Lamenting that the legacy of Nelson Mandela has been “substantially squandered,” South Africa’s National Church Leaders’ Consultation has said it welcomes President Jacob Zuma’s proposal of a national dialogue on morality.
The president was recently shown to have fathered a child out of wedlock, an action which drew significant criticism. The child is Zuma's 20th and is not from one of his multiple wives.
He recently told the South Africa paper the Sunday Times that there was a need for agreement upon “values that define a common South African identity.”
“We need this conversation that must help us reach a common understanding as South Africans,” he added. “Values may not exactly be the same, but how do we bring harmony to this?”
He cited Nelson Mandela’s exhortation to live together in harmony, saying that the discussion has not been taken further.
"How do we judge our values as a society? How do we judge other communities with whatever they practice? We need to create some platform to strengthen the respect of one another. We need to create a platform where there is no community that does not respect another."
In what the Sunday Times said was an apparent reference to his polygamous marriages, President Zuma urged all South Africans to “respect all cultures.”
National Church Leaders' Consultation issued a statement in response to the president’s comments, welcoming the proposed national dialogue on morality.
“As a nation, we have been reaping the fruits of attitudes – social, economic moral and political - that have undermined and continue to undermine what common values and principles of behavior we shared in the recent past to achieve our new South Africa.
“The elements of a legacy which were beginning to emerge under the leadership of former President Nelson Mandela and his generation of leaders have been substantially squandered.”
The church leaders said that South Africa is “floundering,” “directionless” and “clueless” about its destination as a country.
“The goodwill, momentum and historical opportunity of the World Cup should not be left to waste, for fear that after the event all we are left with is debt and acrimony,” they warned.
The Consultation proposed the “intrinsic and inalienable value” of the human person as a foundational principle.
“All else in any code of morals must take its lead from that basic principle. In this way we will avoid all considerations of race, class, nationality, religion and political persuasion.”
For Christians, this basic principle takes its origin from every person’s creation in the image and likeness of God, the church leaders explained. Such a principle would be the only way to judge the fair and just application of the Constitution to all those who have been given the gift of life, “from babies in their mothers’ wombs to natural death.”