/ 19 September 2009

ANC, SACC reject claims of tension

The ANC’s religious commission and the South African Council of Churches on Friday rejected claims that there was tension between them.

”The meeting reaffirmed the long standing relationship between CRA [Commission for Religious Affairs] and the SACC and rejected claims in the media that there were tensions between the two parties,” they said in a joint statement.

Leaders discussed the relationship between the commission, the SACC and the National Interfaith Leaders Council (NILC).

”The meeting was of a strong view that closer cooperation within the faith-based community was important in the interest of nation building and improved service to the people of South Africa.

”The parties also agreed on the need for a united interfaith initiative and the importance of further engaging other formations.”

The meeting formed part of discussions between the commission and other faith-based organisations to come up with a ”formula for cooperation” between religious sectors.

The role of the NILC, about which the SACC complained it was neither informed of nor invited to participate in, was also ”clarified”.

The NILC, a mass-based group of religious leaders from across the country reflecting all major faiths practised in the country, was formed in July and is chaired by Rhema pastor Ray McCauley.

Last month, the SACC said while it did ”not presume that our exclusion was malicious”, it was disappointed ”at not having been offered the courtesy of [an] invitation”.

It, at the time, said it contacted the NILC’s leaders and the ANC’s commission for religious affairs to find an ”amicable way forward”.

Thereafter, the commission’s chairperson Mathole Motshekga noted the concerns raised by the SACC saying it would try to address the issue and eliminate obstacles to unity in the religious sector.

Friday’s meeting is aimed at helping ”parties to find one another and hammer out a formula for cooperation in the interest of the membership of the various organisations and the people of South Africa as a whole”.

The Mail & Guardian on Friday reported that the SACC had been ”marginalised” because it would not endorse ANC decisions.

Quoting two unnamed sources within the SACC, the report said the council felt it was being punished for refusing to formally ally itself with the ruling party, its failed attempts to intervene in
former president Thabo Mbeki’s recall and its failure to endorse the ANC before the 2009 election.

Another source close to government and the NILC, also unnamed, said relations between the SACC and ANC had deteriorated because of suspicion that the SACC was becoming ”a springboard” for the opposition — the Congress of the People in particular.

Cope parliamentary leader Mvume Dandala is a former SACC president and SACC members include Cope leaders Allan Boesak and Stellenbosch vice-chancellor Russel Botman. – Sapa