When liberators become oppressors

23 02 2010

Tue, 2010-02-23 16:18

Revd Roger Scholtz of the Methodist Church has castigated the authorities for turning themselves into oppressors of the people they once liberated.He was speaking at a prayer service organised by Diakonia Council of Churches outside the gates of the Durban Magistrates’ Court on 19 February. The service was attended by church leaders who included Bishop Barry Wood OMI, Chairperson of Diakonia Council of Churches, staff and friends and family members of the Kennedy 12.

In a powerful message Revd Scholtz said it is ironic that the service is being held just a week after the 20th anniversary of the release of Nelson Mandela from prison.

“On that day when Madiba walked free, a new song had begun, a new song of hope. A song of promise that the long night of injustice was ending, and that a new day of liberty was dawning”, he said.

But what has necessitated the prayer service at the courts?, Revd Scholtz asked. “How is it possible that in this land, this land that has tasted thesweetness of captives being set free after the bitterness of unjust bondage for so long, how is it possible that in this land we find justice being denied in aseemingly wilful and orchestrated way?, he asked.

Revd Scholtz asked how it is possible that the liberators of yesteryear have become today’s oppressors. ‘How can it be, that those who are in power, who themselves knew what it was like for the voices of the poor and powerless to be silenced, how can it be that they now seek to silence those very voices that are crying out in lament from under the crippling burden of poverty that they are bearing alone?”, he asked.

He also pointed a finger at Christians and accused them of being accomplices in this darkness of injustice that has descended on the land with total depression looming over the horizon and encouraged the gathering to do a penitential service. “Let us confess our part in the injustice that is being witnessed even now. We confess that our response to the needs of the poor and the oppressed has largely been shaped by concerns for our own comfort and convenience. We confess that we have been easily seduced by invitations to stroll through the corridors of power, in the process loosing our capacity to speak truth to those who abuse the power entrusted to them”, he said.

In his act of confession lay massive criticism of authorities, “We confess our naïveté in thinking that the long, hard lessons of oppression would be enough to hold those who now rule to a higher standard, and for assuming that the fruits of freedom would not be hoarded by some at the expense of others”.

He ended by encouraging the church in Durban to stand in solidarity with oppressed people wherever they may be. “But as we do, we do so as the gathered people of God in this very place where the bitter consequences of our complicity are so painfully evident in the lives of our brothers from Abahlali who are incarcerated inside. May this gathering be a sign of our penitence, and our firm resolve to stand as the people of faith in a new way, not just in solidarity with those from Abahlali who are victims of injustice, but with all God’s people who have been denied in some way”, he said.

Meanwhile, the new magistrate in Abahlali court appearance has admitted that there is massive political pressure in the Kennedy 12 case.

This is the first time that a judicial officer has openly admitted what many who have been following the case have been saying.

He was speaking at the tenth court appearance of the Kennedy 12. As a result of this political pressure, he remanded the five in custody to a distant 4 May when they are expected to make another court appearance. The other seven who are on bail have finally been allowed to come and stay in Durban, but the rest of the stringent bail conditions were not changed.

Immediately after the magistrate’s admission and decision, Bishop Wood burst with outrage at the way the Kennedy 13 have been persecuted by the state since 26 September 2009: “This calculated act of the unprovoked and unjustified harassment and persecution of Abahlali by the authorities who have themselves failed to deliver on their electoral promises, this sadism of the highest order shows to what despicable moral levels our leaders have sunk. This must be condemned in the strongest possible terms by all people of conscience”.

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