Recently I read that the Western Cape Religious leaders Forum complained about a meeting that President Zuma had with this sector. “The forum said it had not been invited to attend the meeting, nor had it been aware that it was taking place”. Subsequently the forum stated “Faith communities should strive to be an independent voice, free of government or party political interferences”. I regard this as peculiar. After the democratic election in 1994 and before the New National Party {NNP} dissolved into the Democratic Alliance {DA} several politicians were church leaders around which the NNP built campaigns. While some retired, others ensured that relatives benefitted thru association. Therefore, is the forum suggesting that it is acceptable for faith communities to benefit from government but not vice versa, also, should religious leaders who continue to hold political office, resign?

Similarly, what value or solutions do religious leaders outside of the political maelstrom contribute to challenges like access to affordable electricity, water, houses and work? As a political insider, I have concluded, that to survive, a politician requires little tertiary education or skills. What is essential is popularity or a slave like obedience to the party bosses. Consequently, are unqualified politicians with an inkling of morality more trustworthy than religious leaders who assert to be the heirs of a divine message? That South Africa is ridden with malfeasance and corruption is surely an indictment on the moral fabric of the entire society. Do religious leaders who operate on the political periphery believe that intermittent mealy mouthed appeals will stop politicians and officials from stealing public money?

I think that, to engender ethical governance, religious leaders will have to get more involved in the trenches and attend civic and neighbourhood watch meetings. They have to participate instead of obfuscating about issues that require direct intervention. Over centuries, religious leaders have surrendered their God given responsibility towards good governance. Through this failure, they allowed, charlatans to assume authority. While few rally against corrupt governance many religious leaders have retreated, seeking God in academia or polemics while innocent children are raped and murdered weekly on the Cape Flats. Those who seek ethical governance need to accept that little will change until those who abuse political and economic power are made accountable or removed. After two decades into the new South Africa, why can those who fought and defeated Apartheid not stop the violence against women and children and the drug abuse in our society?

“Furthermore, as religious leaders we have a prophetic role of being one of civil society’s strongest partners in holding government accountable for its political and moral mandate”. If religious leaders assume to be the overseers of the moral mandate, are they prepared to accept responsibility for the current political, social and economic moral morass? If leaders who claim to represent God are unwilling to enact social change, whose job is it? For example, Moses was shepherd, a negotiator, a freedom fighter and guided his people to a new destiny. Jesus the messiah was a carpenter, a healer and a revolutionary who initiated perpetual change to humanity. Muhammed the messenger was an entrepreneur, a political and military strategist and initiated a program of consultative governance. Comparatively, what useful skills do local religious leaders have? Since so many politicians lack skills and education to begin with, can those with God consciousness govern any worse?

Cllr Yagyah Adams

Cape Muslim Congress