Bishop Bheki Ngcobo, in purple, uMkhonto we Sizwe Military Veterans’ Association spokesperson Carl Niehaus and fellow supporters of Jacob Zuma during the former president’s court appearance in Durban last week.
The SA Council of Churches (SACC) “can go to hell”.

So says Bishop Bheki Ngcobo of the National Interfaith Council of SA (Nicsa), which has accused the council of churches - an inter-dominational group that unites 36 member churches and organisations - of being part of a conspiracy to destroy former president Jacob Zuma.

Ngcobo is unhappy that Zuma is back in court facing charges of fraud, money laundering, corruption and racketeering.

The charges, recently reinstated by the National Prosecuting Authority, arise from Zuma allegedly soliciting bribes during the government’s multibillion-rand arms deal in the mid-1990s.

According to the indictment, Zuma, who was then ANC deputy president and KwaZulu-Natal MEC for economic development, illicitly pocketed payments from the French arms company Thales through his former financial adviser Schabir Shaik. This allegedly went on from October 1995 to July 2005, in a series of 783 payments totalling R4072499.85.

Shaik was sentenced to 15 years in jail in 2005 for the same charges and released on medical parole in March 2009.

While the SACC was critical of Zuma’s behaviour in office and welcomed his recent resignation, Ngcobo claims the ongoing prosecution of Zuma forms part of a broader power struggle within the ANC.

Leading a group of Nicsa men of the cloth who rallied in support of Zuma at his court appearance in the Durban High Court last week, Ngcobo lashed out at the SACC for having welcomed his recent resignation.

“Some like the South African Council of Churches have found Zuma guilty before he appeared in court.

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“We cannot tolerate being ruled by the SACC. They are nothing to us indigenous churches here in South Africa. We are not looking for anything from them. They can go to hell.”

While the SACC has not entered into a war of words over Zuma, Bishop Emeritus Rubin Phillip of the Anglican Church has come to its defence.

Phillips, formerly a leader of the Black Consciousness Movement and deputy president to Steve Biko in the SA Students Organisation in 1969, is renowned for peace-making, reconciliation and mediation initiatives in KwaZulu-Natal.

“I am saddened that part of the church has been co-opted by some of the political leadership. Instead of standing with the poor and suffering they are defending policies that are increasing the suffering of our people,” said Phillip.

Phillip said it was problematic when a church grouping defended policies that worked against the poor.

“The National Interfaith Council of South Africa is one example.”

Ngcobo said Nicsa supported radical economic transformation, free education for poor people and the expropriation of land without compensation, also a rallying call of the EFF and Black First Land First (BLF).

Nicsa is a merger between the National Religious Leaders Forum and the National Interfaith Leaders Council. It arose from a presidential interfaith summit organised by Zuma in November 2008. He described it as “the holy revolution” of people of God against corruption, moral degeneration and marginalisation of previously disadvantaged people and communities.

Ngcobo and Nicsa associate Bishop Vusi Dube, who also represents the ANC on the KZN provincial legislature, said they would continue to mobilise support for Zuma ahead of his next court appearance on June 8.

welcome back ceremony is planned for Zuma on April 21 at his Nkandla residence.

Weekend Argus