ACDP volunteer: 'We're not playing God but we want to make a real change'

The gospel according to the ACDP: Gladys Modise and a team of volunteers were met with both interest and indifference when they took to the streets of Thokoza to spread the party message. (Troy Enekvist, M&G)

The gospel according to the ACDP: Gladys Modise and a team of volunteers were met with both interest and indifference when they took to the streets of Thokoza to spread the party message. (Troy Enekvist, M&G)

The root cause of many of the problems South Africans face, including unemployment, teenage pregnancy and education,is society’s eroded moral fibre. That’s what Gladys Modise, a volunteer for the African Christian Democratic Party (ACDP), is telling Thokoza residents. 

The 31-year-old arrives at the volunteers’ meeting place in a black Mercedes-Benz, clad in skinny jeans, a perfectly fitting white ACDPT-shirt and Pierre Cardin boots.

Her bubbly personality, clothing and flashy car are incongruous in the surroundings — shacks spread as far as the eye can see. The residents of Mpilisweni make their way along its red gravel roads to use the green portable toilets that have been provided.

She is shocked by what she sees. “People should not be living like this.This is not the way God created people to live. I don’t live like this and so shouldn’t you,” she tells a resident.

Seated on a frayed old couch, Andries Dibetle listens intently as he holds on to a pamphlet Modise has given him. “For so long we have been living like this, nothing is changing,” he says. His interest is piqued when Modise starts talking about how 12-year-olds have been given the right to have consensual sex — and abortions.

“Hayibo!” he exclaims in surprise. His wife is even more shocked.“The issues we are facing in the country have very similar root causes. Even though people might find it hard to connect this with God,at the end of the day the fact that we have removed him from how we govern and our policies is the reason we are here today.” 

ACDP is here to change this.“We are not here to try to play God but we are holding on to the principles,” says Modise.

In an attempt to concentrate on what the effervescent Modise is saying, Dibetle asks for the volume on the TV (the latest episode of Khumbulekhaya is showing) to be turned down. Behind him is a fading picture of President Jacob Zuma, its edges frayed, the picture held together with browning sticky tape. 

“That old picture is how I feel about the ANC and what it has done for us in the past few years,” says Dibetle. Modise is also no stranger to the ANC. She used to vote for the party but now believes it has lost its way and no longer resonates with her — nor has it implemented the policies it promised. 

“I need to say that I am a Christian and I realise that the ANC and other political parties have forsaken the God factor. That is the reason why we are going down the road we are.” The young business owner first heard the party’s leader, Kenneth Meshoe, speaking on TV in 2013. Noticing the crucifix on the party’s emblem, she thought it was a televised sermon.

As she listened, she thought: “Wow, this is exactly what we need in South Africa.”

She was drawn to the party’s values and wanted to do something for her country. Walking around Mpilisweni, she soon realises that not everyone is as devoted a Christian as she is. A man throws the ACDP pamphlet on to the ground, announcing that he is “not interested in religious things”. 

Picking up the discarded pamphlet, Modise chases after him, explaining that her party is not about changing people’s beliefs. “We want to make a change that is attainable in your community. People are living in squalor here.”

The man continues to bat away her advances, but he eventually relents and tells her that he is originally from Nkandla and is disgusted by President Jacob Zuma’s mansion.

“Here, look at my ID. I was born there,” he says. Seizing the opportunity, Modise explains how the money spent on Zuma’s residence could have been used instead to assist small and medium enterprises or create jobs.

The man leaves with the pamphlet in hand. Later, Modise’s luck fails her. She approaches two men who are standing near a spaza shop. One of them, who will only identify himself as Shangaan, says he wants nothing to do with God, politics or praying.

“But do you want to continue living like this, without a job or prospects of any kind?” Modise asks thetough-looking man.

“What does it matter? The only time I have ever voted was for Mandela. That didn’t bring a change for my mother or me. The only person I looked up to was my mother and I don’t even pray to her,” he replies. Stabbing the air with his finger, his voice is raised. Modise quickly realises she’s not going to win this argument and backs off.

But, as she walks away, the spaza shop owner, a Somali man, asks her for a pamphlet. He’s probably not aware that the ACDP is pushing for tighter immigration controls.

“Many of our people don’t have jobs because of the number of foreigners taking their jobs. Not all of them are criminals or being arrested. About 50% of the foreigners in the country are here illegally and that impacts on small shops that can’t make a decent profit,” she says. Still, she hands the pamphlet to the shop owner. 

Later, the team reassembles at their meeting point. Faces animated,they take pictures and share their stories. Nearby a gang of boys picking through rubbish watches them.

  • View other stories in the believers series here
Athandiwe Saba

Athandiwe Saba

Athandiwe Saba is a multi award-winning journalist who is passionate about data, human interest issues, governance and everything that isn’t on social media. She is an author, an avid reader and trying to find the answer to the perfect balance between investigative journalism, online audiences and the decline in newspaper sales. It’s a rough world and a rewarding profession. Read more from Athandiwe Saba


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