Sunday, January 22, 2023

South Africa Being Ruled by Mafia, “government appears to be powerless”: Catholic Bishop


Criminal gangs and mafias have taken control of South Africa and are wreaking havoc against innocent civilians, the President of the Southern African Catholic Bishops’ Conference (SACBC) has said.

In his opening address at the ongoing SACBC’s Plenary Assembly that started on Tuesday, January 17, Bishop Sithembele Anton Sipuka expressed concern that criminal activities are on the rise in the Southern African country.

“We are becoming a country controlled by syndicate criminals who destroy the country's infrastructure, steal railway lines, copper wires, and electricity lines, and vandalize infrastructure and buildings; our churches and buildings are vandalized, and the government seems overwhelmed by this,” Bishop Sipuka said at the event that was held at St. John Vianney National Major Seminary in the Archdiocese of Pretoria.

He added, “We are becoming a country that is gradually being ruled by Mafias, and the government appears to be powerless.”

In his Wednesday, January 18 address, the Bishop of South Africa’s Mthatha Diocese highlighted what he referred to as a growing practice of kidnapping and demanding ransom, as well as the assassination of those he said were trying to fight corruption. 

He expressed dissatisfaction that two years following the looting and destruction of property in Kwazulu Natal and Gauteng, not a single person has been prosecuted. 

The South African Catholic Bishop said that the country’s leaders were, instead, using the courts to settle their personal and political scores. 

Bishop Sipuka referred to Fr. Albert Nolan’s book, “Hope in an Age of Despair”, noting that the Southern African region is witnessing a moment of despair.

“Despair is pervasive in our conference area, particularly in eSwatini and South Africa,” he said, and explained that in eSwatini, reports had started emerging of people disappearing and being found dead. 

In South Africa, he said, people were facing electricity outages in government plans to cut the supply of power. This, the Bishop further said, posed a major challenge to the country’s economy.

“We are told that stage 6 power load-shedding is likely to be the order of the day for the whole of this year, and this stage 6 is estimated to cause a loss of R6 billion a day to the economy. Keep in mind that this negative impact of the load-shedding on the economy is just one of many factors that are killing the economy, resulting in hopelessness for many people, particularly the young,” the Local Ordinary of Mthatha Diocese said.

In addition to the economic crisis, he said, South Africa was also battling “an increasing  moral bankruptcy.”

Bishop Sipuka found it regrettable the poor people in South Africa were not entirely innocent of the crisis facing the country, noting that some of them were responsible for the country’s electricity challenges.

“There is the problem of poor people engaging in criminal activities,” he said, and explained, “Part of the problem of electricity that is rarely spoken about is that the poor engage in illegal  electricity connections to avoid paying.”

“We must tell poor people that Jesus loves them, but we must also tell them that they must be responsible citizens,” he said.  

He recalled that in his book, Fr. Nolan, a world-renowned researcher who died in October last year, had dismissed “the romanticization or canonization of the poor.”

Giving reasons, Fr. Nolan noted that poor people are not necessarily good and virtuous because they are poor. 

Bishop Sipuka reiterated Fr. Nolan’s message and blamed the poor people for always colluding with the government to stay in a poverty cycle.

“For me, the problem with the poor is their collusion with the government in being made dependent. They have made themselves objects of delivery by the government, and the government likes that,” Bishop Sipuka said.

He continued, “While it is true that the government has a major role in providing for the vulnerable, many poor people can do something for themselves and live a dignified life, but they won’t.”

Instead of doing something to help themselves, the poor people are always waiting for grants from the government, the Catholic Bishop said, adding that such people also antagonize and terrorize other African people who come and use the opportunities they throw away.  

“We must constantly challenge our people to appreciate their dignity and do what they can to provide for themselves,” he said. 

“By the look of things, there is little hope that we will overcome this hopelessness of poverty and moral bankruptcy any time soon. Yet, as a Church, which has hope as one of its characterizing traits, we must come out of this plenary with some message of hope, or better still, with some action of hope,” the SACBC President said.

He underscored the need for the people in the society’s middle class to work with the poor to end what he referred to as the “hopelessness of South Africa”.

“I dare say that the poor are struggling alone for the most part, while we and other people of the middle class like us, all we do is complain while we are secured in our comfort and with our three meals a day guaranteed,” he said.

The Bishop who has been at the helm of Mthatha Diocese since his Episcopal Ordination in May 2008 added, “It is time for us, middle-class and educated people, to come to the party to stop our country from going down the drain and engage with what is  happening.”

In his address at the SACBC Plenary, Bishop Sipuka also paid tribute to Pope emeritus Benedict XVI, describing his passing on December 31 last year as historical for the Church.

“We are having our Plenary soon after the historical event of the passing on of Pope Benedict XVI. Historical because his mark as a theologian, a Pope, and a leader is recognized globally,” Bishop Sipuka said.

He remembered the late Pontiff as a Church leader who “invited us to the truth that  transcends our limited understanding.”

“Although his theological stance and style of leadership as universal pastor of the Church remain a matter of debate, he has no doubt left a legacy about the exposition of the Christian faith. As we begin this plenary meeting, we renew our gratitude to God for Pope Benedict, and we accompany him with prayers,” Bishop Sipuka said January 18.