October 13 to October 19 2006

Lob from cuckoo land

And now we have a lob from the far right of fundamentalist cuckoo land — Philip Cole (Letters, October 6) telling us that if Fred marries Steve today then tomorrow Fred may marry Molly the Cow. And God knows if this sort of thing carries on, we could have Fred marrying Ferdinand the Bull …

Even if it is true that four-fifths of South Africans label themselves Christian — a terribly dubious assertion — some of the calls for the legalisation of gay marriages come from within Christian ranks.

Opposition to the idea of gay marriage comes not from a robust Christian majority, but from a raucous conservative minority who have appropriated to themselves the definition of ”sacred”.

I know lots of longstanding homosexual relationships I would unhesitatingly label ”sacred” — men and men and women and women who have been together for years and care deeply for each other.

And by the way, your Maltese ­poodle says you are not her type. — Emil Rorke, Muizenberg

It is with considerable relief to many of us that the South African Council of Churches (SACC) has spoken out on same-sex marriage, and has done so prophetically.

Since liberation, the SACC has been rather silent on the prophetic theology of the Kairos Document, written more than 20 years ago. Church theology tends towards consolidation, and is inherently conserving. Prophetic theology tends towards renewal and is often experienced as destabilising.

But we can’t have a church that is true to the life and ministry of Jesus without it. Jesus spoke out against the conserving theology of the Jerusalem Temple’s leadership, saying: ”Is not this why you are wrong, that you know neither the scriptures nor the power of God?” We would do well to heed that arch-conserving theologian of the early church, Peter, who, when confronted by the Gentiles receiving the Holy Spirit, said: ”Can anyone forbid water for baptising these people who have received the Holy Spirit just as we have?”

Can any one forbid marriage to these people who have received the Holy Spirit just as we have? — Gerald West, Ujamaa Centre for Community Development and Research, University of KwaZulu-Natal

I thank the enlightened South African leaders, who have supported in kindness and love my gay friends’ struggle for the same legal recognition I have.

Those who want to ban gay marriages should spend less time persecuting people who love each other, and focus their energies on South Africa’s development challenges, and build bridges into the future, not the past. — Carmen Marchetti, Beijing

People have every right to believe homosexuality is outlawed by their religion, but they must also understand that marriage is a legal institution, governed by the Marriage Act, not the Bible or the Qur’an. As such, it will soon be an institution free from discrimination, open to all South Africans. — Oliver Meth

It is risky for Philip Cole to make claims about what Christianity may or may not think about marriage, or anything else for that matter. He can perhaps make claims about Christian denominations, but the notion of Christianity as a single, coherent entity is as much of a myth as the notion that ”Christianity has kept life-long, faithful, monogamous marriage between a man and a woman as an ideal right at the centre of society”.

If Christians are to be believed, Christ himself was hardly the product of such a marriage. And Christian practice and teaching remain vastly different phenomena. Were there, anywhere on the planet, a Christian society, it would not be necessary for its citizens to go to church to hear the word of God. They would see it practised every day on the streets. — John Brodrick, Johannesburg

Crime: revolution without leaders

Crime is related to escalating wealth differentials in South Africa, and the callousness with which the ruling elite, black and white, political and economic, accumulates more and more relative to the poor.

Take the violent security strike: what anger is generated by working 12 hours a day, travelling three or four hours and spending a third of your salary on transport? You don’t see your children in the week; you can only afford the bare essentials; this goes on year after year.

One man gets R1-billion in shares in the Telkom empowerment deal, enough to allocate R40 000 to 25 000 families. Why did they have to choose Andile Ngcaba and Smuts Ngonyama — couldn’t they be more creative?

Checkers workers are on strike for a single-digit increase when retail companies are making higher profits than ever. Whitey Basson gets a 30% increase. Paul Mashatile defends a R96 000 dinner.

How can we talk of ”one nation” when the elite practises legalised robbery? The levels of crime are symptomatic of a revolution, but an anarchic one bereft of leadership.

The cause of crime is hopelessness. Only when the elite declares war on poverty, rather than crime, will there be hope. — George Stacey

Statistics indicate that there are 450 000 crimes in South Africa every year. Even when someone is arrested, some cases are struck off the roll for lack of evidence, while others are postponed for months because the ­evidence is not available.

For example — a woman goes straight to the police station and district surgeon to report a rape. But because of the state’s inefficient forensic capabilities, the DNA evidence might take months to come back. What message are we sending to the victim? At the same time, dangerous offenders are sent back into the community because of ”lack of evidence”.

Justice delayed is justice denied. This means that suspects should get the speedy trial they are entitled to, regardless of their social standing, and that evidence linking people to criminal acts is used in a court of law.

We must hire more skilled personnel and invest in advanced equipment to restore hope in our criminal justice system. — Sipho Ngwetsheni, Mogale City

They have forsaken us

I am a young black man and ANC member, so I cannot be accused of being some racist whinger. I am writing to express my utter disgust and disappointment at Gauteng minister Paul Mashatile’s splurge of R96 000 on a single night’s dinner at a fancy restaurant.

What he did is inexcusable in a country where the majority of our people have suffered for most of their lives and continue to live in a sea of poverty. Even more shocking is that he and so many others fail to see that!

Mashatile must be made an example of. I call on everyone out there to campaign for his dismissal. It seems we have lost our way. The values that inspired our struggle are being rubbished by actions like these. Premier Mbhazima Shilowa should be ashamed of what is happening to his government. They are forsaking us. — Deeply disappointed, Johannesburg

Too tragic for laughs

If the Mail & Guardian‘s ignorance about Lesotho was not so tragic I would have been convulsed with laughter on reading ”Promise for Lesotho” (October 6).

Did the piece come straight from a Lesotho ministry of foreign affairs press release, without any critical analysis?

It was a couple of paragraphs long, while the M&G carries lengthy, well-researched articles about other African countries. Why not afford the same courtesy to your most immediate neighbour? — Mothepa Ndumo

Beware charlatans

Most of the younger generation in the black community have been swallowed by the Universal Church of God.

It is the single most authoritative religious force in our community. Its leaders control more followers than all the protest organisations — there is no civil rights movement that commands as many adherents.

Yet, because it is seldom consciously African, it is a controversial institution. It is not a united church in any political, social or religious sense. The church leader has never used his power to bring about black consciousness. It represents a conservative body of opinion and has never fully participated in the emergence of enlightened sections of the black community.

It is the individual wills of the preachers that constitute the power of the church. Those who minister to the flock control not only their religion, but their pocket books and politics too.

It is the recognition of this fact that has brought politicians into this community to beg the preachers for votes.

Its three main features are charismatic leadership, total submission to the leader and unyielding discipline.

Performances frequently take the place of substance, with the charisma of the leader sustained by showmanship and dramatic displays. Followers become so devoted to the leader that they would give him — he is almost always a man — their earthly possessions if he asked for them. In fact, many have no existence aside from the shadowy glory of the charismatic leader.

Services involve an attempt to drive congregants towards possession by the Lord, with syncopated pianos and organs often lifting the faithful into further ecstasy and individuals shouting and moaning. The preacher directs this ”mass madness”.

A preacher will rant about the egalitarianism of the church, but in reality his followers cannot move their bowels without his permission.

The danger of such religious practices is that of charlatanism — young men and women must guard against imposters who would use the church for personal gain. Preachers who love preaching because it enables them to drive BMWs and Mercedes must be prevented from assuming leadership roles in our community. — Fafa Sipho Ntuli

Adam encourages extremists

Heribert Adam cultivates scholarly impartiality in his writing. Which is why his deeply biased article (”Media poisons debate on Israel”, September 29) is so reprehensible.

Israel did not attack Lebanon; the reverse took place. Israel did not ”strategically bomb” civilians — if it had, the death rate would have been higher. It dropped leaflets endlessly urging civilians to get out, while going after Hizbullah hiding among civilians.

How does Adam know Syria ”would have no reason to support Hizbullah” if it recovered the Golan Heights? Would he stake his life on that assumption, as he wants Israelis to do?

He also knows ”barriers and walls” are no guarantees of greater security. But they do help stop some deluded youth from blowing himself and Israeli civilians into fragments. For Israelis that’s important, if not for Adam.

But worse than this is Adam’s profound moral blindness. His sin, from which all else flows, is to put the extraordinary Zionist enterprise, with all its human imperfection, in the same moral envelope as those who seek its destruction.

It allows Adam to pretend that the only issue is Israeli ”occupation” and not a struggle for survival. It allows the fiction of Israeli might, when Israel is a tiny, vulnerable country surrounded by much larger, resource-rich and hostile states.

Western progressives like Adam encourage the most extreme elements in the Arab-Islamic population and block rational debate. They must be held accountable for the consequences. — Mike Berger

Humble pie

Rapule Tabane believes the PAC should die (September 29). He should be eating humble pie now, after the PAC’s smooth election process.

Under Letlapa Mphahlele as president, Achmad Cassiem as secretary general and Ike Mthimunye as chairperson, the party will be able to reposition itself and unite members with a clear programme to fight for the destitute masses.

The PAC will grow stronger, as the Azanian masses are tired of the ANC’s empty promises. In recent years the PAC’s student wing, Pasma, has won many elections in tertiary institutions.

Pan-Africanism will never be destroyed — it can only be delayed. — Mandla Ntlanganiso

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