South Africa: The Task of Discipling our Nation

I am going to include below an article that appeared recently in the Sowetan newspaper by Prince Mashele on the problem we face now here in South Africa and then connect that with my series on the vision of the City Church.

SA finally African, all thanks to Zuma
  By Prince Mashele | 9th May, 2016  SOWETAN

In the midst of the political confusion that has gripped our country many people are wondering if we have come to the end of South Africa.
The answer is simple: the thing called an "end" does not exist, not in relation to a country. SA will be there long after Jacob Zuma is gone.
What Zuma has done is to make us come to the realisation that ours is just another African country, not some exceptional country on the southern tip of the African continent.
During the presidency of Nelson Mandela and Thabo Mbeki, some among us used to believe that the black people of SA are better than those of other African countries.
We must all thank Zuma for revealing our true African character; that the idea of rule of law is not part of who we are, and that constitutionalism is a concept far ahead of us as a people.
How else are we to explain the thousands of people who flock to stadiums to clap hands for a president who has violated their country's constitution? Such people have no idea of constitutionalism.
Now that we have reclaimed our place as another African country, we must reflect on and come to terms with our real character, and imagine what our future portends.
In a typical African country, ordinary people don't expect much of politicians, because people get tired of repeated empty promises.
In a typical African country, people have no illusions about the unity of morality and governance. People know that those who have power have it for themselves and their friends and families.
The idea that the state is an instrument for people's development is a Western concept, and has been copied by pockets of Asian countries.
Africans and their leaders don't like to copy from the West. They are happy to remain African, and do things "the African way".
The African way is rule by kings, chiefs and indunas in a setting of unwritten rules. Is there anyone who has seen a book of African customary laws?
The idea that a commoner can raise questions about public money spent on the residence of a king is not African. The ANC MPs who have been defending Zuma are true Africans.
Asking a ruler to be accountable is a foreign - Western - idea. In a situation where there is conflict between a ruler and laws, Africans simply change the laws to protect the ruler. This is why no single white person has called for King Dalindyebo to be released from jail.
The problem with clever blacks is that they think they live in Europe, where ideas of democracy have been refined over centuries. What we need to do is to come back to reality, and accept that ours is a typical African country. Such a return to reality will give us a fairly good idea of what SA's future might look like.
This country will not look like Denmark. It might look like Nigeria, where anti-corruption crusaders are an oddity.  Being an African country, ours will not look like Germany. SA might look like Kenya, where tribalism drives politics.
People must not entertain the illusion that a day is coming when SA will look like the US. Our future is more on the side of Zimbabwe, where one ruler is more powerful than the rest of the population. Even if Julius Malema were to become president, it would still be the same.
African leaders don't like the idea of an educated populace, for clever people are difficult to govern. Mandela and Mbeki were themselves corrupted by Western education. (Admission: this columnist is also corrupted by such education.)
Zuma remains African. His mentality is in line with Boko Haram. He is suspicious of educated people; what he calls "clever blacks". Remember that Boko Haram means "Against Western Education".
The people who think we have come to the end of SA don't realise that we have actually come to the beginning of a real African country, away from the Western illusions of exceptionalism. Those who are unsettled by this true African character need help. The best we can do for them is to ask them to look north of the Limpopo River, to learn more about governance in Africa.
What makes most people restless about the future of SA is that they have Western models in mind, forgetting that ours is an Africa country. The idea that a president can resign simply because a court of law has delivered an adverse judgment is Western. Only the Prime Minister of Iceland does that; African rulers will never do that.
Analysed carefully, the notion of SA coming to an "end" is an expression of a Western value system - of accountability, political morality, reason, and so on. All these are lofty ideas of Socrates, Kant, Hegel, and so on. They are not African.
All of us must thank Jacob Zuma for introducing us to the real African Republic of South Africa, not some outpost of European values.


Prince, a South African national, holds a Master’s Degree in Political Science from Rhodes University, South Africa. Before becoming Executive Director of CPR, he was Head of Crime, Justice and Politics Programme at the Institute for Security Studies.

He also worked as a speechwriter in The Presidency, and also in the research unit of the Institute for Democracy in South Africa. Prince cut his teeth as a researcher at the Institute for Global Dialogue, where he spent time analysing a range of areas on contemporary African politics. He is a prolific writer on a multiplicity of issues, and he is a sought-after analyst.

My Comment:

If this had been written by a white South African I would not have copied it here as I would consider it too overtly racist.  But I respect Prince Mashele for his consistent quality analysis of the South African scene.

Why this article?  Well because we are all aware now that the 'Rainbow Nation" dream of South Africa as a beacon of hope on the African continent is dying.  Mashele makes the obvious observation: There is nothing exceptional about South Africa. We are just another African country and if you want to see the future look north to Nigeria, Zimbabwe, Congo etc. 

The noted academic and author R.W. Johnson (former director of The Helen Suzman Foundation and editor of The Economist) now living in Cape Town has written a number of books on South Africa and I read his two latest "South Africa: The First Man, The Last Nation" and "How Long Will South Africa Survive: The Looming Crisis" wrote a recent article on entitled "An Independent Western Cape" as his answer to the incompatibility of "Western Values" and "African Values" and the coming crises.  His solution: There is no solution and the Western Cape province needs to secede from the rest of South Africa.

At some point the church in South Africa is going to have to wake up and start getting the vision that the time for the "healing of the nations" is not in some distant future plan of God after the Millennium, or that we must just hang on and wait for Jesus to come and solve our problems. The problems are here and now and accelerating.

The official statistics are that 85% of South Africans consider themselves "Christians" our cities and townships have a church on practically every block, we are the most "Christianized nation" on planet earth in terms of statistics....and yet we are economically going down the drain and on every developmental or educational or crime stat we are at the bottom.  You will notice that the public debate is between "African values" and 'Western Values".  What ever happened to "Christian Values"?

The answers are not in dividing the country into new 'Apartheid" blocs or running to nations with "Western Values".  News to Prince Mashele: The Western Values that you value are now visibly collapsing in the world of Western Civilization!  And if you think that it was Plato and Aristotle that turned the vicious savage Vikings of the Nordic countries into the calm pacifist lot they are are greatly mistaken, research the history of missionary work in the first millennium. If you think that the enlightenment age of England came from the Renaissance you are mistaken, it came from the Reformation with the New Model Army of Cromwell marching with the Bible to break down the tyranny of Feudalism to establish the Biblical principles of rule of law, private property etc. and if you think along with most Americans that their Republic was founded by Washington and Madison and Jefferson on Plato's Republic, think again, it was founded by the Reformation Puritans on the Bible with Israel as their template.

The task before us here in South Africa for all the race groups who are disciples of Jesus Christ and who are in fact the majority of this country is to reject both 'African Values" and the collapsing western world's values and create a new society based on the values of God's Word....a nation of Christian values.

And that brings me back to the series of blogs that I am busy with....

The task of the Church is not just the salvation of souls. That is the irreplaceable starting point of our task. The follow up task is to disciple people.  And in that we need to understand that the imparting of new bits of knowledge every Sunday is not the process of discipleship. It is the start of discipleship.  The tasks of this life that take us from Monday to Saturday are the struggles that transfer head knowledge to heart reality. 

Every world culture is the outward expression of inward faith.  And it is time that we create a "Christian culture" in South Africa.  And that means that our Biblical value systems must be translated from Sunday sermons to Monday actions.

Every area of life in South Africa must be brought under the Lordship of Jesus Christ.  Our teachers need to be saved and transformed so that the shocking level of non-teaching can be addressed without government pleas for better results. The same for our hospitals and nursing staff. The same for the endemic corruption in our civil service. The same for our bad treatment of workers by our corporations. We need to create a Christian culture in this nation.

And if these problems are endemic in the current structures then we create new structures that are dedicated to the Kingdom of God....and this is where my vision of the City Church comes in.

The task before us is too big for the amount of people and resources that the average church congregation can put together. The average church struggles just to put a weekend bazaar together...what then of the enormous task of disicpling a nation? We need larger structures of God's people coming together for the purpose of purposeful work...tasks that need to be tackled.

Is your church praying to God for a demonstration of power? And if He does what are you going to do with it?  Do you understand that with power comes responsibility. Are you willing to take on the responsibilities that come with greater power? But if you as a church are not faithful in the smaller things how can God entrust you with the bigger things?

South Africa is surely not the only country with a bleak future. But I can tell you the pressure on us as a nation is greater every year....I believe the Lord is purposely pushing us into a corner that will force the churches to start working together. There are no political solutions here and the economic and social crises are coming on us like a tsunami.

In my blogs ahead I want to work on solutions for the church of the 21st Century. I trust you will be encouraged by the wonderful things that lie ahead for us.  

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