Letters to the Editor: July 27 to August 2

Global acts do cut poverty

I have always admired and enjoyed reading Kwanele Sosibo’s views on South African music, arts and culture. So I was surprised to read his Mail & Guardian article with misinformed assertions about the Global Citizen Festival: Mandela 100, questioning the efficacy of the Global Citizen movement and its fundamental goal, a world without extreme poverty by 2030.

Sosibo dismisses the eradication of extreme poverty as an improbable, even laughable goal for the hopelessly naive. At the same time, he offers zero objective analysis of advocacy as a catalyst for public policy focused on poverty alleviation; nor does he offer an alternative theory of change worthy of consideration.

Ending extreme poverty by 2030 is not a farcical or fantastical aim. Nor was it dreamt up overnight by any single nongovernmental organisation or movement. Rather, it is enshrined in the United Nations’ sustainable development goals, a 17-point plan that aims to end extreme poverty, mitigate climate change and reduce inequality. It is by no means perfect but the alternative of doing nothing is not a solution.

In 2015, all 193 UN member nations, including all of the Brics nations (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa) adopted the development goals. Achieving these goals will require political ambition and commitment far beyond what the world has seen in recent years.

In the past 20 years alone, the number of people living in extreme poverty was cut in half, falling by 137 000 every day for the past 25 years, according to economist Max Roser. This is not just about rising incomes. We have also seen significant progress in reduced child and maternal mortality rates.

And yet most people have no idea about the progress that has been made. A recently published 26-country survey (which includes South Africa) conducted by Glocalities over January and February 2018 highlights that 84% of the global population believe that extreme poverty has either increased or stayed the same. Only 10% of respondents say they have a fair to good knowledge of the development goals. Those who are aware that extreme poverty has decreased (16% worldwide) have a more positive outlook on the future and are more likely to take action.

That is why Global Citizen has taken a “pop and policy” approach, working with some of the best artists in the world, who have the power to reach millions of fans and activists, and who can call on world leaders to make serious commitments to ending extreme poverty.

Global Citizen focuses on engaging people to take actions that, as Sosibo notes, “they otherwise would not take”. In the first 24 hours after the announcement of the Mandela 100 Festival, Global Citizen saw more than 100 000 people register to be Global Citizen activists, with more than one million actions in the first week alone.

But Sosibo says South Africans (unnamed and unsourced) responded with “scorn and ridicule” to Global Citizen’s model of action for advocacy. But the level of interest shown by South Africans has broken all records for first-week sign-ups in a new market.

Global Citizen has always operated through local partnerships, in this case, with the proud support of the Motsepe Foundation and my family, the House of Mandela. Far from being an “outsider perspective”, as Sosibo infers, the campaign planning and architecture has been thoughtfully designed in consultation with NGOs, activists and partners throughout South Africa and the continent.

Sosibo suggests people will stop taking action once the show is over. Our experience suggests otherwise. Yes, politicians on occasion break promises, as reflected in the low levels of trust society has in government. But our activists take actions throughout the year, not just during events like the festival, so we provide a platform for maintaining ongoing pressure on politicians.

So far, more than R498-billion has been pledged in response to Global Citizen-led or partner-supported campaigns, and R134-billion of that money has been disbursed or transferred, resulting in 648.9-million interventions to help people lift themselves out of extreme poverty — interventions that range from vaccinating a child to providing one year of education.

In 2005, Nelson Mandela urged the world to make poverty history. Although the world has made strides towards realising his vision, Africa still has work to do to make sure all its people live in a world free of extreme poverty.

Sosibo’s article serves to highlight the extent to which far too many people remain uninformed about how we can realise a world without poverty.

It is easy to buy into cynicism; all too often, it becomes the norm. Perhaps this article shows us why new approaches are needed. As Mandela said: “Of course, the task will not be easy. But not to do this would be a crime against humanity, against which I ask all humanity now to rise up.” — Kweku Mandela, executive producer, Global Citizen Festival: Mandela 100 

Racist minority enacts church capture

In its history the Dutch Reformed Church (DRC) acquired brown and black members through its missionary work.

For racist reasons the church did not incorporate these members, but created the Dutch Reformed Mission Church (DRMC) for the brown believers and the Dutch Reformed Church in Africa (DRCA) for black believers. By way of the Belhar Confession, the DRMC pointed out to the Dutch Reformed Church that, on biblical grounds, God does not allow for any distinction based on race in the church.

By uniting the DRMC and the DRCA, the Uniting Reformed Church (URC) was formed to heal the racial divides. In the 1998 court case resulting from a property dispute during the unification, the Supreme Court ruled that minority rights are enshrined and therefore, if some church members did not want to unite as churches, they have the right to keep their old name and all the property. That is why the DRCA has kept its name and its property.

This court ruling has since been incorporated into the church order of the DRC. The result is that a minority of the DRC can and has prevented the unification between the URC and the DRC.

This opposition is not argued on biblical grounds, but is forced upon the majority because the court’s ruling has given all the power into the hands of the racist minority of the DRC.

The court’s ruling has thus effectively enshrined racism and has given the minority the power to commit church capture.

The majority, who want to unite on biblical grounds, are forced not to do so by the minority who has received the right from the court to keep all the church property should the majority wish to unite.

This is spiritual blackmail. — Dominee Johann Theron, Kraaifontein

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