Deputy President Paul Mashatile: Centenary Fundraising Gala Dinner of Evangelical Lutheran Church

16 Sep 2023

Keynote address by Deputy President Paul Mashatile during the Fundraising Gala Dinner for the 100th Anniversary of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Southern Africa, Alexandra Parish, at Marlboro Community Hall, Marlboro, 16 September 2023

Programme Director, Mr Tumisho Masha;
Rev Dean Vilander; Alexandra Parish Pastor;
Rev Moswane, Parish Pastor of St Thomas Lutheran Church
Mr Setate, Parish Chairperson,
Ms Ramaila, Council Member, Church Council members, and Leaders of all structures of the church;
Bishop Seane, of the Central Diocese;
Deputy Minister of Public Enterprises, Kopeng Obed Bapela and Deputy Minister in the Presidency, Mme Pinky Kekana;
All the priests and members of the congregation,
Friends, family and colleagues;
Ladies and gentlemen,

Sechaba sa Modimo, Re a ledumedisa ka lebitso laMorena Jesu! Lebitso laMorena Jesu alebokwe!

Congratulations to the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Southern Africa for your one-hundredth anniversary.

I am delighted to be part of this occasion for several reasons. Firstly, it's happening at home, and there's no better place to be than at home. Secondly, as the Deputy President, I am responsible for championing the country's social cohesion and nation-building programme.

The nation-building project remains challenging, but I am confident that we can achieve our goal of building a socially cohesive nation together.

Therefore, I am excited to be here as I believe it's an opportunity to revive and recommit ourselves to working together on the nation-building project.

I am also pleased that you have used the occasion of the 100-year celebration of the church to raise funds so that you can invest back into the community of Alexandra.

As the church, you have played an important in the development and growth of the community of Alexandra. This includes the investment you had made to the Lutheran Berlin Missionary, a school that has produced great men and women who are critical role players in our country.  

Hence, we are gathered here because of our shared convictions as found in the teachings of Apostle Paul, after whom I might have been named after, who states, in Acts 20 verse 35, "It is more blessed to give than to receive."

Giving generously to people in need without a grudging heart is the most extraordinary kind of humanity. This is because you will reap the rewards from above in due course.

The Bible commands us to provide those in need with shelter, food, and apparel and care for the impoverished, which may also include donating to their education and skill development. This act not only helps improve someone’s life from dependency to self-reliance but also improves the living conditions of our people.

Fellow worshippers, before I sound like a preacher, let me speak briefly on the church's role in contemporary society.

The church plays a crucial role in fighting social ills, irrespective of the denomination or community it serves. As a well-established moral and social leader, the church has effectively addressed social problems through outreach, education, and advocacy.

Historical evidence shows that churches made significant contributions to the cause of social justice, mainly through the support of legislation aimed at uplifting underprivileged groups. These endeavours encompassed combating discriminatory practices and pushing for improved quality of life for all individuals.

In general, we express satisfaction with the church's endorsement of our governmental function in addressing societal challenges, mostly centred on addressing fundamental necessities, advancing equality and fairness, and fostering a sense of community and social responsibility.

As we are all aware, social cohesiveness is widely recognised as a fundamental element of every given society, necessitating the active participation of all individuals in the collective endeavour to foster a harmonious social fabric.

Ladies and gentlemen, like the actions undertaken several decades ago during the apartheid era, it is imperative that we persist in our collaborative efforts to foster inclusivity among all people, irrespective of their racial, religious, or cultural backgrounds.

As a church, we must ask whether we have attempted to fulfil our community responsibilities or joined the masses who care about themselves.

Now, more than ever, we must join forces to counter what has grown to threaten our communities.

Among the many challenges confronting our communities, we must address access to quality education, poverty, unemployment, drug and substance abuse, child abuse, crime, corruption, lack of housing, teenage pregnancy, and high HIV infection among young people.

Resolving these challenges necessitates a collaborative endeavour involving not just governmental entities but also the active participation of all segments of society, including interfaith communities.

Interfaith initiatives, which include community service, serve as a vehicle for social change. These initiatives can specifically address issues like poverty and inequality.

In its capacity as a moral and social leader, we strongly encourage the church to collaborate with us to tackle these societal difficulties as well as others effectively.

As the government, we are devoted to addressing social issues by implementing various programmes, such as the social security system. Without the robust social security systems the South African government implemented, poverty and inequality would be far worse.

In the fight against poverty, the Department of Social Development houses two agencies operating on opposite sides. The South African Social Security Agency (SASSA) provides social assistance through various grants to prevent hunger and death due to poverty and supply the most basic needs.

On behalf of the government, I would like to apologise for the delayed payment of grants. We sincerely apologise. We will ensure that this does not happen again, and more importantly, we will ensure that grants are paid on time without fail.

We also have the National Development Agency, which lifts those who have fallen into the poverty trap to sustainable livelihoods and brings hope by providing gainful economic activities for themselves and their families.

Moreover, the government is committed to the spirit of Ubuntu, which underpins democracy and is reflected in the Constitution.

It aims to respect the worth of all individuals, fight against gender-based violence, eradicate child abuse due to social issues like malnutrition and drug trafficking, care for the weak and disadvantaged, and overcome discrimination based on status, custom, culture, and tradition.

This commitment to Ubuntu is to uphold the dignity of all individuals, regardless of social origin, race, gender, age, status, or class. It echoes the ethos and attitude of the church's ability to foster unity among individuals from various faith communities with the shared objective of providing care to those who need it.

More than ever, it is time for the church to resurrect and take a leading role to ensure that we foster a sense of belonging and community that helps reduce isolation in individuals and promote social bonds.

Moreover, from feeding the homeless to educating underprivileged children, the church must continue to show a deep commitment to serving society.

These acts of kindness and generosity benefit the recipients and inspire others to do the same, thus creating a culture of giving and kindness.

Therefore, I would like to express my appreciation to everyone present this evening for your contribution towards the initiative to support the refurbishment of Dr Knack Primary School.

The refurbishment of the educational institution will positively impact academic advancement and the overall welfare of pupils while also serving to attract and retain highly qualified personnel and educators.

We would also like to commend the Evangelical Lutheran Church, Alexandra Parish, in partnership with the Jewish Women's Organisation, for running a soup kitchen, which provides much-needed daily food to the Alexandra community, and for your after-school programme, which assists students with their homework.

Therefore, I urge everyone to emulate the Lutheran Church's example and assist in combating poverty in their communities by sharing their little with those less fortunate so that we can create a better future for our country.

As a government, we recognise and appreciate the work done by churches and religious institutions in promoting social cohesion and supporting our communities.

Your contribution to building strong communities and bringing people together is invaluable.

I have said all the above because I am convinced, having grown up in the church, that the church is essential to building strong communities.

In conclusion, I would like to say once more congratulations on achieving the milestone of 100 years - a true testament to your enduring existence and remarkable journey. 

As Martin Luther King taught us, “If I cannot do great things, I can do small things in a great way.”

Let the Church say Amen!

Ndza mi nkhensa, naswona mi va na vusiku lebyinene.

(I thank you, and have a great night).

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