South Africa's churches accuse Zuma, ANC of moral decay

Tue Dec 11, 2012 8:46am EST
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By Ed Cropley

JOHANNESBURG (Reuters) - South Africa's churches launched a blistering attack on the African National Congress (ANC) on Tuesday, accusing the ruling party of moral decay and of abandoning Nelson Mandela's goal to build a non-racial democracy from the ashes of apartheid.

In a letter to President Jacob Zuma published a week before an ANC leadership election and policy conference, the South African Council of Churches (SACC) threatened to agitate for a "more healthy democracy" if its concerns were brushed aside.

"During apartheid, some Church leaders wrote to political leaders but they often failed to listen to these voices. Unfortunately we find a similar trend today," the SACC, a major player in the struggle against the white-minority rule that ended in 1994, wrote.

"We have begun to stray from the path of building a united, non-racial, non-sexist and democratic South Africa," it continued, adding that political leaders had "largely lost their moral compass".

Founded in 1936, the SACC is an umbrella organization that groups the country's major Christian denominations. Nobel Peace Prize-winning Anglican former Archbishop of Cape Town Desmond Tutu was one of its most prominent leaders during the apartheid era, serving as its secretary general.

The council has criticized the ANC before, but this very public censure coming before the start of a major ruling party conference appeared designed for maximum impact.

The rebuke gained extra emotional weight this week with the hospitalization of former president Mandela, now 94 and revered by most South Africans as architect of the "Rainbow Nation" that emerged 18 years ago from three centuries of white oppression.

Mandela, in hospital since Saturday for tests, had suffered a recurrence of a lung infection but was responding to treatment, the government said.   Continued...

South African President Jacob Zuma speaks at a news conference at the end of a European Union-South Africa summit in Brussels September 18, 2012. REUTERS/Yves Herman