/ 8 July 1994

Struggle For Soul Of Acdp

A putsch by charismatic Christians has led to bitter conflict in the African Christian Democratic Party, reports Stefaans Brummer

A STRUGGLE for the soul of the African Christian Democratic Party culminated this week in two founder members breaking ranks and threats of further defections.

The party did surprisingly well in the April election, returning two MPs to the national assembly and three regional MPs.

Founder member Dan Maluleke, a former member of the national executive, joined co-founder Dr Johan van der Westhuizen, who announced his resignation as ACDP chairman on Tuesday, in denouncing the “coup” by the charismatics.

Maluleke alleged improper procedure in the election of national executive members and blasted the powerful role of a new “guardian committee” established to ensure the party adheres to “biblical principles”.

Van der Westhuizen said he had resigned after a “dogmatic, fundamentalistic and charismatic” turn in a party supposed to be inclusive of all Christians had led to friction between himself and other leaders.

The struggle for control of the party came to a head at a June 25 national meeting, which decided to elect a new executive. In what critics see as a purge of non- charismatics, at least four of the 12 executive members lost their positions. Both Van der Westhuizen and Maluleke withdrew from the meeting, forfeiting their chances of re- election, and ACDP parliamentary liaison officer Richard Mitchell, also not a charismatic, was ousted in the vote.

A major role in the reconstitution of the executive seems to have been played by the party’s “guardian committee”, formed a month ago. The committee is tasked with ensuring the party stays true to biblical principles and screening party office bearers to confirm their Christian credentials.

Maluleke said the guardian committee _ which has four non- ACDP and three party members _ had been loaded with representatives from charismatic churches.

ACDP president Reverend Kenneth Meshoe this week confirmed all seven guardian committee members were from charismatic churches and that they asked office bearers whether they were born-again Christians, but said the idea was not to bar non- charismatics from leadership positions.