Letters to the editor: October 10 to 16 2014

Gas flares near Warri in Nigeria. Imported gas could boost South Africa’s energy supplies quickly. (AFP)

Gas flares near Warri in Nigeria. Imported gas could boost South Africa’s energy supplies quickly. (AFP)

Power of the atom is political

  Your overdue editorial Nuclear ambition could cripple SA is most welcome. Civil society was slow to respond to the government’s 2008 white paper announcing its determination to rebuild PW Botha’s end-to-end atomic industry, from uranium enrichment factories to extra-atomic reactors and fabricating zirconium fuel-element cans.

The government’s choice of atomic power instead of less expensive options is price-inelastic. This indicates that it is a political decision. It is not an economic choice.

Since 1994, a highly professionalised atomic industry pressure group has outflanked the ANC’s own nuclear policy conference to lobby some members of the ANC’s national executive committee, the Cabinet, deputy ministers and top bureaucrats responsible for energy. The old apartheid atomic bomb team formed the core, persuading the government to give them lucrative jobs for a decade as a pebble-bed modular reactor team. Today, they campaign for six atomic reactors of any variety.

Clues to their behind-the-scenes lobbying became public in a major 2003 atomic propaganda campaign with full-page ads in the media.

Noseweek investigations have exposed how the pebble-bed team recruited black economic empowerment and other partners to facilitate their political lobbying – and raised the issues of cronyism and corruption.

A measured response is that this is true but trite. Any politicians with the power to extort bribes from or get discounted shares in atomic power stations have the power to extract the same from contracts for any other source of electricity.

It is probably more precise to say that atomic power falsely appeals to some politicians as possessing an aura of “power” or “geopolitical strategy”, or certainly more so than solar power or imported gas and hydropower.

The Shanduka-Eskom contract proves that imported gas would be the fastest new source of power. Imported hydropower and solar are also less expensive options, and can cater for both base and peak current demand. Also South Africa’s niche advantage in building up an export industry to tropical countries is far more likely to come from solar power than atomic power. – Keith Gottschalk, Cape Town

• Reading your editorial Nuclear ambition could cripple SA, Ghana’s hydroelectric Akosombo Dam immediately came to mind. At independence, Ghana was cash-flush. But the dam critically indebted Ghana and President Kwame Nkrumah was overthrown barely a month after its opening. This sort of megaproject gives me the heebie-jeebies. Improved socioeconomic and financial statistics are a far superior legacy. – David P Kramer, Johannesburg

Patriarchy’s time has passed

Whether or not to break church law is a matter of conscience (Female priest defies doctrine to follow faith). I hesitate to do it, but admire those who do it in conscience. This applies to all dimensions of Christian life, such as the reception of the sacraments, but to the holy orders in particular.

I hope the synod of bishops will consider the church as a family, and recognise that our patriarchal family structure is an obstacle to evangelism as we move into a post-patriarchal society. Hierarchy is not the problem, and the church must remain apostolic; patriarchy is the problem, and the exclusively male hierarchy is stale as a symbol of the mystery of Christ and his church.

The series of talks by the late Pope John Paul II, collectively called the Theology of the Body, may provide a solid basis for solving the pressing issues of human sexuality in families and in the church, including the ordination of women to the priesthood in the Catholic and Orthodox churches.

The Theology of the Body endorses neither radical patriarchy nor radical feminism, and provides a vision of marriage, and gender relations in general, that can be summarised as unity in diversity, equality in mutuality, individuality in community.

Doctrinally, nothing essential (dogmatic) would have to change in order to ordain women to the priesthood and the episcopate. The Theology of the Body confirms that there is one (embodied) human nature, shows that men and women equally share in human personhood, and it makes clear that the human body, male and female, is what makes Christ visible as an incarnate divine person.

What is needed is to clarify our sacramental theology to separate patriarchal ideology from revealed truth. With all due respect to and sensitivity for those who are heavily invested in the patriarchal order, this clarification is urgently needed in the 21st century.

Jesus never identified himself as a patriarch. The holy family was a not a patriarchy. The trinity is not a patriarchy. The spousal, sacramental love of Christ for the church is not intrinsically patriarchal (as the exegesis of Ephesians 5 abundantly shows), and Jesus Christ is head of the church because he is a divine person and our redeemer, not because he is male.

To act in persona Christi capitis means to act in place of a divine person. Neither men nor women are divine persons. Any baptised person, male or female, can be ordained to act in persona Christi capitis. All ministries, including ordained ministries, should be gift-based, not gender-based.

The exclusively male priesthood is a choice, not a dogma. The church has the authority (“the power of the keys”) to ordain women.

How can we preach the gospel of life if we choose to prevent female priestly vocations? The patriarchal age is passing, but the deposit of faith is inexhaustible. Let us pray that all Christian churches can see the difference between patriarchal ideology and revealed truth – and act accordingly. – Luis T Gutiérrez

You can find zen in Muizenberg

Sean O’Toole’s coastal journey (Opulent beach houses and the art of the leisure colonist) includes two missteps. First, the “Muizenberg beach cottage” in one of the photographs is the old Tolhuys, not Cecil John Rhodes’s cottage.

Second, his smart-ass remark that Muizenberg is “nowadays … more Hardluck than Hamptons” is absurd, as he would realise if he dropped in on the Muizenberg Festival (October 3 to 12): music, theatre, crafts, food, fynbos and estuary walks, clean air, historic buildings, exceptionally diverse residents and visitors, surfing ... Hard luck se voet! – John Cartwright, Muizenberg



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