Senzo Mkhize.

I have noted with serious concern a misleading opinion piece crafted by Cardinal Wilfrid Napier, the Archbishop of the Catholic Church in Durban.

In an article, the man of God we all respect unleashes an uncalled-for, scathing attack on president Jacob Zuma, accusing him of lacking morals and ethics.

Vivid in the article is the anger and hatred for the president that the archbishop displays – which makes me strongly believe that he has assumed the opposition role and is trying to court public support. Without substantiating, Napier questions Zuma’s suitability to represent South Africa from a moral and ethical point of view. What an irony. The president commands a lot of respect not only in South Africa but internationally.

Zuma was recently commended for the role he played in the fight against HIV/Aids in our country. Former US president Bill Clinton praised Zuma at the International Aids conference in Vienna, Austria, saying South Africa was no longer a “pariah in the fight against Aids”.

We are not surprised this substantial achievement escaped Napier’s attention, bearing in mind the stance the church he leads has on how to prevent the pandemic.

The issue of morality that the archbishop raises in the article is crucial. Any reasonable person would agree that it should apply not only to politicians but to all citizens, including men of God.

When I read Napier’s article, I was reminded of the avalanche of newspaper articles I have read over the years that detailed the promiscuity of some priests in the Roman Catholic Church.

These are people who vowed publicly that they would remain celibate for the rest of their lives.

If these articles (which have not been disputed) are true, surely the archbishop should have started by preaching the importance of morality in his own back yard.

Even if the articles were not correct, it would have been wise of him to assure the public that his church was investigating the allegations or he should have simply said they were not correct.

While we find these reports disturbing and pray that the church will find a way of resolving them, unlike the man of the cloth, we have resisted the temptation of pontificating and breast-beating. This is because, in our tradition and beliefs, this is not the best way of resolving the problems facing this country and the world.

Our movement and the government we lead have a lot of respect for religious organisations. That is why the president has a forum where he interacts with the religious sector.

So accusing the president of lacking morality is disingenuous and smacks of someone who has assumed an opposition role.

The archbishop argues that the manner of electing presidents in South Africa is “undemocratic”. All democracies have different kinds of electoral systems.

In the US, for example, the president is directly elected by the people. The United Kingdom uses a system similar to the one used in South Africa where the president or prime minister is elected by parliament.

Both systems have strengths and weaknesses. It would be a fallacy to say the Westminster way of electing a president is less democratic than the one used in the US.

The way that South Africa decided to elect its own presidents was a product of robust debates by the multiparty groups and experts that were represented at the Convention for a Democratic South Africa (Codesa), which led to the adoption of the current system.

It is interesting that Napier decides to criticise the way the elections are conducted in South Africa, when little is said about the way in which elections are conducted in the United Kingdom.

It is a matter of debate whether the razzmatazz way in which presidential elections are conducted in the US would be better for South Africa.

In the US, only the moneyed can enter the presidential electoral contest. Surely, the money showmanship that characterises the US elections would exclude a lot of candidates in South Africa. We urge the archbishop to analyse issues soberly, to avoid embarrassing himself and millions of his church brethren in public.

We have established that scores of Roman Catholic priests are not happy with Napier’s views on Zuma. It is our view that churches should offer constructive criticism that can help to propel our country to greater heights.


- Senzo Mkhize is the provincial spokesman for the ANC.