citizens.
The campaign is in response to the moral call against COVID-19 corruption issued on 7 August this year, by a group of six organizations who call themselves the Moral Call Collective.
The organizations include SACC, the Ahmed Kathrada Foundation, the Council for the Advancement of the South African Constitution, the Desmond & Leah Tutu Legacy Foundation, the Foundation for Human Rights, and the Nelson Mandela Foundation.
ACI Africa was officially inaugurated on August 17, 2019 as a continental Catholic news agency at the service of the Church in Africa. Headquartered in Kenya’s capital, Nairobi, this media apostolate will strive to facilitate the telling of Africa’s story by providing media coverage of Catholic events on the African continent, giving visibility to the activities of the Church across Africa where statistics show significant growth in numbers and the continent gradually becoming the axis of Catholicism. This is expected to contribute to an awareness of and appreciation for the significant role of the Church in Africa and over time, the realization of a realistic image of Africa that often receives negative media framing.
Father Don Bosco Onyalla
Editor-in-Chief, ACI Africa