South African bishop calls on president-elect to eradicate poverty

By Ecumenical News International
May 5, 2009

A senior South African Roman Catholic cleric has called on the newly-elected African National Congress government, led by Jacob Zuma, to go all out in its efforts to eradicate poverty, HIV and AIDS - writes Munyaradzi Makoni.

"We would like to be your partners in the effort to eradicate poverty … We are weary of fighting government for what it is constitutionally, legally and morally bound to deliver," said Archbishop Buti Tlhagale, president of the Southern Africa Catholic Bishops' Conference.

In a 28 April open letter to Zuma, who as leader of the largest political party will become president, Archbishop Tlhagale said the existence of HIV and AIDS is the country's greatest threat and it must be addressed with the gravity it deserves.

"The NGO [non-governmental] sector can and must be given a supportive role in attacking this threat – but it is important that the government takes the initiative and leads the broader society in this new struggle," Tlhagale said.

The ANC failed to garner a two-thirds majority in the 22 April elections, a result it needed in order to change the constitution, but it still romped to victory with 65.9 per cent of the nearly 18 million votes cast.

The election for the president will take place in the South African parliament on 9 May 2009.

Zuma had been criticised by a number of church leaders, including Nobel Peace Prize laureate Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu, as not suitable for office because of corruption and graft charges against him that were dropped two weeks before the election.

Archbishop Tlhagale, who also heads the diocese of Johannesburg, called on the government to focus its attention on the weakest – the old who are not appreciated, the electronically excluded, the sick who don’t have the strength, the hurt, the victims, the illegal immigrants, the single parents, the orphans and the vulnerable.

"The voices of civil society and the faith-based community are important, but most important are the voices of the marginalised, the suffering and those who are not yet living the South African dream," said the archbishop.

[With acknowledgements to ENI. Ecumenical News International is jointly sponsored by the World Council of Churches, the Lutheran World Federation, the World Alliance of Reformed Churches, and the Conference of European Churches.]

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