It was the injustices of the apartheid system that were so clear even to primary school children that motivated the young Rev Mabuza, then living in Sophiatown – the legendary black cultural hub – to resolve to be a minister of religion so that he would wage the struggle against the evil system from the pulpit.
For the full length of his ministry under apartheid, he was a vocal critic of the system and a thorn in the flesh of the regime, and in the process, he was putting his life at risk.
Like all of us, he was ecstatic when due to the combined efforts of democratic forces at home and abroad, apartheid was defeated.
Twenty years after the fall of the system that he so laboured against, Rev Wesley Mabuza is a disappointed man.
Rev Mabuza shared his disappointment with SMMS students at a recent visit to the seminary.
“At this late stage in my life, I am a disappointed man and God knows that I sit with deep disappointment. Millions of our people are still living in filthy sub-human conditions. Yet we see our own liberators showing that they love money more than the lives of the people they claim to have liberated. They were prepared to lose their lives during the struggle, but are now not prepared to lose money.
“People who were once ready to die for others, for the restoration of the dignity of the men and women of colour, do not mind banking billions of Rand. Yet they cannot point a single squatter camp that they have converted into a liveable place for the poor. They are only interested in building themselves up. They are interested, not so much in solving the problems, but in getting accolades after solving the problem. It’s a distorted view of life.” Rev Mabuza said with disappointment visible on his face.
He admitted that a lot progress has been made since 1994 but was quick to add that the millions of people still living in grinding poverty cancel out that progress.
He said, “If you still have so many people living in poverty, it does not matter how much progress you have made. A chain is as strong as its weakest link. In similar manner, a nation is as strong as its poorest of the poor. Until we eliminate poverty, we are still a poor nation.
“Again for me to extoll the progress made by people who are paid to do it, is like saying we ought to clap our hands because the birds are flying or the fish are swimming. Birds have to fly and fish have to swim. Politicians who are being paid with the money from the people have to serve the people. Why do they need special recognition? ”
Rev Mabuza admitted that the church was confused about its relationship with the former liberation movement after the fall of apartheid, with some of the leading apartheid critics among the clergy joining government and political parties.
“The church had trusted these people during the struggle because we had the same agenda of liberation. After 1994, we continued to trust them. Now we have come to realise that we had different agendas. Some of the clergy had joined political parties thinking that they would become the ‘yeast’ within the political spectrum and that they were now going to deal with ‘real issues’. They however discovered that they were not the real issues and have since come back,” he said.
While Christians cannot run away from politics, Rev Mabuza said, what he has problems with is party politics.
He said, “I have problems with party politics mainly based on Philippians 2: 3 which says ‘Do not vilify the next person but value others above yourself. Yet party politics says ‘I am better than you’. I will have great difficulties with a Christian minister who sits in a group that cannot take what one says because they are in the opposition. If you tell me to do something that is good for the nation, I cannot not support you just because you are a member of the opposition.
“It would be better if those ministers who involve themselves in party politics would moderate the politicians they work with. But one never sees that moderation. We ought to re-look into our biblical understanding of our involvement in politics,” Rev Mabuza said.