Pastor’s hunger strike bears no fruit

Pastor Xola Skosana embarked on a month-long hunger strike to highlight the plight of the poor. Photo: Ross Jansen

Pastor Xola Skosana embarked on a month-long hunger strike to highlight the plight of the poor. Photo: Ross Jansen

Published Oct 13, 2011


A pastor lost over 10kg after completing a month-long hunger strike to highlight the plight of the poor, yet his solo campaign appears to have gone virtually unnoticed in the city.

However, Xola Skosana, of the Way of Life Church in Khayelitsha, made international news over the weekend when the UK’s The Observer on Sunday newspaper highlighted his protest to illustrate prevailing inequities in the city 17 years after democracy.

In Cape Town, more than one in four people live in an informal settlement and more than one in five are unemployed.

“For Skosana, these people are the city’s life blood but see none of its rewards,” the newspaper reported.

Skosana broke his fast last week and described the experience as the most difficult thing he has ever done in his 43 years, bar running the Comrades Marathon two years ago.

“I’d probably think twice if somebody would ask me to do it again,” said Skosana.

His hunger strike was intended to be an “alternative voice” to alert authorities to the injustices suffered by the poor. Skosana called the living conditions of unemployed black people in the townships “a crisis”.

Yet, throughout the campaign, no political leaders had made contact with him, he said. He had drawn support from his Facebook followers and his family. His 200-strong congregation had dedicated a day of fasting, and some even two.

Skosana started with a dry fast, before taking water on the sixth day. Towards the end of the strike, he began taking rehydrates as dehydration was impairing his speech.

“My lips were drying out as I had very little fluid in my body,” said Skosana, who is married and has three daughters.

He accused authorities of continuing “apartheid-style separate development”.

“What is happening is inhibiting God-given potential,” he said, referring to the abject poverty in which the majority of people in townships live.

“We need to call upon our leaders to think outside the ANC-DA boundaries; we need leaders who have compassion,” he said.

“It (poverty) is a structural problem, so we need to ask structural questions. Don’t just deal with symptoms.”

Skosana suggested that the city council provide land closer to the city so that people could access jobs easily, as opposed to “packing them up in carriages like sardines”.

On Christmas Day last year, Skosana marched through the streets of Khayelitsha under a banner which read “Welcome to hell, SA townships”, to highlight the plight of township residents.

He also attracted attention when he delivered a sermon saying Jesus had HIV/Aids. He used the metaphor to highlight the stigma and danger of the HIV/Aids pandemic, arguing that it was necessary to create an environment where HIV-positive people knew God was not ashamed of them. - Cape Times

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