As I write this letter to you, I sit behind prison doors with arm guards all around me. Let it be known that I am a prisoner for Christ and the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Besides all my troubles, I have received the good news about your heroic struggle against colonialism, imperialism and apartheid. I was encouraged by the manner in which through dialogue and sufficient consensus you managed to overcome your greatest adversary and demons of racism. The brutal killing of your liberation icon, Chris Hani and many others before the dawn of your democracy was really intended to harm your triumphant march towards freedom and justice for all. By the grace of God, you overcame the designs of the enemy and remained united in your resolve to build a new nation, a rainbow nation.
Timothy my servant and brother, shared with me the news about your historic elections for a free and democratic nation. My heart sang with joy as I saw images of the many citizens of your country who stood in long and snaky queues to cast their ballot for the first time. Since your first democratic elections, you have done well to develop a democratic constitution that seeks to protect the rights of all your citizens. The hosting and subsequent victory by your rugby team in 1995 with your son, Nelson Mandela wearing a springbok jersey was a step in the right direction towards nation building.
Since the 1995 rugby World Cup, you have hosted major events such as the Africa Nations Cup, the Cricket World Cup, the FIFA Confederations Cup and the first FIFA World Cup to be hosted on the African continent. In fact, you are fast becoming known throughout the world for being great hosts for conferences and other major events. Your tourism numbers are impressive.
I was therefore deeply shocked and distressed to see images of the brutal killing of your fellow brothers and sisters from the African continent who took great care of you during your struggle. Since when did you develop such hatred towards foreign nationals? I was even more shocked by the loud silence of the church and the failure of the church to provide shelter and refuge for those that are homeless and hungry. For those of you who did, well done. I must remind you that the true purpose of your calling as a church is to preach the good news to the poor, to heal the broken hearted and to walk humbly with your God.
And what is this nonsense I hear about preachers who make God’s people to eat grass and drink petrol? It seems to me that more and more of your churches are becoming social clubs and feeding on the desperate circumstances of your poor. I will not even comment about the immorality that is fast growing in your communities. Your children have now turned to drugs like nyaope because you have kicked out Christ from your schools. And then you wonder when teenage pregnancies are forever on the rise with some of your teachers taking advantage of your children.
What is this rubbish that I hear about a 30 percent pass rate at your schools? Are you serious? Did you really struggle against apartheid to afford your children such an inferior pass rate or is this meant to make the teachers look good while concealing the real problems in your education system? Can you really expect to be a leading nation with such poor education outcomes? Is this what Tsietsi Mashinini, Hector Pieterson and others died for? I encourage you ponder this as you remember June 16, 1976. The best tribute you can pay your fallen heroes and legacy for future generations is to fix what is broken in your education system. Just ask Uncle Bob in Zimbabwe! He may have some good ideas to help you on this journey. After all, his people are better educated despite all their challenges.
Speaking of education, have you paused for a moment to notice the link between your sluggish economic growth rate and the lack of innovation, creativity and support for the smme sector? I have received reports from other churches that the biggest employer in their countries are the small businesses. Your wage bill for the civil service is way too high. Watch out!
Do you have a good story to tell? Yes you do without a doubt but I must issue a sound warning that this will not be for long if you carry on like this. You have turned your parliament into the most watched comic strip on your televisions and your children are watching all of this. Always remember that children listen to your actions.
The newspapers in your country have placed a limit to the number of words to my letters and I must now stop but please remember to take care of the poor in your country and stop wasting public funds on vanity projects and enriching the few politically connected. Corruption is a terrible thing that acts like a cancer that has destroyed many nations. Don’t be next!
Always remember to do good and to support Proudly South African and work towards building Proudly African and do trade with your African brothers. Grow your local economies, feed the hungry, create sustainable jobs and fix your education before it is too late.
Let no debt remain outstanding amongst you except your love for each other. This is the same message that I wrote to the church at Rome. I reminded the Phillippians church to be anxious for nothing. I also encouraged the Colossians to set their minds on things above. I have noticed a major change in the church at Ephesus since my letter to them and I wish the same for you. Meditate on what is good. Abhor evil. Pray for your leaders that you may live in peace to avoid similar tensions in the Middle East.
Grace, peace and mercy be with you until the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, amen!
An opinion piece by Adv Leslie Sedibe, inspired by a sermon delivered by Dr Martin Luther King Jr. Sedibe writes in his personal capacity