|ECONOMIC INJUSTICE IN THE SOUTHERN AFRICAN CONTEXT
The General Synod of the Uniting Reformed Church in Southern Africa took note with serious concern of the critical economic conditions of its membership and the population of the Southern African Region. The Church felt to express itself and to address this economic injustice in the Southern African context. The Uniting Reformed Church in Southern Africa (URCSA) believes that involvement in politics is one of the honourable positions that a Christian can occupy in public life. God, in whom we believe, gives His people the responsibility to govern the earth in the fullest sense of governance as it was given to them in the Book of Genesis. We created by this Creator God, have therefore received a divine command to govern the earth responsibly. The URCSA, therefore, does not conform to the notion that politics is dirty, we believe however, what soils this honourable profession is dishonest politicians who occupies political office in our country. These politicians are responsible for the fact that corruption, mismanagement of the resources and self enrichment are rife in South Africa. Resources that are supposed to be channelled to the upliftment of South Africa’s poor, disappears in the pockets of those who are well connected to political power. After eighteen years of democracy, South Africa’s struggle for justice, economically and politically for the apartheid’ poor and oppressed, seems to be an illusion. This is a situation Synod laments.
As Synod and church we have come to realize that the well known saying, that the oppressor will somehow grant you political freedom, but not easily and in some cases never economic liberation , still rings true and sadly so for South Africa. Our transition from apartheid to democracy was fatally flawed, when those who negotiated our freedom, did not succeeded in securing our economic liberation, mapped out the right and proper path to economic liberation. These economic challenges were acknowledged by President Nelson Mandela in his inaugural speech as president, on 10 May 1994, when he said, “We have at last, and achieved our political emancipation. We pledge ourselves to liberate all our people from continuing bondage of poverty, deprivation, suffering….” This pledge remains a distant dream for millions in South Africa.
A struggle for economic liberation is being waged in our country on different levels in South Africa at the moment. It is a fact that it will increase with intensity on a significant scale and with tragic effects as it has already happened at Marikana and other incidents. Devastating effects of the struggle for economic liberation awaits South Africa.
We realize with embarrassment the frightening increase in the income gap between the rich and the poor in our South African society, whilst the majority of the poor and economically deprived remains the black peoples of South Africa, we realise that this situation is not limited to this group, but cuts across the South African population. Whilst the majority of the wealthy remains, white, we see a small, but growing percentage of black millionaires and billionaires are coming to the fore. Economic emancipation in the main, means today that a small elite both black and white and some well connected to the political establishment, who at the expense of the apartheid and democratic poor are fleecing the public treasury. This is where a major fault line lies, in our view. The existence of Black millionaires and billionaires should not be a reason to view and celebrate it as significant economic progress among the people who were deprived by apartheid economic policies, as well as democratic economic policies. Economic progress of the poor can only be regarded as significant, when the jobless get jobs, those in shacks (euphemistically called informal settlements), living in squalor condition are moved into decent and proper housing, when services of clean water and proper sanitation are delivered to those who lack it.
The system that produces these economic conditions and glaring inequalities remains the same and is perpetuated in the democratic South Africa. Economic deprivation of the victims of apartheid and the South African democracy explains in our opinion, the increasing growth in disillusionment, desperation, anger and even violence in our society.
General Synod therefore resolves:
We the General Synod of the Uniting Reformed Church in Southern Africa therefore decides:
To deplore the lack of moral fibre of many of our political leaders in South Africa for defiling an honourable profession. To call on those politicians and people in the South African government to stop the waste of tax payers money through corruption, mismanagement, self- enrichment and failed programs. To put proper economic policies in place that favours and positively advances the economic situation of the apartheid and democratic poor. We applaud those leaders of integrity in government that constantly struggle for a better dispensation for everyone and strive for open and transparent government. We also believe that the challenge of economic liberation is however not only the responsibility of Government, but also of other role-players like big business and other institutions in our society.
It is of serious concern to Synod that the Namibian unemployment rate stands at 52%. We take note of the fact that the basic income grant that was implemented in Omitara in Namibia, proofs to significantly reduce the negative situation of the poor and unemployed. We urged the Namibian Government to seriously consider implementing a basic income grant for Namibia poor and unemployed. We also call on the South African Government to also serious consider the basic income grant for its poor and unemployed. We take note with serious concern of the Global Economic processes’ negative impact especially in the Southern countries, like South Africa and Namibia.
Synod further decides to get actively involved in situation of economically deprived on the basis and in the spirit of the Belhar Confession, which says: “that in a world full of injustice and enmity God is in a special way the God of the destitute, the poor and the wronged and that God calls the Church to follow in this … that the Church must therefore stands by people in any form of suffering and need, which implies , among other things, that the church must witness against and strive against any form injustice, so that justice may roll down like water and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream; that the church belonging to God, should stand where God stands, namely against injustice and with the wronged; that in following Christ the Church must witness against all the powerful and privileged who selfishly seek their own interest and thus control and harm other.”
Synod decides to mandate the new Executive together with the Core Ministry for Service and Witness, to compile a comprehensive memorandum on Biblical Economic Justice (as URCSA”s position on the issue) and seek an appointment with the Minister of Economic Affairs, Mr Ibrahim Patel, the Minister of Trade and Industry, Dr Davies and the Minister of National Planning , Mr Trevor Manuel to present this memorandum to them and to discuss URCSA’s view on Biblical Economic Justice for South Africa with them as soon as possible.
The URCSA is committed to ensure that socio-economic rights are fulfilled in our countries and is willing and committed to work with the Namibian and South African governments and other institutions to that effect.
Synod decides to mandate the Core Ministry for Service and Witness to get involved in Economic policy debates of government / parliament and to submit, suggestions to government on this issue.
Synod calls on Congregations, Presbyteries, and Regional Synods to oppose in constructive ways any economic injustice in South Africa, on the basis of the Word of God and the Belhar Confession and to work with other churches and relevant entities on this issue.
Synod decides to release this decision also as a Press release.