Deputy President David Mabuza: Inter-Faith National Prayer Day

18 Aug 2018

Keynote address by Deputy President David Mabusa on the occasion of the Inter-Faith National Prayer Day for moral regeneration and the end of violence against women and children, Ellis Park Stadium, Johannesburg

MEC Mayathula-Khoza
Bishop Zondo and all the Bishops here present,
All Religious Leaders
Congregants
Ladies and Gentlemen
  
Thank you for inviting me to address this inter-faith prayer.
 
On 8th January 1912, our people descended to Bloemfontein from the then four South African republics.
 
They gathered in a small chapel in Bloemfontein to pray and seek the Lord’s intercession in their struggles for liberation and unity.
 
And so was the people’s movement formed, the African National Congress, which is today the governing party of this great nation.
 
As a liberation movement was founded in that Methodist Church, organised by the faithful, their objective was to bring various organisations and denominations together to pursue unity and struggle.
 
They left Bloemfontein as God’s people united in their diversity with the objective to build and create a non-racial, non-sexist, just and prosperous country.
 
As we gather here today, we do so as children of no lesser God, united in His promise, faith and prayer tempered with struggle, commitment and selfless sacrifice.
 
We are gathered together in prayer, united in our diversity as one people, with one mission, and a shared sense collective responsibility to build a better nation. Our shared dream is that of a nation underpinned by core values respect and dignity for all.
 
We are again gathered here in a time of pain and struggle.
 
We are again confronted once more with the degeneration of human values, immorality, sloth and deviant afflictions.
 
We are gripped by the pain and suffering not as natives nor Africans, but as people, South Africans of a country reborn, black and white, united against the abuse of women and children.
 
Our country is in the throes of pain, pain at the hands of men, men who grievously abuse the most vulnerable in our society.
 
And it is so, that we came here to pray. To remind ourselves how far we have come to build this nation, to recount and recalibrate the distance we have travelled to arrive here.
 
Born from the evil experience of racial hatred and discrimination, sexism, and patriarchy, the Constitution enjoins us to give birth to a new society founded on human dignity, non-racialism, and non-sexism.
 
Violence perpetrated against women is an offence against the founding values of the supreme law of the Republic, our Constitution.
 
Prejudice and discrimination against women is a violation of the Constitution and all that we seek to build as a nation.
 
A nation that undermines the aspirations of women and oppresses them can have no peace, no social cohesion, and no development.
 
In this month of August, we remember and honour all the women of our country whose lives have to confront unpleasant realities of abuse and gender-based violence.
 
In the face of this, they have risen to define themselves as agents of change and nation builders.
 
We remember those women who marched to the Union building on 09 August 1956 to demand the liberation of our people, in totality, including the emancipation of women.
 
On the 1st of August this year, scores of women, large in their numbers, again marched to the Union Buildings to demand the end of violence against women and children.
 
It is in their honour that we are here today. It is out of their shrilling cries and winches of pain that we register their call that “enough-is-enough”.
 
Many women are suffering. We may not know them. We may never see them but we know they exist, for violence in our nation has a face, the face of a woman.
 
And so we are here to pray against this violation. We thank the Church and the entirety of religious community for standing up as they did back then in 1912, to call for an end to this injustice against humanity, and for a stop to our descent down the slippery slope of violence, prejudice and abuse. 
 
We have come to the church, to faith-based organisations, to traditional leaders, healers and women organisations, to say we have heard you and to admit that we are a broken society.
 
We have come to say that we acknowledge that amongst us as a society, live those who are in breach of our fundamental values of human, women and gender rights.
 
We are here to seek atonement, forgiveness, to seek guidance, to search for healing and to find solutions. For in our creator, we trust.
 
In the faithfulness of the ancestors; in the rejuvenation of African spirituality; we hope for the revival of the soul of our nation. We pray to a return to our sense of moralbeing, a return to a semblance of honour and ethical virtues.
 
As a society steeped in violence, we are called upon to admit that we are a broken society that needs to rediscover those values that have for years united us a people in standing firm against injustice and prejudice. The senseless and cowardly killing of women, must come to an end. It is barbaric and have no place in our civilization.
 
The religious fraternity must join government in its efforts of fighting gender based violence, and together we must denounce this by standing up, by taking bold action and accountability. We must all admit that we have a problem.
 
It cannot be that we accept as normal to see the cold faces of women, battered and bruised, by the fists of rage, ego and a wrought sense of power.
 
South African women live in fear. They are not safe in their homes. They are not safe on our streets, not in the church, not in the workplace; South African women live in fear, even inside their own bodies.
 
We have to hear their cries. We have to feel their pain. We have to heal their wounds.
 
The end to violence against women must start with those who perpetrate it. It begins and ends with men. It starts with teaching the boy-child to respect and honour the bodies of women and to teaching young boys to respect their mothers and sisters as they would themselves.
 
It begins with returning to our old-age values and respect for all women without age, gender or class origin.
 
It is time for men to have conversation amongst each other. We must call each other out on the entrenchment patriarchy and chauvinism as a normal way of life.
 
We must teach each other to treat rape with the requisite seriousness. There must be no family meetings, no justifications, excuses and traditions that violate the rule of law.
 
We must release our gripping hold on women’s bodies. We must teach each other, the boy child, what it means for a woman to be a human being.
 
As we grapple with these challenges, the role of the religious fraternity is to engage in programmers that contribute to the moral regeneration of our society.
 
Our liberation struggle was not just about ending national oppression.
 
It was also about ending the triple oppression of women. As mothers, sisters, and daughters, black women were oppressed on the basis of race, class, and gender.
 
The ANC government remains seized with this historical task of the full emancipation of women.
 
We are keenly aware that patriarchy remains pervasive.
 
Patriarchy remains omnipresent in our language, idioms, metaphors, stories, myths, and performances.
 
The liberation of women demands that they too are freed from sexist, oppressive language that gets packaged as transcendental truth or ancient wisdom.
 
The ANC as the governing party, is fully committed to gender parity and gender equality as a precondition for economic freedom in our lifetime. We understand that women are the soul and fire, not just of the ANC, but of our nation.
 
Our commitment therefore to ensure women’s participation in the economy is unequivocal. However, these initiatives have no chance of success if women continue to bear the brunt of gender-based violence, usually at the hands of their intimate partners.
 
Our empowerment programmes must at all times seek to build social cohesion. They must move from a basis of addressing gender inequality, bring a sense of security for all the vulnerable and address wealth gap that is racial in character.
 
More importantly, we must work hard to enhance the responsiveness of our criminal justice system so that women are protected from all indignities perpetrated against them.
 
Justice must be done and seen to be done. Where there are abuses in the home, rapists in the church and abusers on university campuses, we will have a zero tolerance attitude to crimes against women and children.
 
While we respect the duties of churches to pray and guide, it is the duty of the state to arrest, prosecute and send perpetrators to prison. It is our work to serve and protect.
 
Be that as it may, we are all too aware that the bigger struggle is the moral regeneration of society.
 
Moral regeneration is a fundamental pillar of building a cohesive and caring society founded on ethical values, and a base on which the society we envision should be built.
 
We, as leaders and custodians, must lead with rectitude and the required confidence. We must live and practice what we preach as politicians, priests, traditional leaders and guides for the next generation.
 
We call upon the Church and religious fraternity to play a leading role in our efforts of arresting the proliferation of drugs, alcohol and substance abuse. We must feel the pain at the sight of children and young people who stand at traffic corners and decay under the weight of poverty and drugs.
 
The Church and religious fraternity must join government in ending hopelessness, joblessness and poverty. All these ills are carried mostly by by women, by mothers and grandmothers in the absence of sustained fatherhood.
 
The moral regeneration campaign remains a critical pillar for our collective future. Our renewed energy and focus on moral regeneration work, will be anchored on a broad-based and inclusive approach that allows all key sectors across the social spectrum to make positive contribution.
 
It is time to unite and return to the revolutionary morality bequeathed to us by our leaders such as Madiba and Albertina Sisulu.
 
We need to find ourselves again. We need to find that revolutionary affection amongst the people to rebuild broken families, to re-ignite a spirit of community, of social-cohesion and to build a shared sense of nationhood.
 
We look to our spiritual leaders to provide moral guidance and spiritual compass. Those of us in elected leadership positions, need your continuous guidance and prayers so that we lead God’s people in a manner that is consistent with His intended purpose.
 
And so, in the ways of the faithful we say:
Abide with me, fast falls the eventide
The darkness deepens Lord, with me abide
When other helpers fail and comforts flee
Help of the helpless, oh, abide with me
Swift to its close ebbs out life's little day…
Earth's joys grow dim, its glories pass away…
Hold Thou Thy cross before my closing eyes
Shine through the gloom and point me to the skies
Heaven's morning breaks, and earth's vain shadows flee
In life, in death, o Lord, abide with us.
 
I thank you.
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