/ 29 August 2007

SACC bemoans ‘politics of disgrace’

The South African Council of Churches (SACC) expressed its ”grave concern” on Wednesday at the tendency of politicians to shame and humiliate colleagues with whom they disagree.

”An increasing number of our political leaders and political parties appear to be going about their business by publicly disgracing one another in an attempt to score political points,” said SACC president Professor Tinyiko Maluleke.

”It seems that the media are equally happy to encourage and play this game,” he said in opening the SACC’s national executive committee (NEC) meeting in Johannesburg.

”The aim of the ‘politics of disgrace’ seems to be the elimination of all dissent in the political sphere through punishing those who dare to dissent by means of deliberately disgracing them.

”Because of the vindictive, underhanded and apparently orchestrated manner in which this is being done, it has the potential to erode public confidence in political processes, the integrity of politicians and of political parties.

”Though apparently done in the name of ethics and morality, the methods and tactics of the ‘politics of disgrace’ will empty our politics of all ethics and morality,” said Maluleke.

South Africa was trying to build a society that was based on mutual respect and affirmed the fullness of life for all people, added SACC vice-president Dr Puleng Lenka-Bula.

”Vengeance and personal humiliation have no place as political tools in such a society,” she said.

The NEC urged political leaders and parties to focus instead on the country’s pressing socio-economic problems of health, education, service delivery, poverty, unemployment and continuing and escalating inequality.

”Political leaders must be accountable,” said SACC general secretary Eddie Makue.

However, accountability had to be enforced by democratic institutions on the basis of careful investigation.

”Using tactics of public humiliation does not enhance accountability. On the contrary, it creates the impression that malfeasance is endemic and the trick is to avoid being caught,” he said.

The NEC appealed specifically to African National Congress leaders ahead of the ruling party’s policy conference in Limpopo in December to ”rise above ideology, pettiness and the ‘politics of disgrace’ in their contributions to conference deliberations and in choosing leaders”.

”The fact that a new party leader — who will also likely become the president of the country — will be elected … gives this conference a unique and national significance beyond the confines of the political party,” it pointed out. — Sapa