Cape Town: Religious groups can play a critical role in addressing the immense anger that many South Africans still harbour years after apartheid ended and can help many to find healing and reconciliation, says President Jacob Zuma.
Addressing a crowd of over 2 000 people from different religious groups at the 4th Interfaith Action for Peace in Africa at the Good Hope Centre on Tuesday, Zuma said years on, many South Africans still bear the emotional wounds of apartheid.
“Our society is very angry. When people quarrel today, they kill one another. Taking the life of a human being today has become very easy.
“When workers are on strike, they are very angry, they burn things, they destroy properties. When communities are protesting they actually destroy what they are protesting about that should be delivered to them.
“That’s an anger that’s abnormal,” he said, pointing out that religious groups could play a key role in addressing this anger.
Joined by MPs on stage, he said though the Truth and Reconciliation Commission had addressed some of these wounds, there was never enough time to address these wounds properly because the country had needed to get right to work to rebuild itself after the first democratic elections in 1994.
However, Zuma said now was the time to “focus seriously on healing and reconciliation”.
He said South Africans were a unique people and that before the Codesa negotiations, no one in the world believed the country could ever reach a resolution.
“But because I believe God is with us in this country, we were able to come around and arrive at a conclusion,” he said.
He said the mistake many South Africans have made was thinking that by ending apartheid, the country had solved all its problems, but there were still more issues to be worked on.
The summit on social cohesion on July 4 and 5 this year, he said, had brought labour, business, the government and all social partners together because of a shared common destiny as South Africans.
“I believe we are capable of solving the many challenges we have as a country, as a people,” he said.
Zuma also said faith-based organisations had a critical role to play in strengthening the kind of society that is envisaged in the Constitution – particularly in social reconciliation and national healing.
However, he said it was not possible to build moral societies without ensuring there was a visible difference in the lives of ordinary people, adding that South Africans must work together to create more jobs.
He called on religious leaders to help build South Africa and instil in South Africans the values that the country’s forebears hoped for.
“It cannot be done by government or politicians only,” he said, adding that all dominations and religions should together.
Speaking before Zuma, the President of Interfaith Action for Peace in Africa, Ishmael Noko, said Africa’s greatest problem was not that it was poor, but it managed its resources badly.
Noko urged religious communities that criticised governments for not being democratic to also examine whether their own structures were democratic.
The organisation was founded on 2002 when 110 religious leaders from Africa committed themselves to working together for peace.