Unholy fight over bishop's support for Jacob Zuma
The National Interfaith Council of South Africa (Nicsa) has distanced itself from remarks made by its KwaZulu-Natal senior religious leader who accused the ANC of treating former president Jacob Zuma in the same way it had the late struggle icon Winnie Madikizela-Mandela.
Nicsa general secretary Rev Thamsanqa Mvambo said on Wednesday that they dissociate themselves with Bishop Timothy Ngcobo’s remarks he made ahead of a Madikizela-Mandela’s memorial service held in Durban on Thursday last week.
Ngcobo‚ who led a protest march ahead of Zuma’s High Court appearance on graft charges‚ accused the ANC of failing to support Madikizela-Mandela when she appeared before the Truth and Reconciliation Commission amid allegations of murder.
“Today we experience the same with former president Jacob Zuma‚ where his own organisation disowned him with allegations of charges of the arms deal during a time when he was MEC of KwaZulu-Natal‚” said Ngcobo in a statement.
Mvambo said Nicsa did not have a problem with its leaders supporting and defending Zuma in their personal capacities but not in the name of the organisation which promoted good relationships between different faiths.
Formed five years ago‚ Nicsa is an interfaith umbrella organisation including leaders from mainstream and charismatic churches‚ African indigenous churches‚ Rastafarians and the Jewish‚ Muslim and Hindu faiths.
“We are aware that in KZN a few bishops‚ including Bishop Ngcobo‚ started a campaign to support and defend former president Zuma. But our standpoint is that we don’t have a problem if individuals decide to support any person but not in the name of our organisation because we have tried to clear ourselves out of the political differences that exist even in the ruling party‚” said Mvambo.
He added that even during the political campaigns ahead of the ANC’s elective conference‚ they made it clear that they would not support any particular person “because that would be like interfering in the internal affairs of another organisation”.
“So our standpoint even now is that if they want to support whoever in their own individual capacities they are entitled to do as citizens of the country but not in the name of our organisation‚” he said.
He said it would be wrong for the organisation to be misrepresented by one person because they were a collective of different faiths.
“So whatever statement he made‚ he made it in his individual capacity‚ not on behalf of Nicsa. Our position is we dissociate from whatever statement he made and we would like to apologise to those who felt that Nicsa was doing them disservice.”
Mvambo described Ngcob’s statement as “unfortunate”‚ saying he had spoken to his KZN counterparts and they were also shocked by his remarks.
“We’re not even criticising what they are doing. All we’re saying is that they have a right to go and support the former president in their own right as religious leaders but not in the name of the organisation because that will be divisive for our members.
“So we don’t want that kind of debate we avoided during the [ANC’s elective] campaign and we’re happy that we did not become part of the controversy that happened. So we’re not going to be party to any particular campaign because we’re religious leaders and our organisation is apolitical.”
But Ngcobo‚ who is Nicsas’s general secretary in KZN‚ has hit back at Mvambo‚ saying he does not know in what capacity he was speaking as he was no longer with Nicsa.
“Here in KZN we know our structures and we’re not going to be confused. We don’t know him because the last time we checked he was no longer general secretary. There is no shock in KZN. This is our mandate [to support former president Zuma]. We’re speaking as KZN and we don’t know what he is distancing himself from‚” he said.
Two years ago‚ Nicsa’s Bishop Daniel Matebesi had to apologise after he was suspended for allegedly mobilising Nicsa members to attend a prayer event of the ANC Women’s League on behalf of the organisation.
His explanation was that he did not go there as a Nicsa representative but in his personal capacity‚ as a man of the cloth.