Since the onset of democratic rule in 1994, the church made a massive error of disbanding its prophetic role to teach and demand love, peace and justice within affairs of the state and society, according to former Deputy Chief Justice, Dikgang Moseneke.
Justice Moseneke was delivering the sixth annual Peter Storey Lecture, just after having been inducted as new Grand Chancellor of the Seth Mokitimi Methodist Seminary (SMMS), on 12 May.
“The church demobilised its social charge seemingly in the mistaken anticipation that the war against social and political evil was over; or that after the onset of democracy we will all live happily forever thereafter, under the abundant beneficence of a good government and its vast institutions,” Justice Moseneke said.
He said he too assumed that the onset of a constitutional democracy in 1994 will usher in a kind of utopia.
“I accepted that once legitimately elected, those who hold political office will respect and abide by their mandate and uphold the high calling and values of our struggle for freedom and democracy. I assumed without more that their pre-occupation would be to create a just, inclusive and socially caring society. I thought they would do their best to educate fully and properly the young; they would ensure over time full but reasonable access to health care, water, sanitation and food. I thought our government would understand the pain of homelessness and landlessness and try in earnest to heal that indignity and pain.
“I had fancied that the advent of democracy would afford us space to embrace full non-racialism; to reject racism and yet celebrate diversity, to find and value every life. I thought we would teach and take steps to achieve peace and not violence; to respect and not violate women and children. I had hoped that we would grow and strengthen, not undermine and destroy, public institutions set up to undergird democratic rule. I expected that we would teach each other how to fish and not how to queue for fish – how to build our homes with the support of the state rather than to jump long queues of waiting lists for RDP housing,” he said.
Justice Moseneke also stressed that freedom fighters are not the best people to lead in a democratic dispensation.
He said, “Let all of us remember that those who fought for and brought freedom to the people are rarely best suited to preserve it, to grow it. Being a revolutionary is not synonymous to being an effective transformer of society. Those who are in the forefront of war; or who can best destroy an unjust system are not necessarily best placed to reconstruct the post conflict society. Each task demands a distinct set of skills which do not necessarily reside in the same place.”
He ended by urging the church to identify crucial ethical and socio-economic threats in the life of its flock, society and the nation and reclaim its prophetic role.